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BtVS rewatch: SEASON 7

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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
    Season Seven Rewatch
    Never Leave Me
    Part 7

    Where we last left Buffy and Spike, Spike told Buffy:

    SPIKE: This is me Buffy. You've got to kill me before I get out.

    Later in the season, Giles will echo Spike’s words here when he tells Buffy that difficult decisions must be made when it comes to the out-of-control serial killer in her house.

    GILES: So, you really do understand the difficult decisions you'll have to make? That anyone of us is expendable in this war?
    BUFFY: Have you heard my speeches?
    GILES: That we cannot allow any threat that would jeopardize our chances at winning?
    BUFFY: Yes, I get it.
    GILES: And yet there is Spike. Spike's a liability, Buffy. He refuses to see it, and so do you. – Lies My Parents Told Me

    Ironically, Giles didn’t know Spike and Buffy already had this exact conversation in “Never Leave Me” with Spike trying just as hard as her Watcher to convince Buffy to dust him. And just as in “Lies My Parents Told Me,” Buffy refuses to do so. And that’s because the argument between Buffy and Spike over the inherent danger of keeping Spike alive while the trigger is active is actually a debate that rests upon both Buffy and Spike’s ideas about the soul and what it means.

    There’s nothing that Spike’s told Buffy that she hasn’t heard before – in fact, she’s heard even worse when Buffy confronts Angel about his past with Drusilla.

    ANGEL: I did a lot of unconscionable things when I became a vampire. Drusilla was the worst. She was – an obsession of mine. She was pure and sweet and chaste...
    BUFFY: And you made her a vampire.
    ANGEL: First I made her insane. Killed everybody she loved. Visited every mental torture on her I could devise.
    Buffy looks away from Angel.
    ANGEL: She eventually fled to a convent, and on the day she took her holy orders, I turned her into a demon.
    BUFFY: Well. I asked for the truth. – Lie to Me
    The tragic story of Drusilla was partially shown on Angel the Series – and the scene in which Angelus and Darla have sex on the altar of the church as Drusilla sobs, waiting to be raped and turned, is just as harrowing as anything Spike has just told Buffy.

    DARLA: We made quite a mess out there. Blood and habits everywhere.
    ANGELUS: Convents - they're just a great big cookie jar.
    DRUSILLA: Black sky. It wants a little wormy me. No. No. Make it stop!
    DARLA: What is she doing here? I thought you killed her.
    ANGELUS: No. Just her family.
    DRUSILLA: Eyes like arrows – like – like needles.
    ANGELUS: This one's special. I have big plans for her.
    DRUSILLA: Snake in the woodshed. Snake in the woodshed. Snake in the woodshed! Snake in the woodshed!
    Angelus and Darla start to kiss.
    DARLA: So are we going to kill her during, or after?
    ANGELUS: Neither. We turn her into one of us. Killing is so merciful at the end, isn't it? The pain has ended.
    DARLA: But to make her one of us? She's a lunatic.
    ANGELUS: Eternal torment. Am I learning?
    Angelus kisses Darla while Dru first laughs then cries. – Dear Boy

    In fact, compared to Angelus, Spike seems to be a little less demonic because of his love for Drusilla, which humanizes him enough in the eyes of the Judge to almost be worthy of burning:

    JUDGE: You!
    SPIKE: Ho, ho, ho. What's that, mate?
    JUDGE: You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy.
    SPIKE: Yeah. What of it? – Surprise

    Whereas Angelus purposefully filled himself up with nothing but the direst cruelty, deliberately stripping himself of all human traits (or so he thinks) to the extent that the Judge can find nothing good in him.

    SPIKE: What the hell is going on?
    JUDGE: This one cannot be burnt. He is clean.
    SPIKE: Clean? You mean, he's –
    JUDGE: There's no humanity in him.
    ANGELUS: I couldn't have said it better myself. – Innocence

    And, yet, despite Angel’s reputation as the worst vampire of all time, Buffy forgave him for everything. Because for Buffy, Angel’s repentance and the soul makes a difference. And it’s that belief that allows her to push back against Spike’s fears that he deserves to die.

    BUFFY: We can keep you locked up. Keep you here and we'll figure out—

    Buffy probably got this idea from watching Willow take care of Oz during his werewolf transformation in “Beauty and the Beasts” – in fact, the whole Scooby Gang takes turns watching over Oz to prevent him from harming anyone while he is triggered by a full moon. Willow reads to him through the bars of a cage as he transforms from man to beast and back again:

    XANDER: Private Harris reporting for Oz watch.
    WILLOW: (puts down book) Xander! Oh, good.
    XANDER: ‘Call of the Wild.’ Aren't we reading the Cliff Notes to this for English?
    WILLOW: Some of us are. Anyway, it'll help you stay awake. It's good and very wolfy. Seems to soothe the savage beast. Except for the parts about...rabbits.
    Oz hears that, and he jumps against the cage, banging it loudly.
    XANDER: Rabbis?
    WILLOW: It seems to make him a little overexcited. Okay. Now, he's had his 2:00 feeding and after sunrise if he forgets where his clothes are, they're on top of the file cabinet in his cage. I
    put those towels up for privacy.
    XANDER: Uh, no worries. I can handle the Oz Full Monty. I mean, not 'handle' handle, like 'hands to flesh' handle.
    WILLOW: Okay. Well, it's not for you. It's for me, 'cause I'm still getting used to half a Monty.
    XANDER: Oh. Good. Half? You and Oz? Which half?
    WILLOW: Wouldn't you like to know? Anyway, he's more manageable tonight and on the third night. Tomorrow night, the total full moon, that's when he's a real wolfer. But in case there's trouble – there won't be, but if –
    She holds up the dart rifle.
    XANDER: Sleepy time. Gotcha. – Beauty and the Beasts
    Watching Spike would just be a repeat of season three’s Law & Order: Werewolf Watch. Like Oz who is triggered by the full moon, Spike is triggered by a song, so all the Scooby Gang has to do is keep him imprisoned until they find a way to break the trigger. Maybe Willow could even read ‘The Call of the Wild’ to Spike while he rages in his feral state.

