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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 7

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  • Originally posted by Stoney View Post

    Too true. I seem to be constantly trying to do this week what I'd hoped I'd do the week before.

    The review for CWDP isn't actually due until this coming weekend, so we should wait until DanSlayer's had the chance to put forward his ideas on the episode first before we discuss CWDP. If you had any other thoughts on the preceding eps to share too that'd be great.
    Well Selfless for me is the best episode of the season and in my Top 10. Drew Goddard was the shining light of Season 7 (probably just happy to have a job) whose writing felt fresh rather tired. It's also the one episode in the whole show to take Anya's Vengence Demon past seriously and not for laughs. 10/10

    Him it's a meh. Same reason as what Andrew S. Correctly Said I alluded to with Help (Kirshner did both episodes too ) . It was a rip off of BBB. Now I don't hate it but I don't think its good by any stretch. The Rocket Launcher scene is funny but the rest of the episode is forgettable imo 5/10

    Comment


    • SpikeRocks
      SpikeRocks commented
      Editing a comment
      Selfless is quite excellent and LONG overdue for Anya...almost in a, too little too late way, because there's no real time that last season with what's going on to develop her much more beyond that. She gets a nice beat at the very end with her and Andrew in some scenes, but that's kinda it.

      Him is so awful...I always want to like it, because it's some needed light comedy....but it's so awful lol.

    • StateOfSiege97
      StateOfSiege97 commented
      Editing a comment
      It is not just that what is going on leaves no time or
      space to develop the reverberations of Anya's choice:
      it is that, having made it, her character is then reduced
      to shuddering mass of spitefulness—

  • Same Time Same Place is not one of my favourite episodes of the whole series or even one of my favourites of S7. I look forward to any further insights on it that Cheese Slices wishes to share, as I see her notes indicate her next theme explorations will cover power, visual narration and random nonsense, also communication.

    Jane Espenson is, in my view, a gifted writer, but for me this is not one of her most enjoyable or best episodes, notwithstanding the tour de force that is the 3 way conversation in the basement.

    There’s a lot of miscommunication and misperceptions on the parts of the characters going on in this episode, but before I say anything else I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention TriBel’s view that one of this season’s themes is the revelation of the uncanny. I hope you won’t mind my having an amateurish stab at this. I hope I get the gist of it right, and that I don’t mangle it, but if you’re taking a look, TriBel, please add your thoughts! Correct me, as I’m sure I’ll miss something crucial.

    The way I understand it is that the MotW – creepy Gnarl, who reminds me of Gollum’s evil twin – shows something about Willow that neither she nor others are aware of. As I understand it, in psychoanalytical terms the uncanny is the class of frightening things that leads us back to what is known and familiar. Everything that ought to have remained secret and hidden but has come to light. We see this later on in S7 when Buffy starts to explore the source of her power.

    The return of Willow indicates that her unconscious abilities still wield enormous power, without her having to lift a finger. As Giles said in Lessons, the magic is part of who Willow is. She may not be wanted, but she is needed.

    Willow has always tried to hide who or what she is, as witness in Restless when she was petrified about being exposed as the geeky Willow that first Vamp Willow then Dark Willow poured scorn on. Or in OMWF when she didn’t sing. She tries to put a distance between her current persona and her past as the girl Cordelia bullied mercilessly. Her mannerisms and demeanour all now hark back to cutesy geeky Willow, before she gained confidence through the use of magic. This may be her form of self-protection – she’s just harmless Willow who wore floods - or else it just may be that she really feels that the darkness is not part of her, and all her change and development since school (or more accurately since the re-ensoulment of Angel) are to be jettisoned. Geeky Willow is the real her.

    Hmm.

    Giles also warned the gang that Willow hadn’t finished being evil. Willow is afraid of her power, afraid it controls her and not vice versa. That fear is very real and exploitable and cleverly manifests itself in her being out of sync with her friends. By the end of this episode, big warning bells should be ringing that Willow has done all this, as with her will-be-done spell in Something Blue, just by being herself. Her own fear of being rejected by her friends creates a situation where she is literally invisible to them. The flaying carried out by Gnarl indicates that she feels guilt. (As a side-note I didn’t and still don’t feel convinced on many occasions in S7 that Willow did feel guilt over killing Warren.)

    That’s a beautiful scene where Willow wanders around the house, trying to find her place in it. Cheese Slices, I hadn’t noticed that call-back to AferLife and I’m so grateful to you for pointing it out. I’m a great believer in what I call “episode symmetry” – where certain themes or motifs recur (sometimes inverted or conversely) in episodes at corresponding points in different seasons. This is a prime example. There is someone who is still a living presence in the home and heart: Joyce. There’s a silver-framed portrait of her on the telephone table in the living room. I can’t make out who’s in the frame with her, I think it might actually be Hank?

    If anyone is still wondering how Spike entered the house in BY without being noticed, Willow got in by Spike’s normal entrance – the back door. Like a tradesman. Invisible to the eye. Hidden and unseemly.

    So Willow suffers the punishment she inflicted on Warren, and Anya correctly perceives Willow’s real concern. About what is she feeling guilty, exactly? Is she sorry she took a human life? Or has Anya nailed it in as much as Willow seems to be more concerned about what her friends will think of her? She did do and say some pretty horrible things to them after Tara died, and I’ll get to that below.

    In a later episode D’Hoffryn will get to the heart of the matter: I think what all the characters including Willow herself either overlook or fail to realise is this - it’s not that Willow has power. It’s that she is the power. A dark power risen in Sunnydale.

    And I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to apply this to Anya, Spike and the titular hero.

    Anya is superb in this episode. Cheese Slices points out that she’s doing the clear-up, and that this is the last time we see the Magic Box set. She’s lost the last links with her recent humanity. When she tells Willow that she has to file flight plans to teleport and that’s not a right but a privilege, it sounds as if she’s being treated like a child. Kept in line, to paraphrase Willow from Triangle. She is, indeed, being kept in order.

    Anya and Willow bond over a spell, just as when they first met in Doppelgängland. And as in Entropy, Willow’s warm and friendly towards Anya, even though she knows Anya is a vengeance demon again. I was amused to see that Gnarl’s lair is in a place called Wilken’s Grove.

    I love Dawn in this episode, she starts to show real enthusiasm for her burgeoning role as Watcher, and it’s a continuation of her confrontation with Spike from BY. I found it painful to witness the end of that friendship, but couldn’t fault, indeed applauded Dawn’s protectiveness of Buffy and her new confidence. She continues to grow in this and the next episode. She’s keen to get the details right, and this will ultimately help.

    Xander is funny – yes, men can get to use the word “giddy”! I love how he has faith in Willow, more so than she has herself. He’s reticent about exactly what he said to Willow that caused her change of heart in Grave. He gains points from me for that. I was only mildly amused by his “I’m her boy?!” indignation as it’s not really what Spike said. What is Xander giving away there?

    Spike is back to being less than coherent, from the perspective of the gang, but he makes sense if you try to follow what seem to be his ramblings. They have an inner coherence once you unravel them.

    And we now get to something that I have always found a problem in this episode.

    Buffy has the bright idea to use Spike to follow Gnarl. Once she’s decided this, she calls him “crazy” and then refers to his lack of ability to maintain his normal personal hygiene standards (and that’s putting it mildly). Let us cast our minds back to Anya in Entropy saying that Spike smells really good, and it’s not hard to imagine that it wouldn’t be very nice for anyone who values image and personal grooming to sink so low. We all place value on it.

    I have tried over the years to rationalise it as her way of coping with Spike in the aftermath of SR and BY.

    I could understand her wanting to keep her distance, to be wary and all those good justifiable things. But that’s not how it comes across to me. I wish it did. She’s openly mocking, she’s quite callous, and she forgets – as they all do – that the gang once were themselves outsiders, being mocked over their clothes and appearance.

    Whilst I appreciate Spike and Buffy are in a terrible place right now, I do wonder if she really should be treating him that way?

    I can’t help thinking that if Buffy were afraid or wary of him (and I don’t think she is shown to be that here), wouldn’t you think she would or ought to stay away? Leave the crazy vampire alone?

    Instead, the gang reverts to their old habit of using him as hired muscle and treating him as, well, a thing. This was something particularly on display last season in Normal Again, when Xander first makes snide remarks to Spike then goes for his help, but still making snide remarks before, during and after the demon hunt. It’s a running “gag” from later in S5.

    Sorry, folks, but I don’t buy it. I don’t have to buy it and I don’t have to rationalise or justify it to myself. I didn’t like it back then and I still don’t like it. I thought Buffy was a nicer person than that. Better than that, nobler. She’s flawed, yes, but mean and unkind? So I was disappointed and upset when Buffy made those cheap shot remarks.

    Naturally she’s entitled to react any way she likes, but I don’t have to try to dress it up in any other way than that I find she’s acting in a way that I don’t feel is consistent with her past behaviour towards anyone.

    She could just be cool and tight-lipped about being around Spike. Spike has done her a grievous wrong, and this act has negated everything he tried to do for her earlier in S6 and before from early S5 onwards. But now she goes to him for his unique assistance. Put up or keep quiet, please, Buffy. You’re better than that. In fact, you owe it not necessarily to Spike but to yourself to act with some common decency.

    I hate this scene with a passion, I don’t find it funny and I didn’t like any of them but particularly Buffy for it.

    What’s also interesting to me is that Spike seems to be aware of how she feels. Moreover that he deserves it. He is still her whipping boy – and sadly I do not mean that in the “everyone’s getting spanked but me” sense. He makes some comment about his involvement in the search for Gnarl in a way that seems to indicate he is more lucid than the gang gives him credit for. Something that sounds either Biblical or poetic, something about William carrying the water, carrying the sin, and that it should help to help but it doesn’t. It’s too heavy.

    I hadn’t heard the phrase “carry the water” when I first saw this episode. I didn’t find it in any conventional dictionary for a long time, then one of those urban online dictionaries explained it meant doing someone’s bidding in a subservient capacity, being humble and low down in the pecking order. So to me it resonates on many levels. Spike wants to atone, he wants to help, but he’s acutely aware he’s very low down in the pecking order. In fact he is the outcast. He knows what’s going on. As he says, about Xander – “I’m insane. What’s his excuse?”

    Anya’s opinion in Entropy that the gang all love each-other so much they’ll forgive each-other anything is pretty much borne out at the end of this episode, although I’d have thought it was arguable whether Buffy was in a position to forgive Willow for killing someone who meant nothing to the gang. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Willow had succeeded in returning Dawn to her key state. I wonder how Buffy would’ve felt then.

    My uncharitable snippy take on this scene is that she finds it easier to forgive Willow because she loves her and because, horrible as Willow was toward her and Dawn, in the end she didn’t actually inflict any lasting damage on them. Also, Willow’s human. It’s not Buffy’s place to exact justice on humans. (Even though she did seem very keen to do so with the Trio when first they killed Katrina, then spied on Buffy and the others.) These relationships are nothing if not complicated.

    However one of Buffy’s key roles in this season is as redeemer. She shares her strength with Willow because Willow needs it. This harks back to Giles’ observation about forgiveness in S2. It’s not offered because people deserve it but because they need it.

    So I give STSP a B for effort, and a B- bordering on C for execution. I wait to see what the rest of the season brings.

    And it brings:

    Help -

    Help!

    I need somebody!

    Help!

    Not just anybody!

    Help!

    You know I need someone!

    Help!

    Sorry, I think I must be among the minuscule group of citizens of this Earth that actually doesn’t care that much for The Beatles. So I don’t really understand what came over me there.

    Flow, your review of Help is lovely. And I hadn’t made that connection with Buffy’s “I’d rather be doing homework” speech to Joyce in Becoming 2, so thank you so much for that.

    The mythical princess Cassandra is a fascinating and tragic (in the truest sense of the word) figure. Cassie is also tragic. There’s something inherently awful about the death of someone young. A sense of waste and loss. She tries to lessen the burden of seeing her own fate by creating beauty. She writes poetry and dreams of being a normal girl, hoping against hope.

    What’s interesting to me is to contrast her behaviour with that of Ford in Lie to Me. Ford decided to go for the worse of the bad choices, as Buffy put it to him. Whereas Cassie resigns herself to her fate and tries to express her true self. She doesn’t drag anyone else down with her and just concentrates on making the most of her limited time. Her physical heart may be weak, but her spiritual heart is strong. So I think this episode is also about choices and seeking your authentic self – nothing new, there, with this show!

    When Cassie finally dies, it’s a blow to Buffy. Some things are quite simply beyond our ability to control them and how they affect the outcome. Buffy is blindsided and the shock nearly overwhelms her.

    I like the theme of carrying on with the Sisyphean burden of trying your best every day. It’s consistent with the existentialist mythos of the show. And of course my poor little Spuffy heart, which took both a battering and sank in STSP, gave a little flutter at Cassie’s line to Spike.

    And Spike is carrying a torch because, well, he’s carrying a torch, still. “The torch I bear is scorching me.” It’s a theme this season, as we saw in BY when he passed the torch to Buffy.


    hope everyone is staying safe and well. Take care.
    Last edited by debbicles; 25-06-20, 02:48 PM.
    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

    Comment


    • StateOfSiege97
      StateOfSiege97 commented
      Editing a comment
      apologies for the long delay—
      profuse thanks for your glorious thoughts—

  • It's great to have some more thoughts on the season shared. Thank you for posting debbicles. I don't personally have an issue with how Buffy treats Spike in STSP. I do think she is being cruel at points but she's also giving him some space to prove himself and herself some time to adjust and think things through. It makes sense to me that she would be feeling a mixture of emotions towards him, which could include some anger. His behaviour in BY was so varied, vile at times, and that can't have helped her feel any certainty around him yet. As she says to Dawn at the start of Him, she wonders if she hates him at points but also feels for him too. Basically I accept that it is confusing and leads to very mixed responses initially from her. But as you say, you don't have to feel that way about it or accept her behaviour as understandable, even when it isn't admirable.

    I'm hoping to post on Him in the next few days. I have watched the episode now and started to read through the review, but there may be overlapping with CWDP if DanSlayer gets to that before I manage to post on Him. I'm catching up, I'm just not ahead yet. Looking forward to your thoughts on Selfless and Him as well if you get the chance to share any debbicles.

    Comment


    • debbicles

      If I could "love" your post above instead of just "like" I would lol!

      You verbalize so many of the same thoughts I've had on the character interactions we see here. I've heard others before be very offended by the manner in which Spike--the equivalent of a mentally ill person at this time--is mocked by the scoobies for that mental illness, and after I first read this take I've never again been able to not see it when I watch this ep. I want to say the writers maybe honestly didn't see this level to it/how offensive it is?


      I appreciate how you link the manner in which they use him to their history of using him, as they've regularly done in tandem with ostracizing him as "other/lesser". If they truly didn't consider him a "person" before, he certainly is now that he has his soul, and warrants different consideration. Right? But that's not what we get. Normal Again, as you point out, is one blaring example of how they use him while keeping him as an outcast they openly enjoy devaluing, especially as it’s against the backdrop of Spike coping with his recent confusing and toxic relationship with Buffy (a relationship which, from his experience, was characterized by being in love with a person who was using and abusing him, while also denying his personhood and forcing him to keep quiet about it all under threat of death). Things are very complicated for Spike in that ep.

      As former (and present?) outcasts, it's been incredibly disappointing over the years to see the levels the Scoobies go to to position and keep Spike in this devalued "outcast" role, while also assuming they can use him for his abilities whenever they want/need. I suppose we can speculate that as a soulless demon, Spike didn't before have the ability to understand how truly screwed up their treatment of him was (and without awareness, he didn't care), just as he admits that when soulless he was unable to comprehend the mental/emotional place Buffy was in during S6.

      I agree that Buffy is disappointingly unkind and mean in this ep….and when she’s this way, she’s always quite hard for me to swallow. Especially under these circumstances where she is in a completely healthy emotional/mental state and Spike is entirely not and suffering. Though I feel if I squint real hard, I do see some layered and nuanced moments that indicate how complicated her feelings are right now concerning Spike and being around him, like after he speaks to her “you’re glowing” and there’s this small beat between them that is both uncomfortable and intimate as she shifts, looks away and whispers “Spike please”. A part of me wants to take her cavalier and callous attitude about him when talking to her friends as an intentional way of projecting “I’m totally fine and Spike means nothing and has no affect on me”, to keep her friends unsuspecting and off her back about how complicated her feelings actually are concerning Spike and their history, which she is obviously (or maybe not obviously enough?) trying to cope with.

      This all said, STSP is one of my favorite eps in S7 Very solid imo
      Last edited by SpikeRocks; 27-06-20, 05:23 AM.

      Comment


      • Vampadvo
        Vampadvo commented
        Editing a comment
        I think at the time it frustrated me but now with all of the Buffy's trauma is totally erased complaints I actually see it as her trying to work through complex and contradictory feelings and that what he's done to redeem himself hasn't erased her trauma and it's an instinctive repulsion. It never quite entirely goes away but eventually the true awareness and instinctive knowledge of what he is now and her feelings about that override what he did in the past.
        Last edited by Vampadvo; 27-06-20, 09:48 AM.

      • debbicles
        debbicles commented
        Editing a comment
        I do have form for looking on the Dark Side of Life (apologies to Monty Python). So my view probably says more about me than about the show or this scene. Having said that, whilst I do understand the reasons why others don’t take this quite as vehemently as I do, it’s nice to see I’m not alone in reacting this way! Thank you!

    • Same Time, Same Place

      you both made interesting points, debbicles and SpikeRocks about Buffy making fun of Spike's personly hygiene.

      To be honest, when I first watched this scene I thought of this line as a joke. Not the best joke in the Buffyverse but not the worst either (I consider Willow's "let's try again in half an hour" the worst joke.)

      I have recently started to look at it differently since TriBel has said something in the "The amenities of Spike's crypt"- thread. TriBel mentioned that Spike was called "dirty" by Buffy in season 6 although he obviously showered regularly and did not smell back then. It is interesting that she now calls him smelly after he has finally gotten "something clean and good inside him".

      Other than that I completely agree with Vampadvo. Buffy's feelings or emotions towards Spike are probably very mixed and contradictory but repulsion must be among them. Since she doesn't get a chance to express that repulsion on any other occasion I am okay with her calling him "stinky".

      Help

      debbicles

      I am sitting here facepalming because it never remotely crossed my mind to quote The Beatles in my review. Great catch! Thank you so much for your kind words. I love how you compared Cassie's decision to Ford's. Both were faced with a horrible fate but Ford - in stark contrast to cassie - made the worst choice possible.

      I also did not remember Spike's line from OMWF but you are right, it is a nice visual of how he is still carrying a torch for Buffy.

      Stoney

      Not that it isn't possible that The First is already manipulating Spike and getting him to kill already, but that this lady could be the owner of the house. As Spike has clearly gone back there multiple times to bury his victims in the basement, including doing so again in Sleeper, I think it is safer to assume that no one is aware that the owner of the house has died. That way the house remains empty, accessible and available for The First to get Spike to use it repeatedly. If she was having a funeral at this point then her family may have taken ownership of the house, or at the least be coming and going to deal with her belongings.
      You are of course right that Spike couldn't have entered the house if someone else had taken ownership. The fact that the old lady was laid down in an expensive casket, dressed in elegant clothes, and wearing a pearl necklace suggests that some family members or heirs are involved in planning her funeral and probably would also have gained ownership of the house.

      flow
      ................................ Banner by buffylover

      Comment


      • debbicles
        debbicles commented
        Editing a comment
        Also in Sleeper I think we see Buffy stake the owner of the house as she rises. “Sorry, Ma’am, just doing my job!”

    • Originally posted by flow View Post
      I have recently started to look at it differently since TriBel has said something in the "The amenities of Spike's crypt"- thread. TriBel mentioned that Spike was called "dirty" by Buffy in season 6 although he obviously showered regularly and did not smell back then. It is interesting that she now calls him smelly after he has finally gotten "something clean and good inside him".

      flow
      I wish there was a "mind-blown" emoji for me to use, especially on a forum with such in-depth analysis and discussion! This is the closest I found

      Comment


      • 7x07 Conversations with Dead People
        Hi Everyone,

        According to the DVD commentary the main characters isolated and not interacting with each other was to enforce the idea of being alone. When I picked this episode over a year ago, I didn’t expect society as a whole would be forced into months of isolation against an enemy we can’t see or directly touch, but life imitates art sometimes I suppose.

        With Buffy finding a nice comfy grave to lay on for some psycho-analytical therapy with Holden, and people dealing with a once in a generation stress, I’d like to take this time to talk about mental health through a review lens.

        Now I don’t think I’m shocking anyone here when I say mental health is a complex thing, difficult to maintain or improve upon, and misunderstood by the general public at large. But things have…progressed in some ways since this aired in 2002. Mental Health is talked about more and while the stigma still exists, people generally know of and believe things like depression, anxiety, PTSD etc., are real. Some say it may have unfortunately gotten trendy and of course, there are still reactions such as: “If everyone has it, it’s not a disorder anymore is it?” And of course there are corporations willing to get free publicity from it, but not actually treat their effected employees. I myself have been dealing with an anxiety/depression mix for the last few years, it may run in my family; but past generations didn’t have the ability to talk about it or effectively try and manage it, so I can’t say for sure. Inter-generational trauma can last decades into a society and we see it represented in The Fanged Four: Angel when cursed with a soul and the remorse and guilt; Drusilla the only vampire with a shattered psyche, Darla forced to feel her own remorse and guilt while pregnant with Conner, and Spike so recently struggling with his own returned soul.

        I’ve mentioned my feelings on the multiple reasons why Magic as Drug Addiction doesn’t work. Buffy’s depression, PTSD etc., was handled somewhat well and her mood swings were somewhat realistic. Though when I got into the show in 2011, I was given to understand at first airing a lot of fans were frustrated with Buffy’s character in Season 6. The sporadic airing of the season and shift to UPN didn’t help. I appreciate them taking the time to explore Buffy’s psych here, even if it is between murder attempts. Having an inferiority complex over superiority complex sounds like a contradiction but it can happen. Some of the disability community that I’ve met can seem rather insular and even holier than thou, when they see others trying to integrate themselves more. There are a lot of barriers and negativity around having a disability for a lot of people but it turns into self-righteous pride and/or a doomsayer attitude that prevents a person from trying. As a recent college grad, working with the public in the pandemic has some real roadblocks for me, but I want to be resilient and move on with my goals in life. Not as dramatic as crawling out of a grave, but important nonetheless.

        Dawn matured from a girl they wouldn’t let see a dead body (supposedly they may have intended the character to be younger than 14 when planning the season early on; before choosing Michelle but I don’t know if that’s verified), watching her sister die to save her, to resolve to stay in the house and save what she believes is her mother. Now some of that could play into her trauma and grief of losing parental figures, but she does show the maturity and growth to try and protect others even with no powers of her own and limited skill in battle, which is commendable.

        Johnathan healed from his suicidal leanings from Earshot and built resilience even though it ends in his death here. Willow is able see through The First’s ploy for her to commit suicide here, though Willow’s coming to terms with what she did and her trauma of watching Tara’s death would be terribly mishandled during The Killer In Me, (with or without the Season 8 comics little retcon, it doesn’t work either way for giving Willow a sense of closure nor prove why Kennedy is a god new partner for Willow in my view). And in the end Buffy does share the power of the Slayer to hundreds of others, who may grow to understand her and help her approach her complexes and trauma in healthier ways then an old classmate throwing a statute of Mary at her.

        Apologies for the brevity here, I had kind of forgotten I signed on for this episode; and with things opening up again here- trying to get my own anxiety to spike and concern for my high risk, stubborn, only-sometimes-masking mother has kept me preoccupied. If anyone has the DVDs I encourage you to listen to the commentary track on this episode. It’s one of the funnier ones. Jane Espenson wrote some of it while in Vegas, she intended for Dawn to get out but go back for her mother, only to be told by Whedon that he never wanted her to leave the house, having an ax swing at Dawn/the camera created a bit of kerfuffle for the crew on the technical side of things. It’s Espenson, Danny Strong, Tom Lenk, Drew Goddard and Nick Marck the episode's Director. I find it pretty enjoyable.

        Thanks for reading everyone!
        Last edited by DanSlayer; 28-06-20, 05:29 PM.

        Comment


        • debbicles
          debbicles commented
          Editing a comment
          I’m briefly going to be frivolous before posting my thoughts on this, but is that a snowflake emoji? Nice call, I never thought of this episode as the fragmentation of psyche. Thank you, Dan. Stay well.

        • flow
          flow commented
          Editing a comment
          Thank you for talking so openly about the issues society sadly still has with mental disorders. And thank you for doing this fantastic review despite the global pandemic and it's consequences.

      • Okay - stinky Spike. Read this if you want...it's not very coherent but I stand by it. It's in spoilers because DanSlayer 's just posted on CWDP. My argument's relevant to CWDP but I don't want to distract from the later episode.

        Spoiler:
        Since the enlightenment, the predominant philosophy in the west has been rationalism. Man is an autonomous subject with free will (note: MANkind. IMO, women don't have the same autonomy...it's more complicated). Rationalism privileges the mind (spirit/soul) over the body and sight over all the other senses. Sight becomes aligned with knowledge. IMO, S7 is on a mission to decentre the dualism at the heart of Enlightenment thought because it's been used to oppress the other and it cuts humanity off from its full potential. In other words, it's taking this stance: "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, / Than are dreamt of in your philosophy [science]. (Horatio's optional here but Hamlet's "To be or not to be" probably isn't).

        In BY, Buffy's conscious mind rationalizes keeping Spike around because of his utility value - his usefulness (note: her smelliness in S6 was as a result of her use value as a labourer to capitalism) . However, her body, her instinct, is telling her to run for the hills (watch her involuntary response when he touches her in Beneath You and in Him). If this isn't enough, her unconscious mind is telling her something else. I do believe S6 Buffy was in love with Spike (though the grounds of that love are complex: her feelings are inextricably linked with her feelings for the mother just as her feelings for Angel are linked to the father). Her desire for Spike is coming through unconsciously, mostly through parapraxis or Freudian slips. The first one I'd pin money on (but be prepared to lose) is "I hoped you were a mirage" in BY. A mirage isn't just an illusion: it's an illusion we hope is true.

        So - conscious responses/unconscious responses/body or instinctive responses. I think smell, both in terms of being stinky and smell as a sense, feeds into this three-way dialogue. I've just noticed there's a object/subject, passive/active split here. Stinking is something he can't, at this stage, avoid (Xander offers him access to a shower in Him. This indicates a movement from Xander's conceptualization of Spike as "it/that" to "him"*); following a scent is something Spike can do - and he's quite good at it. In the first instance "smell" is being done to him; in the second, he's doing the smelling. However, he doesn't offer to use the sense as he does later in the season; it's something he can do but not something we WANTS to do. I think this is important. We'll see this come together in Touched.

        I'm leaving this here: Paul Broca [sidebar: he's a French Philosopher/Anthropologist I knew nothing of until last night] "believed that a key part of having free will was not being forced to do things by odors. And he thought of smell as this almost dirty, animalistic thing that compelled behaviors—it compelled animals to have sex with each other and things like that. So he put humans in the nonsmeller category—not because they couldn't smell, but because we had free will and could decide how to respond to smells. The idea also got picked up by Sigmund Freud (Yeah...I knew this], who then thought of smell as an animalistic thing that had to be left behind as a person grew into a rational adult." So you had in psychology, philosophy, and anthropology all these different pathways leading to presumption that humans didn't have a good sense of smell." https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017...ntists-thought

        Witness Spike's "crawling", scampering on the floor in the early episodes - animalistic or childlike? You choose? Me - I had three kids in 15 months and I'd got two dogs. Personally, I don't think there's much difference. In short, it's smell/being smelly that separates boys from men; animals from humans; unclean from clean (and yeah...I've deliberately gendered the terms). I'm just leaving this here (from Chosen)

        "You vampires. Did anybody ever tell you the whole smelling people thing's a little gross? (walks away)...How old are you? 12?"

        Notes:

        *Entropy: Xander I look at you ... and I feel sick. 'Cause you had sex with that.
        **Entropy: Tara: Things fall apart. They fall apart so hard. Alternatively, "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, Yeats is Whedon's favourite poet. The problem with centres is they're not neutral. The centre of Enlightenment thought is patriarchal. One reason for disliking S12 is because Willow is building a "women's centre". IMO, the anarchy released in S6/7 can be theorised by way of Chaos Theory (hence the word Entropy). It's by way of chaos theory that S7 tries to negotiate the two poles in favour of the impossible middle. It's this Male/Female; Father/Mother; Mind/Body; Order/Chaos; Light/Dark ad infinitum. S7 is an attempt to come out in a conceptual space marked by this /.

        Don't get me started on S7 and chaos theory. It's even more boring than the above. I'll just leave this: chaos theory states "within the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, there are underlying patterns, interconnectedness, constant feedback loops, repetition, self-similarity, fractals, and self-organization." As Willow tells us in Lessons - "everything connects".


        debbicles the uncanny - it's implicit above and below.

        CWDP. I don't really like (except I probably do). I don't like Holden's analysis simply because it's Freud 101 (the text knows this) that completely ignores the mother's role in the Oedipal complex. Note: Dawn's fighting for "Joyce" while Buffy's fighting Holden. Willow's in conversation with Tara (= Terra = Gaia = Earth Mother via Cassie). Why is Holden named after the central protagonist in Catcher in the Rye and America's primary definer of language (Noah Webster/Merriam- Webster Dictionary)? Superiority/Inferiority complex makes sense to me but I want this relating back to pre-oedipal "experiences". I think the episode does it (see "mothers") - I don't think Webster (language does...except in its gaps and slips). I need to rewatch the episode and properly read Dan's review.

        DanSlayer
        trying to get my own anxiety to spike and concern for my high risk, stubborn, only-sometimes-making mother has kept me preoccupied.
        I'm laughing because I could, almost seamlessly, integrate that comment into my reading of the text. Good luck! My continuously-making mother is sneaking out at 4.00 in the morning to leave made presents on people's door-steps. It's the only time she comes out of the damned house. She's like a reverse vampire!
        Last edited by TriBel; 28-06-20, 11:35 AM.
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        • debbicles
          debbicles commented
          Editing a comment
          Finally getting round to commenting on this. So great to have you providing insights on the season’s themes again. Please don’t go away!

      • Maybe the Stinky Spike line was nothing more than a line Espenson thought was funny which she included in at the expense of the story. It wouldn't be the first time she's done that

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        • debbicles
          debbicles commented
          Editing a comment
          Could be so. But Espenson is a gifted writer who understands the power of metaphors and symbols. And I see TriBel says this far better, below.

      • Originally posted by BtVS fan View Post
        Maybe the Stinky Spike line was nothing more than a line Espenson thought was funny which she included in at the expense of the story. It wouldn't be the first time she's done that


        Spoiler:
        It could but a) it fits seamlessly with everything else that's happening in S7 (and happened in S6). b) Jokes in the later episodes often betray unconscious thoughts. The "truth" is often found in seemingly innocent asides rather than "big speeches". It fits with the philosophy of history the season's working with and against. c) It comes to fruition in Touched, which is all to do with the "embodied mind". I don't think it's coincidence that Espenson began postgraduate studies with George Lakoff, the author of Metaphors We Live By or that she's acknowledged in the foreword of his later work, Philosophy In The Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought. In fact, she may have written a chapter. There's also this from Whedon:
        Spoiler:


        "There's this amazing film critic, Robin Wood*, who I got to come and speak at Wesleyan. He talked about Ingrid Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock and it was just riveting. All his stuff. You know, it was seminal for me. He's very political. But he talks about, I want to say from Roland Barthes but I'm not sure, the incoherent text. X-Men is an incoherent text. It's a movie that's saying one thing when it clearly or at least partially means another. It's like when you're saying "war is bad," but don't you just want to see Rambo suit up?… Objectification and identification are at war but they're at war in the way that people are, that narrative is, that creates art and humanity and life.** Like they have to be at war. You have to root for the girl and the monster. It's something nobody wants to admit. Nobody ever wants to admit that there are two sides to anything. They either want to be right or – no, they just want to be right. Sorry, I don't know of that many people that want to be wrong. But the truth almost always lies somewhere in the middle***."

        *Woodside's character is named as an homage to the RL Robin Wood - one of the leading scholars in Hitchcock and American Horror Film.
        **Compare with "Life isn't a story" in Storyteller (it both is and isn't). I think S12 is capitulation simply because the war ends. Conflict (internal and external) is the dynamic of Whedon's writing.
        ***
        I think it's this "middle road" that both Buffy and the text are looking for.






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        • Originally posted by DanSlayer;n696888

          [FONT=Arial
          Apologies for the brevity here, I had kind of forgotten I signed on for this episode; and with things opening up again here- trying to get my own anxiety to spike and concern for my high risk, stubborn, only-sometimes-masking mother has kept me preoccupied. If anyone has the DVDs I encourage you to listen to the commentary track on this episode. It’s one of the funnier ones. Jane Espenson wrote some of it while in Vegas, she intended for Dawn to get out but go back for her mother, only to be told by Whedon that he never wanted her to leave the house, having an ax swing at Dawn/the camera created a bit of kerfuffle for the crew on the technical side of things. It’s Espenson, Danny Strong, Tom Lenk, Drew Goddard and Nick Marck the episode's Director. I find it pretty enjoyable.[/FONT]
          I recently rewatched this episode with the DVD commentary and, if I remember correctly, they mention a trip twice: one seems like Joss was the one who went to Las Vegas (actually Jane says Joss sent notes from somewhere) and the other one seems like Jane was the one who went to Las Vegas.

          I wonder if Joss was in Vegas during Angel 4x03 episode. He rarely was on Angel set but being a special one, shot on location (I guess) and without an experienced showrunner (Jeff Bell) maybe Joss decided to oversee himself. Angel 4x03 was shot, probably, around September and CWDP had a 9-29-2002 date on its shooting draft (white revision).

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          • Him

            Originally posted by Andrew S. View Post
            Okay, before I talk about anything else, let me get the elephant out of the room: this episode’s plot is a total ripoff of “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”. Both are comedy episodes about the entire female cast being roofied by a love spell. A common criticism of these early S7 eps is the aping of plots from earlier seasons. As BtVS fan stated upthread, the plot of “Help” is also similar to the plot of “Reptile Boy”. It’s a valid criticism to make, but (aside from that awkward moment where we get a literal flashback to BB&B that only serves to remind me what a superior episode that one was) these plot repeats don’t bother me that much.
            I think the repetition is a deliberate part of the season as the return to previous places and experiences, the lessons learned in the past and where experience has led you, are all a part of the themes of the season. A lot of this repetition attaches to the idea that Dawn is going through the same high school experiences they had. So there are some deliberate reflective episodes; meeting her friends in Lessons, her friend getting caught by the guys worshipping a demon in Help and now in the love spell in Him. It provides the opportunity to show the experience for Buffy and the others of looking at similar situations from an older/adult perspective as you say. We can see how that sometimes enables you to advise and face these things better and other times, as with a spell that overrides logic as love can do for a teen, doesn't always help. I actually think it's quite a clever way to handle the return to a setting and time that the group have moved beyond, showing them there in different capacities but using the connection with Dawn to acknowledge that a new generation are going through some of the same things.

            Fortunately, “Him” - while far from a fantastic episode and a little too derivative in some of its scenes - explores the characters’ dynamics with one another (most notably Buffy and Dawn) well and it’s just a lot of fun, which is more than I can say about most S7 episodes.
            I agree that giving some time to the relationship between Buffy and Dawn is a highlight of the episode. It isn't just in their own interactions but also in how, through considering how the other characters perceive Dawn, that we get some flavour of the ongoing frustrations she is still feeling in how she is treated. Buffy wanted to share the world, her life, with Dawn more at the end of S6 and there is certainly some evidence of this happening. But it is also difficult to change dynamics dramatically and the dismissal of the degree of help that Dawn could be is still occurring regularly. I think it is a great combination that this episode underlines how she is unfairly dismissed but also highlights that she is still immature and inexperienced in many ways too.

            I’m of the belief that Buffy did NOT love Spike in S6, despite their sexual relationship and constant back-and-forth. To me, Buffy’s relationship with him in S6 was more about hating and punishing herself than it was about having love and affection for him. However, I think S7 - starting with Buffy’s discovery of his soul at the end of 7.2 - is in large part telling a story about Spike winning a very real and solid place in Buffy’s heart beyond being the punching bag/f*ck buddy/backup friend/ally that she occasionally sympathized with, as was the case in S5-S6. By the point of this particular episode, I think Buffy is seriously starting to feel for him in a way that she didn’t before.
            I can definitely see this perspective and I think I lean more towards this than believing that Buffy loved Spike in S6. I think her feelings for him were inherently limited because of his soullessness and despite whatever draw she did feel to him, it wouldn't have been possible for them to develop a healthy relationship from what they had then. As it was, her feelings about his soullessness did definitely tie into why she was having the relationship with him that she was and it was clearly a form of self-punishment. But there was something between them that was a genuine connection too and that still exists in S7. It is just that now they are able to build something mutually supportive rather than mutually abusive from it. It isn't easy going though because of where they have come from.

            I think it is important that the characters around Buffy are expressing concern about the uncertainty of what difference a soul is going to make for Spike. There is a capacity that comes with the soul, an ability to see moral boundaries differently that an unsouled vampire lacks. But having that capacity doesn't guarantee anything. After the events of S6 greatly centered on human failure, to behave as if the soul was a guarantee would feel very off. Spike is an unknown quantity at the moment and this is why the very varied responses from everyone and such clear uncertainty from Buffy makes sense to me.

            I tend to see Buffy's 'he has a soul now' as her willingness to see what it means for him. An acknowledgment of the different potential it possibly gives him, but without assurances and certainty. It's a while before she clearly feels it is a positive change in him that warrants more openly spoken support. Here we are only just on the other side of Selfless when she has openly challenged him, "You have a soul? Fine. Show me." There aren't certainties, as with so much of the season, there's potential that could go either way. The soul gets him the chance to prove himself.

            I do love Xander’s response to her defense of Spike due to his soul - “I’m sure that’ll be a real comfort when he soulfully attacks you again.” Naturally, Xander is proven right a few eps from now as Spike *does* end up attacking and proving himself to be a liability to Buffy once more. Of course, Spike’s attack will be due to circumstances beyond his control but Buffy is still being a little too quick to overlook things here.
            I'm not sure that she is overlooking things totally though. The trigger is out of Spike's control as you say, so that outcome isn't really proof of anything. The risk of any of them being mind controlled is hardly something they should take constant precautions against. Buffy is definitely giving him a chance and pressing and questioning her choices isn't wrong at all. But she isn't doing it without any wariness wrapped in there too. She could have housed him at Revello but keeping that distance and not having him under her roof when he can harm her is more cautious. At this point she is giving him an opportunity, as we see her go on to do with Anya too.

            Xander’s cynical comments about Buffy’s boyfriends typically seem to be regarded - both in-universe amongst the characters AND out-of-universe amongst the fandom - as him just being a jealous hater. But honestly, I love Xander for these comments. At times, he can be unnecessarily harsh and spiteful (and a downright jerk in episodes like “Dead Man’s Party”) with the way he expresses his opinions, but more often than not, he’s not all that wrong in his judgements about Angel and Spike. He comes off as such a real friend, not afraid to tell Buffy how ridiculous he thinks she can be when it comes to her love interests but still supporting and backing her up nonetheless.
            I don't think Xander acts as a jealous hater, although there is sometimes a degree to which jealousy influences him. At this point there's a lot of charged events that play a part and what happened with Spike and Anya is definitely in there too. But these background influences don't strip away that he can also act as an outsider regarding the Buffy/Spike relationship, looking at an emotionally charged situation and fairly questioning it too. In consideration to the disasters that happened in their relationships last season, Xander and Buffy are both put under a spotlight for their choices and responses in the season which feel understandable from those that care about them.

            Perhaps there is an argument that can be made that the events of S6, which involved the group not supporting each other as they withheld a lot, has led into a more direct approach in expressing their concerns and challenging each other. Not that they haven't done this in the past, and in many ways it could be seen again as a return. But it runs alongside times having changed them too and they don't necessarily respond to each other the same as they might have done in the past and are re-carving their varying dynamics anew a little again.

            What’s also interesting about this is that Spike himself doesn’t disagree with him. Spike doesn’t seem to trust himself or think it’s a good idea for him to room with Xander, yet Buffy still does. To some fans, Buffy’s unrelenting belief in Spike throughout S7 is admirable. To others (such as myself), it comes off as her being extremely naive. My guess is that the divisiveness about Buffy/Spike amongst the audience was what ME intended.
            Probably it was. I don't think that Spike thinks it is a bad idea so much as that he feels undeserving of the support being offered to him. His look as Buffy leaves, telling him to go to his closet, is one of appreciation as well as concern I think. It'll be interesting to see where we differ and where we don't regarding their relationship during the season, because I do think that S7 sees Buffy and Spike build a mutually empowering and supportive dynamic. But I don't think it is flawless and there are times when I believe Buffy lets her emotional involvement questionably influence her decisions, as Spike lets his loyalty drive his behaviour too. Just as with many of the relationships, there remain flaws. That doesn't prevent it from being an overall positive dynamic shift, especially from where they were in S6.

            In this ep, there seems to be a clear parallel drawn between Buffy’s feelings for Spike and all of the women’s feelings for R.J. later on. The word ‘soul’ pops up numerous times in this episode and not just in regards to Spike. Buffy defends Spike by emphasizing that "he has a soul now." A
            lovesick Dawn also defends her sudden love for R.J. saying "I know his soul." Anya says the same thing to Willow: "I looked into him and saw his soul."
            I really like this. I'd never noticed the references to a soul within the love spell's influence.

            I don't think though that Spike's soul is leading Buffy's judgment in a way that is blind, other than within the distinction the show's always held that has the opposite resulting in preemptive stakings. Here the coat's influence totally generates a response that is born out of nothing and overwhelms reason to the extent that they all determine to do anything to prove themselves to RJ. (It makes you wonder why other women have not been driven to such extremes in competition over him before.) So while I do think the parallel is deliberately there and that we are supposed to be questioning Buffy's choices, and although I would agree that her emotions are certainly affecting her, whether she is right or not to be offering the chance she is will only be proven when Spike's souled path starts to form. But for now the soul is the reason why she is willing to give him a chance, so in this sense it makes sense why she keeps mentioning it. But it doesn't come without any caution and in that sense it doesn't fit the blindly influenced response to the coat I don't think. It is more like everyone expressing concerns over Willow's return and how much of a danger she might still be. The difference with Spike is that the other characters don't have the background relationship with him that Buffy does. That that relationship also includes a good degree of the source of negative responses and concerns understandably helps to heighten their feeling of wanting to question her choices.

            Of course there's also the factor that emphasising the point that the soul isn't a guarantee is there to build up towards the storyline with the trigger and allow the space for people to still wonder about what souled Spike's choices and actions will be going forwards.

            Likewise, Spike derives a lot of his power from his jacket as it adds to his persona and gives him the confidence that makes him such a seductive character.
            This is a great link to the significance of the jacket to come for Spike. But whilst I wondered at points in Him how deliberately RJ was donning his jacket (did he realise the power it held?) Spike at this point is actively avoiding the connection the jacket gives him. But he will gain from the connection and be able to use the ties he's avoided for the negative associations for a more positive purpose. Even if RJ didn't specifically know that the coat held such influence, he will have had an awareness of the social status of being a successful sports star in the school and was clearly happy to benefit from the adoration he gained.

            Throughout this episode, Spike’s wardrobe solely consists of dark button-up shirts of black and brown. Although he’s most likely borrowing from Xander, his whole look - from the dark clothing to his quiet, brooding demeanor - reminds me a lot of Angel. Coincidence? I think not.
            I would be inclined to think it is a coincidence as Spike has always worn dark clothes 90% of the time. The significance in his wardrobe so far was that he tried to change his image with the blue shirt in BY and that he is not wearing his coat. I wouldn't tend to say that his souled wardrobe is suddenly reflecting Angel, or that his behaviour is overly either. At this point Spike has been struggling with his grasp on reality but has also been greatly avoiding himself and when facing things that he has done seems to struggle to hold onto the here and now even more. Generally, Spike is less brash than he used to be and this is one of the main changes that the soul brings to his character, as well as being more contemplative and withdrawn. Those quieter moments though connect with the struggle to keep a grip on reality and fighting between being lost in his human past and trying to escape too. So I don't think he's being written to be like Angel in his response to being souled. Angel tends to brood with an intense introspection, rather than the shattered mind we've been seeing from Spike so far and drifting into fantasy. There are similarities for sure, but plenty of individual personality factors and differing coping mechanisms in there too I think.

            While equating Xander leaving Anya at the altar to Spike’s attempted rape is a little extreme, I get Dawn’s point. Having a soul is no guarantee that someone will be a good romantic partner or even a good man. Dawn’s confusion is understandable and I feel a little bad for her. She’s very young and every single relationship she’s seen between the adults in her life has been super dysfunctional and ended terribly. Hank and Joyce. Buffy and Riley. Willow and Tara. Xander and Anya. Buffy and Spike. Dawn was around to witness the implosion of all these relationships and it left a huge impact on the way she views love and romance.
            Pointing out that the soul isn't a guarantee is definitely fair and it is totally reasonable that both Xander and Dawn do this. But I don't think that the idea that gaining a soul brings some distinction in morality and emotional capacities is something that they don't generally believe in. The absence shown of a general belief and understanding that it makes a difference in the capacity of those doesn't really fit with the pre-emptive killing that the scoobs readily employ on vampires. Inverse there has always been a line drawn around soullessness in vampires and the error it feels to me is in putting too great an understanding on soulless Spike of how wrong what he had done was. He knew that the attempted rape had caused a greater rejection from Buffy and that he'd failed to see lines that she had, so he did go to get his soul to bridge that gap. But seeing the gap existed and finally deciding he wanted to bridge it didn't give him the capability of seeing the boundaries still. So the capacity that comes with the soul allows for choices that have moral and emotionally breadth and depth that wasn't there when he was unsouled. Whether he would then choose to make good moral choices is a whole separate thing, and that is why the caution at this point is absolutely, definitely warranted.

            Ironically though, despite Anya’s defensive attitude and hesitation at joining the gang again, I do get the feeling that she was genuinely touched by Buffy’s gesture but just too guarded to express it.

            I’m entering headcanon territory here, but the subtext in this scene makes me believe that Buffy is there because of Xander. IMO, prior to the start of this episode, Buffy and Xander made a deal about Spike and Anya. Buffy approached Xander and asked him to keep Spike as a houseguest. Xander agreed, but under the condition that Buffy went to visit Anya and make things right after the events of last episode. It makes more sense for me to read the scenes that way as opposed to Buffy visiting Anya purely out of the goodness of her heart when she still doesn’t seem to like Anya that much.
            I don't think this works so well, if they'd made an agreement, with Xander openly questioning the good sense of Spike going to stay and repeatedly emphasising how much he doesn't like it when Spike arrives. I agree that it is hard to gauge what Buffy is really thinking when she goes to Anya's though because they haven't ever seemed especially friendly. I generally think it is just another example of Buffy being open to giving people a chance and I think that she realises that Anya needs to feel a sense of acceptance to be responsive. Whilst I do think that just offering support after having seen the choice that Anya made, witnessed her willingness to sacrifice herself to put right what she had done in Selfless is greatly motivating Buffy, I do think her friendship with Xander plays a significant part too. And yes, with that is also likely to be an awareness of what she is asking of him in taking Spike in layered in as well.

            There are also so many parallels between Buffy/Spike and Xander/Anya that it’s fun for me to extend it to this situation. Neither Buffy or Xander really care for the other’s demonic love interests all that much, but they will suck it up and be nice (or slightly less antagonistic, in Xander’s case) to them out of respect for one another.
            I think this is definitely a factor influencing them both. Which fits of course with the overall theme of emotional influences in the episode and with consideration that runs through the season on empowering and supporting each other.

            Dawn’s attempt to win R.J. over just leads to her sobbing in her bedroom later that night with Buffy being extremely out of her depth when it comes to comforting her and just coming off as really condescending. It’s funny because Dawn goes through the exact same humiliating situations that Buffy herself went through when she was Dawn’s age - from the disastrous cheerleading tryout to her awkward sexy dance at The Bronze - yet Buffy still struggles to empathize with her, which is very realistic. The problems of a 16-year-old would feel quite insignificant to a 21-year-old, even if the 21-year-old went through those same problems themselves once upon a time.
            On this front I really like Xander's line following up questioning ordering pizza with, "Don't teens in a snit like pizza?" There can be understanding, but it definitely comes with a sense of separation too now. How Buffy and Xander fail to reach Dawn at this point, despite their own histories, is just realistic because they will view it differently as you say. Here though we can see Buffy is genuinely trying to reach Dawn which does contrast to her backstabbing once she is also affected by the coat herself.

            There's a good degree of inconsistency to the effect of the coat that I shrug at as the episode is a comedy episode. Buffy's readiness to go after someone with a rocket launcher to prove her love is quickly dropped to find and then rescue Dawn. But having her connection to her sister as a main motivation and driver for her works and goes with the focus on love and emotional ties in the episode too.

            Within the conversation at the train tracks Dawn puts importance on sacrificing yourself for someone as an act of love. And whilst Buffy tells her that no guy is worth your life, Buffy herself puts her life on the line for others all the time and has died to save Dawn and for the wider world herself. It is interesting as well to consider that she'll later say to Giles in LMPTM that she would sacrifice Dawn if she had to in order to save the world now and we'll see the series end with a sacrifice for the greater good. There is weight and importance put on sacrifice in context. It seems more the superficiality of what Dawn was willing to give up her life for here and not wanting to see someone readily disregard their life pulls in line with the season theme of seeing worth and potential too.

            I’ve frequently seen it brought up in fandom debates about Willow’s sexuality regarding her being gay vs. bisexual. I’ve seen some fans argue that Willow’s desire to turn R.J. into a girl is pure proof that she’s gay and not bisexual. I’ve also seen it argued that Willow didn’t even think about the notion of turning R.J. into a girl until Anya suggested it, which is ‘proof’ that she’s really bisexual and doesn’t mind being with a man.

            I think both views of Willow - closeted!bisexual!Willow and Gay Now!Willow - are valid ones to have as 1) she’s a fictional character meant to be analyzed and 2) a huge part of Willow’s character arc is her unsureness of her identity and you can argue that this unsureness applies to her sexuality as well, even after she starts embracing her attraction to women. As for me personally, I think it’s pretty obvious that Willow is a lesbian. Despite her visible attraction to both sexes, Willow seems to prefer women and is most comfortable identifying as a lesbian, so I call her a lesbian. But again, I don’t think it’s wrong for other fans to view her as bisexual and I’ve always thought it was a little unfortunate that the notion of it was never brought up in-narrative.
            Consideration towards identity is such a recurring theme and it certainly sits well in the Dawn heavy episodes and alongside the return to the earlier years and the high school setting. But a lack of certainty about who you are is definitely not restricted to teenage years and we see that with Spike and Anya's paths being so uncertain at this point and also with Buffy trying to play a new role with her job guiding students alongside her slayer duties and Willow's fears over her magic. For Buffy that work/slaying balance and the mix of identities and roles you can hold was deliberately flagged when she and Xander went to see Cassie's dad in Help and then with her struggle over her duty in Selfless.

            With the strange airing dates this season between the two shows there have been two episodes of AtS since the Selfless/The House Always Wins combo. So after the focus on roles, expectations, the connections between people, judgement and morality there, the AtS episodes Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Supersymmetry follow. Again identity is really very heavily focused on and with the threat of a prophecy in Slouching, where people are heading as well as where they have come from looms again. The consideration to betrayal, connections, morality and expectations is definitely returned to in Supersymmetry though and it is identity and connections that continues heavily in the combination now of Him and Spin the Bottle.

            The impact of the past is underscored again. The shifting perspective from Xander and Willow when they realise the girl dancing they have been ogling is Dawn is a great way to show how context and your history affects perspective. But there is that wish to support that overrides the spell in the end and is also used to draw Spike out of the basement and out with Xander trying to solve the mystery of RJ's unnatural appeal. What is real is questioned and the notion of influences and manipulations runs with perspectives and the impact people can have on each other.

            Spin the Bottle's similar loss of context due to memory loss from a spell affects the dynamics of the group and like Tabula Rasa sees the gang trying to build who they are from what little they know or can guess at. Despite some characteristics remaining, there is also clearly the sense that a loss of your past removes experiences that have developed who you have become as well as potentially freeing you from insecurities and aspects that hold you back. An interesting factor considering where the season in AtS ends. There is also the notion of who you were being layered in, remaining within even when you have moved on. Similarly we are left to wonder how much RJ has been changed by the jacket, by his success as a brief reference from his brother talks of how he changed from someone who was previously writing poetry. It's a clear match to Spike's past too and sits alongside his deliberate turning of the angels on the cabinet, a possible sign again of wanting to avoid thinking too hard on varied aspects of his own past.

            Naturally, this episode ends with the spell being resolved and to bring things back to “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”, I think it’s interesting to compare the ways in which the love spells were stopped. In BB&B, it was Giles who saved the day by getting Amy to reverse the spell that infected every woman in Sunnydale. This time, it’s Xander and Spike who save the day by simply (and hilariously) snatching R.J.’s jacket off of him. This is appropriate in a way as Xander and Spike have both effectively replaced Giles. Xander has replaced him as the Dad of the Scooby Gang. And of course, Spike has replaced him as Buffy’s main confidant, which will of course be a source of more conflict later on in the season.
            Interesting comparison. I agree this is a fun episode and I was quite surprised to find on this rewatch I actually enjoyed watching Him more than the AtS sister episode. I don't think that Him does a great deal to move things forward but it supports the season themes and draws both Spike and Anya into the fold with the deliberate intention of offering them the chance to show who they are going to be. Not totally on the inside, but not fully on the outside still.

            Originally posted by flow View Post
            I probably would enjoy this episode more genuinely if it wasn't for that one very awkward scene in which Buffy straddles R.J. ...But I am not happy about the fact that Buffy - even under a spell - tries to force herself onto R.J. sexually while being a worker and a counselor at his high school and doing this at her workplace on top of all.
            I honestly don't think that there is intended to be a 'rape' vibe to the situation between Buffy and RJ. There's definitely the inappropriate power aspect in the relationship and her references to how close they are in age coupled with that does actually sit on season themes of how you view things and power (with different perspectives emphasised as Dawn looks in on them through the window of the door and feels the sting of betrayal). But RJ makes his interest in Buffy clear, she even asks him if her job bothers him. That obviously doesn't remove the issue and that it is overstepping boundaries, but I think it is intended to make it clear that she isn't supposed to be seen as forcing him. I don't think it is intended to be dismissive of the notion that men can be assaulted and obviously feeling like he can't refuse her would be a real potential issue too, but it seems to me that they have tried to remove that question in RJ's responses as far as they are able. That he goes around to Revello to try to see Buffy for example goes along with that.

            Although I wouldn't go so far as to say it's the funniest moment of the entire series, I do agree the scene where Spike and Buffy chase each other over the rocket launcher is really great. DB Woodside plays it perfectly to really draw the most out of what is going on in the background.

            A quick nod to another fun comedy moment... MT's timing is often great with physical comedy and she really nails it when Dawn's first sighting of RJ has her leaning too far as she tries to keep her eyes on him, resulting in her falling off the bleachers.

            So I'm nearly caught up again and hope to watch/read/post on CWDP in the next week. Thanks to Andrew S. for a thought provoking review and apologies to DanSlayer for overlapping and delaying joining in on the next discussion.

            Comment


            • debbicles
              debbicles commented
              Editing a comment
              All great points! I think the debate on the differences/non-differences between Spike and Angel, and Buffy’s respective attitudes to them, will make for a very stimulating debate!

          • I'm still playing catch-up and viewing the previous reviews in this thread, but I want to address Stoney's response to my own review.

            Originally posted by Stoney View Post
            ]I'm not sure that she is overlooking things totally though. The trigger is out of Spike's control as you say, so that outcome isn't really proof of anything. The risk of any of them being mind controlled is hardly something they should take constant precautions against. Buffy is definitely giving him a chance and pressing and questioning her choices isn't wrong at all. But she isn't doing it without any wariness wrapped in there too. She could have housed him at Revello but keeping that distance and not having him under her roof when he can harm her is more cautious. At this point she is giving him an opportunity, as we see her go on to do with Anya too.
            I think my read of Buffy in this episode is influenced a lot by her other actions in other episodes throughout S7. Buffy is just really dumb when it comes to Spike and this episode is no exception. It is one thing to give Spike an opportunity to prove himself, but it is another to take on his burdens and appoint herself and her friends as his guardians/babysitters, which is what Buffy repeatedly does throughout S7 and it makes for a really nauseating character dynamic.

            If Buffy had any sense when it came to Spike in S7, she would have either dusted him, stayed away from him entirely, or found him some sort of mystical spirit guru or whatever the Buffyverse equivalent of a therapist is. But taking him in when he's still not fully functional and she's *never* had a stable relationship with him to begin with is just not a smart move.

            I've always thought of the real-world equivalent of Buffy/Spike as being a young woman dealing with her drug addict boyfriend. Instead of Spike being a vampire, let's imagine a 'verse in which he's a drug addict. Where Spike, in a drug-fueled breakdown, tries to rape Buffy and then joins a rehabilitation program and gets sober. But his sobriety isn't because he genuinely wants to live a better, drug-free life for himself - his sobriety is to make Buffy forgive and get back together with him. And Buffy, instead of maintaining boundaries and telling Spike to get help elsewhere, appoints herself as Spike's new sponsor for the next year. That's an extremely problematic dynamic and the mystical aspects of the show doesn't make it any less so. Spike having a soul does not make him Buffy's responsibility nor does it obligate her to take care of him. But in Buffy's depressed, traumatized mind, she seems to believe it does and it's rather disturbing, which is I question her judgement so much.


            Originally posted by Stoney
            I would be inclined to think it is a coincidence as Spike has always worn dark clothes 90% of the time. The significance in his wardrobe so far was that he tried to change his image with the blue shirt in BY and that he is not wearing his coat.
            Spike has always worn dark clothes, yes, but I remember his costumes being spiced up every now and then with a flash of color usually underneath his jacket. I'm primarily thinking of the infamous red blazer that he often wore in earlier seasons and in promo shoots. I think he wears it the most throughout "Something Blue". It's been a while since I watched S7 in full and I never paid much attention to his wardrobe but I remember his style taking on a much blander, 'drab' kind of look throughout presumably to fit in with his slightly broodier persona.

            Originally posted by Stoney
            I wouldn't tend to say that his souled wardrobe is suddenly reflecting Angel, or that his behaviour is overly either. At this point Spike has been struggling with his grasp on reality but has also been greatly avoiding himself and when facing things that he has done seems to struggle to hold onto the here and now even more. Generally, Spike is less brash than he used to be and this is one of the main changes that the soul brings to his character, as well as being more contemplative and withdrawn. Those quieter moments though connect with the struggle to keep a grip on reality and fighting between being lost in his human past and trying to escape too. So I don't think he's being written to be like Angel in his response to being souled. Angel tends to brood with an intense introspection, rather than the shattered mind we've been seeing from Spike so far and drifting into fantasy. There are similarities for sure, but plenty of individual personality factors and differing coping mechanisms in there too I think.
            IMO, the Buffy/Spike relationship of early-S7 hits a LOT of the same beats as the Buffy/Angel relationship of early-S3 did. Rewatch "Beauty and the Beasts", then rewatch "Lessons" and "Beneath You", and it is obvious how similar the two relationships are, both in Angel and Spike's characterizations and in Buffy's reactions to them.

            In “Beauty and the Beasts”, Buffy encountered a feral and insane Angel. She tied him up but ultimately did her best to ignore his presence and kept his return a secret from everyone else. The episode’s climax showed Angel breaking free and coming back into lucidness, ending with him sobbing while clutching a speechless and horrified (and slightly turned-on) Buffy’s waist.

            In “Lessons”, Buffy encounters an insane (but not really feral) Spike. While she makes no attempt to subdue Spike like she did Angel, she does her best to ignore his presence and keeps his return a secret from everyone else. This is all in vain, of course, and “Beneath You” ends with Spike sobbing and clutching a cross while a speechless and horrified (and slightly turned-on) Buffy watches.

            The two storylines, while not exactly the same, are very similar. The main differences being that Angel has a different personality while souled whereas Spike, aside from the quieter moments where he’s being written like Angel 2.0, is still very similar to his soulless persona. And also, Buffy actually loved Angel before their relationship went sour whereas she never loved Spike before their relationship went sour which makes her advocating for the latter a little harder to understand. But the Angel comparisons are particularly relevant to me not for the sake of comparing ships but because, IMO, Buffy is pretty much reliving the trauma of her past relationship with Angel throughout her current relationship with Spike. She displaces all of those feelings about her past experiences with Angel onto Spike and it’s why she cares so much and advocates for him throughout the season despite the fact that he has done nothing to earn it.

            Originally posted by Stoney
            I tend to see Buffy's 'he has a soul now' as her willingness to see what it means for him. An acknowledgment of the different potential it possibly gives him, but without assurances and certainty. It's a while before she clearly feels it is a positive change in him that warrants more openly spoken support. Here we are only just on the other side of Selfless when she has openly challenged him, "You have a soul? Fine. Show me." There aren't certainties, as with so much of the season, there's potential that could go either way. The soul gets him the chance to prove himself.

            Pointing out that the soul isn't a guarantee is definitely fair and it is totally reasonable that both Xander and Dawn do this. But I don't think that the idea that gaining a soul brings some distinction in morality and emotional capacities is something that they don't generally believe in.
            Of course, Spike’s soul changes things and brings distinction in morality/emotional capacities, which the characters believe, but my question is: why do they care? I just don’t buy that any of these characters would be invested in Spike’s soulfulness or emotional journey enough to put his problems above their own without some serious psychological problems on their end. Fans have always loved Spike and been invested in him, but the characters have never been so why are they now?


            Originally posted by Stoney
            I do think that S7 sees Buffy and Spike build a mutually empowering and supportive dynamic. But I don't think it is flawless and there are times when I believe Buffy lets her emotional involvement questionably influence her decisions, as Spike lets his loyalty drive his behaviour too. Just as with many of the relationships, there remain flaws. That doesn't prevent it from being an overall positive dynamic shift, especially from where they were in S6.
            There is a *slight* positive change in Buffy/Spike’s dynamic in S7, but that’s honestly not saying much considering how awful they were to each other in S6. They’re not beating each other up anymore, but for the most part, they pretty much pick up where they left off in S6 without the sex. It’s still a bunch of codependency and trauma-bonding, which makes for a toxic dynamic in S7 as well and very little of it is positive to me. There’s nothing positive to me about Spike getting his soul back solely to manipulate his way back into Buffy’s good grades again after trying to rape her and there’s also nothing positive about her becoming his caretaker after the fact.

            If anything, both Buffy and Spike come off as kind of pathetic in their interactions with one another throughout S7. From Buffy’s end, she consistently puts the wellbeing of her unstable/attempted rapist/stalker ex-boyfriend that she won't even publicly claim as such above that of her own and her friends’. From Spike’s end, he is obsessed, constantly following and making passionate declarations of love to a woman who can’t even bring herself to say ‘I love you’ to him until he’s literally about to die. It’s pretty sad on both ends. Buffy and Spike don’t need each other, they need therapists and a few shots of self-esteem.

            Considering how Spuffy-dominant this forum is, I know my opinions on their relationship are pretty unpopular and most won't agree but they are my honest, thought-out opinions so it is what it is. *shrugs* But the only positive, mature interaction between Buffy and Spike this season that I can think of is the conclusion, in which they both passionately admit their connection to one another but agree to go their separate ways.

            Originally posted by Stoney
            I don't think this works so well, if they'd made an agreement, with Xander openly questioning the good sense of Spike going to stay and repeatedly emphasising how much he doesn't like it when Spike arrives.
            I don't think it works tremendously well either way, to be honest, but especially not the 'canon' way. If Xander hates the idea of Spike staying with him so much that he can't shut up about how much he doesn't like it, then why is he letting Spike stay with him? It's not like Buffy is holding a gun to his head. Even though Xander respects her a great deal, he's not her minion. It's hard for me to believe that he would let Spike stay with him at a time where his hatred for Spike is at an all-time high without there being *something* in it for him.


            Originally posted by Stoney
            Interesting comparison. I agree this is a fun episode and I was quite surprised to find on this rewatch I actually enjoyed watching Him more than the AtS sister episode.
            Interesting. So do you consider "Supersymmetry" to be the sister AtS episode or would that be "Spin the Bottle"? I've always liked your comparisons of the concurrent BtVS/AtS episodes and it's something that I have also always considered when watching the shows. Wonky airdates aside, I think I consider "Him" and "Spin the Bottle" to be the sister episodes, both of them being wacky comedy episodes but STB being much better in that regard. I recall hearing an interview or podcast with Tim Minear a very long time ago in which he addressed this and stated the writers of the shows always tried to make concurrent BtVS/AtS episodes as distinct as possible, at least tonally. For instance, the mostly light-hearted "I Was Made to Love You" is followed by the uber-depressing "Reprise". The emotionally-draining "The Body" episode gets followed by the relatively optimistic "Epiphany". Dramatic "Forever" gets followed by comedic "Disharmony", etc. But of course, you still often get those thematic parallels and similarities between episodes, which is pretty neat.
            Last edited by Andrew S.; 04-07-20, 11:31 PM. Reason: Grammatical/spelling errors

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            • Originally posted by Andrew S. View Post
              There is a *slight* positive change in Buffy/Spike’s dynamic in S7, but that’s honestly not saying much considering how awful they were to each other in S6. They’re not beating each other up anymore, but for the most part, they pretty much pick up where they left off in S6 without the sex. It’s still a bunch of codependency and trauma-bonding, which makes for a toxic dynamic in S7 as well and very little of it is positive to me. There’s nothing positive to me about Spike getting his soul back solely to manipulate his way back into Buffy’s good grades again after trying to rape her and there’s also nothing positive about her becoming his caretaker after the fact.

              If anything, both Buffy and Spike come off as kind of pathetic in their interactions with one another throughout S7. From Buffy’s end, she consistently puts the wellbeing of her unstable/attempted rapist/stalker ex-boyfriend that she won't even publicly claim as such above that of her own and her friends’. From Spike’s end, he is obsessed, constantly following and making passionate declarations of love to a woman who can’t even bring herself to say ‘I love you’ to him until he’s literally about to die. It’s pretty sad on both ends. Buffy and Spike don’t need each other, they need therapists and a few shots of self-esteem.

              Considering how Spuffy-dominant this forum is, I know my opinions on their relationship are pretty unpopular and most won't agree but they are my honest, thought-out opinions so it is what it is. *shrugs* [FONT=Helvetica]But the only positive, mature interaction between Buffy and Spike this season that I can think of is the conclusion, in which they both passionately admit their connection to one another but agree to go their separate ways.
              For what it's worth, whilst I probably am slightly softer on S7 Spuffy than you are I pretty much agree overall. I cannot for the life of me understand how their S7 dynamic is meant to be healthy or positive in any way. Healthier than their S6 dynamic, sure, but that really isn't saying much considering how utterly toxic that was. Part of my issue with their S7 dynamic is I think the toxicity of their relationship is far more insidious because it hides behind the guise of 'Well Spike is being more gentlemanly and noble and Buffy is sticking up for him now and they're not hitting each other anymore or saying nasty things" but it's horribly unhealthy, co-dependant, and unfair to both of them in very different ways. There's certain things about it I like but overall it's my least favourite incarnation of their relationship by far because of how troublesome I find it to be but it's regularly portrayed as 'healthy' in fandom, and even by Whedon at one point.
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              • Originally posted by Andrew S. View Post
                I think my read of Buffy in this episode is influenced a lot by her other actions in other episodes throughout S7. Buffy is just really dumb when it comes to Spike and this episode is no exception. It is one thing to give Spike an opportunity to prove himself, but it is another to take on his burdens and appoint herself and her friends as his guardians/babysitters, which is what Buffy repeatedly does throughout S7 and it makes for a really nauseating character dynamic.

                If Buffy had any sense when it came to Spike in S7, she would have either dusted him, stayed away from him entirely, or found him some sort of mystical spirit guru or whatever the Buffyverse equivalent of a therapist is. But taking him in when he's still not fully functional and she's *never* had a stable relationship with him to begin with is just not a smart move.

                I've always thought of the real-world equivalent of Buffy/Spike as being a young woman dealing with her drug addict boyfriend. Instead of Spike being a vampire, let's imagine a 'verse in which he's a drug addict. Where Spike, in a drug-fueled breakdown, tries to rape Buffy and then joins a rehabilitation program and gets sober. But his sobriety isn't because he genuinely wants to live a better, drug-free life for himself - his sobriety is to make Buffy forgive and get back together with him. And Buffy, instead of maintaining boundaries and telling Spike to get help elsewhere, appoints herself as Spike's new sponsor for the next year. That's an extremely problematic dynamic and the mystical aspects of the show doesn't make it any less so. Spike having a soul does not make him Buffy's responsibility nor does it obligate her to take care of him. But in Buffy's depressed, traumatized mind, she seems to believe it does and it's rather disturbing, which is I question her judgement so much.
                I honestly don't think real-world equivalents work when it comes to the distinction with the vampires when they become souled. The violence that they engage in and enjoy when unsouled is on the levels of sociopathic/psychopathic personality disorders if we were looking for real life equivalents. The distinctions that the soul brings in emotional and moral capacities for an unsouled vampire are sudden. Whilst there is a connection to who they were, from the original personality/motivations, that they still are demons and have all the memories of committing those crimes, they are also fundamentally distinct. Neither Angel nor Spike would have committed the crimes they did when unsouled once they are souled and it is a sudden switch. You can't transpose that to real life so drawing equivalents doesn't work for me in this way because the verse lore on the distinction of the soul doesn't reflect real life at all. We definitely see their relationship in a very different way because the mystical aspects of the show is the context in which I view it, as I did Buffy and Angel too, and I do think it matters to have that context for both relationships. In real life I would support neither of them but in verse enjoy them both and find their dynamics with Buffy very interesting.

                I don't think that Buffy feels obligated to take care of Spike. I think that she wants to support him in having the opportunity to lead a better life and find out who he is/can be now. They did have a very toxic relationship in S6 but they have also felt a connection and understanding of each other at varying points and reflections of aspects of themselves that draws them to each other I think. But as S6 showed how they could take those factors and pull each other down, S7 contrasts that. There is a wider history there than just the violent sexual relationship and what Spike did to support the scoobies and Dawn I think does create a connection with him that has them willing to give him a chance. And yes, the group to some degree feel unable to totally oppose Buffy and she makes independent decisions and isolates from them. Something that is also part of the season and has been a reoccurring aspect in their dynamics. But it is in the desire to support and strengthen that I think there is a specifically healthier and positive dynamic that develops between Spike and Buffy through this season and deliberately moves against their S6 dynamic. Their relationship to me is reflective of the season theme of empowerment and supporting people to be the best person they can be, to fulfil their potential. The why of the group doing this just fits within the show's focus on being better people and helping others to me.

                The mythology/mystical side draws a distinct line that Spike and Angel benefit from in the way that I just don't think works for a real life equivalent as I said. I think both Angel and Spike are distinct between being souled/unsouled. The shift is more dramatic with Angel but it makes sense to me that with his different personality, different background and different path to becoming souled that he would respond as he does. The distinction and moral/emotional changes are the same, their coping mechanisms, personalities and backgrounds aren't. I think Spike is really different when souled. It's why I tend to find it confusing when you hear fans both complain about him having lost his 'edge' and then also say he doesn't noticeably change. Although I agree that Spike got his soul for what he hoped it would change between Buffy and himself, I don't think he views it the same once he is souled. But there is certainly still obsession mixed in with his motivation, but now with a level of uncertainty of what he can give and do. That he eventually accepts sacrifice to have a positive impact and purpose but then after returning takes a good while deciding on what path he'll walk souled before returning to Buffy again makes sense to me.

                It's interesting to note the similarities between Buffy's response to Angel in S3 and Spike in S7. I don't think I'd go so far as to say that she is acting on displaced feelings and reliving the trauma but I think it is certainly realistic to say that the experience of one impacts the other. In both I think we see Buffy's inherent goodness and kindness. She's certainly more loving to the wider world than I could ever imagine being.

                Of course, Spike’s soul changes things and brings distinction in morality/emotional capacities, which the characters believe, but my question is: why do they care? I just don’t buy that any of these characters would be invested in Spike’s soulfulness or emotional journey enough to put his problems above their own without some serious psychological problems on their end. Fans have always loved Spike and been invested in him, but the characters have never been so why are they now?
                I do think the characters struggle with it. We've seen Xander having issues with it and Dawn and we know Giles is going to too. It isn't something that isn't questioned and here I think I just accept that there was always something between Buffy and Spike that resided underneath the negatives and gained space to breath in a positive way when they were both in different places in S7. I see them both finding a way to positively contribute to each other's lives and becoming stronger themselves through the connection. At times I think I'd agree that they turn blinkers on that shuts them off from others in a way that doesn't help either, but that their relationship isn't instantly the best version of what they could be doesn't stop me seeing the change and the potential (which I do think they eventually get to in the comic continuation) as positive. We probably won't get closer to a middle ground agreement as the season goes on considering how far apart we seem to be starting from, but I've never discussed half of these episodes before so I'm genuinely very interested to hear how/where/why others interpret the messages and character stories differently.

                Interesting. So do you consider "Supersymmetry" to be the sister AtS episode or would that be "Spin the Bottle"? I've always liked your comparisons of the concurrent BtVS/AtS episodes and it's something that I have also always considered when watching the shows. Wonky airdates aside, I think I consider "Him" and "Spin the Bottle" to be the sister episodes, both of them being wacky comedy episodes but STB being much better in that regard. I recall hearing an interview or podcast with Tim Minear a very long time ago in which he addressed this and stated the writers of the shows always tried to make concurrent BtVS/AtS episodes as distinct as possible, at least tonally. For instance, the mostly light-hearted "I Was Made to Love You" is followed by the uber-depressing "Reprise". The emotionally-draining "The Body" episode gets followed by the relatively optimistic "Epiphany". Dramatic "Forever" gets followed by comedic "Disharmony", etc. But of course, you still often get those thematic parallels and similarities between episodes, which is pretty neat.
                No I don't think Supersymmetry is the sister ep, definitely Spin the Bottle is. I think Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Supersymmetry act as a consecutive pair and are then followed by Him against Spin the Bottle. I would objectively say that StB is the better episode which is why I said that I was surprised that on this rewatch I actually enjoyed Him more. It may have just been the mood I was in that day or because I was surprised by enjoying Him more than I had before, I don't know.

                It is interesting to hear what you say about Tim Minear commenting on trying to make the concurrent episodes distinct. There has been a tendency I've noticed for characters, or the two groups, to be heading in opposite directions and that possibly is one of the ways it enabled them to cover some of the same themes but create a feeling of distinction and contrasting tone. S6/S3 for example where the scoobies start off very disconnected and eventually are drawing back together has AtS start off very cohesive as a group but then dramatically fall apart. I have to say, I've really enjoyed watching the two shows together and think that I probably will always do it this way by choice.

                For the S7/S4 combination I have been led by the air dates and knowing where they are trying to aim for the crossovers. This sometimes ends up with a pairing of two AtS ones together between the BtVS eps or a BtVS/AtS combination. So when there are two AtS eps between I'll watch them before the BtVS/AtS combo for the next rewatch review. So after The House Always Wins/Selfless, I watched Slouching Towards Bethlehem and Supersymmetry before watching the Him/Spin the Bottle combination.

                This is the way I'm watching them (for ref their air dates are in brackets)...
                Spoiler:

                - Lesson (Sep-24)
                - Beneath You (Oct-01)

                - Deep Down (Oct-06) // Same Time, Same Place (Oct-08)
                - Ground State (Oct-13) // Help (Oct-15)
                - The House Always Wins (Oct-20) // Selfless (Oct-22)
                Slouching Towards Bethlehem (Oct-27)
                Supersymmetry (Nov-03)
                - Him (Nov-05) // Spin the Bottle (Nov-10)
                - CWDP (Nov-12) // Apocalypse Nowish (Nov-17)
                - Sleeper (Nov-19)
                - Never Leave Me (Nov-26)
                - Bring on the Night (Dec-17)
                - Showtime (Jan-07)

                - Habeas Corpses (Jan-15) // Potential (Jan-21)
                Long Day's Journey (Jan-22)
                Awakening (Jan-29)
                - The Killer in Me (Feb-04) // Soulless (Feb-05)
                - First Date (Feb-11) // Calvary (Feb-12)
                - Get It Done (Feb-18)
                - Storyteller (Feb-25)

                Salvage (Mar-05)
                Release (Mar-12)
                - LMPTM (Mar-25) // Orpheus (Mar-19)
                Players (Mar-26)
                Inside Out (Apr-02)
                - Shiny Happy People (Apr-09) // Dirty Girls (Apr-15)
                The Magic Bullet (Apr-16)
                Sacrifice (Apr-23)

                - Empty Places (Apr-29) // Peace Out (Apr-30)
                - Touched (May-06) // Home (May-07)
                - End of Days (May-13)
                - Chosen (May-20)

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                • debbicles
                  debbicles commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I too think that comparisons to real life situations take a viewer only so far.
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