    A frustrated Spike interrupts another one of Buffy’s endless attempts to work around the problem of a feral vampire with a question. But this time, it’s not about Spike but Buffy herself.

    SPIKE: Have you ever really asked yourself why you can't do it? Off me? After everything I've done? To you. To the people around you?

    It’s a question that viewers often asked as well. Why did Buffy spare Spike after so many attempts on her life and the lives of her friends? Why did she still let him back into her life after so many betrayals? Even before she knew about the soul, Buffy allowed Spike to help her despite the objections of Xander and Dawn. Spike’s insinuating that there’s something more going on here than just simple kindness. When he was soulless, he thought he knew why Buffy always spared him and gave him a wide berth to interfere in her life.

    SPIKE: Twice in recent memory, she's had the lover-wiccas do a deinvite on the house. Keep out specific vamps. Ever ask yourself why she's never taken my name off the guest list?
    RILEY: Because you're harmless.
    SPIKE: Oh yeah, right. Takes one to know, I suppose. Least I still got the attitude. What do you got, a piercing glance? Face it, white bread. Buffy's got a type, and you're not it. She likes us dangerous, rough, occasionally bumpy in the forehead region. Not that she doesn't like you, but sorry Charlie, you're just not dark enough. – Shadow
    Soulless Spike was convinced that Buffy secretly desired him. All of Buffy’s constant mercies – never un-inviting him from her house, saving him from the Initiative, refusing to dust him – were all signs that Buffy was in love with him.

    SPIKE: You can't tell me that there isn't anything there between you and me. I know you feel something. – Crush

    But now souled Spike can see how horribly wrong he was. Buffy didn’t love him at all. To her, he was almost a pity project, a figure to be laughed at and tolerated for his strength in fighting baddies.

    Before Buffy can say anything, Spike preempts her response. Perhaps he doesn’t want to actually hear her say that she doesn’t love him. But Spike looks at her in shame as he tells her how wrong he was to believe it was love.

    SPIKE: It's not love, we both know that.

    This directly alludes back to the disastrous bathroom scene in which Spike refused to believe Buffy when she said she didn’t love him.

    SPIKE: You should have let him kill me.
    BUFFY: I couldn't do that.
    SPIKE: Why?
    BUFFY: You know why.
    SPIKE: Because you love me.
    BUFFY: No. I don't.
    SPIKE: Why do you keep lying to yourself?
    BUFFY: How many times – I have feelings for you. I do. But it's not love. I could never trust you enough for it to be love. – Seeing Red

    Souled Spike can now see that Buffy was telling the truth. But if that wasn’t the reason why Buffy constantly spared him, then what was? Spike thinks that he’s figured it out – the reason why Buffy tolerated him, the reason why she decided to use him when she was suffering so much during season six and the reason why Buffy can’t kill him now despite the fact that he’s nothing more than a monster with the face of a man. A pathetic schmuck, as Morphy says.

    It’s certainly not for the reasons that Buffy quickly brings up to justify why she’s hasn’t killed Spike – the same reasons she uses throughout their relationship to convince others she’s doing the right thing.

    BUFFY: You fought by my side. You've saved lives. You've helped—

    This is similar to Buffy’s attitude after Spike endures Glory’s torture to save Dawn – regardless of how Spike feels, he would die for Buffy and her sister and Buffy would be a fool not to take advantage of his loyalty. From that point onward, Buffy consistently maintains that she needs Spike in a crisis because of his vampire strength and cunning – and no one else will tell her differently.

    Giles looks at the driver's area too, does a double-take. We see Spike sitting in the driver's seat, wearing a large pair of black goggles.
    GILES: What's he doing here?
    SPIKE: Just out for a jaunt. Thought I'd swing by and say howdy.
    GILES: Out.
    BUFFY: He's here because we need him.
    XANDER: The hell we do.
    BUFFY: If Glory finds us, he's the only one besides me that has any chance of protecting Dawn.
    XANDER: Buffy, come on-
    BUFFY: Look, this isn't a discussion! He stays. Get over it. – Spiral

    But Spike immediately rejects that old tired excuse – one that he most likely never believed. In his delusional soulless state, he figured Buffy had fallen in love with Spike, but was too afraid or embarrassed to admit it.

    But now that he’s souled, he’s come up with another reason that explains everything – probably formed with the help of Morphy/Buffy – as to why Buffy constantly spares Spike. Spike snaps at Buffy furiously, angry that she’s still trying to save him.

    SPIKE: Don't do that. Don't rationalize this into some noble act.
    Spike softens as his voice fills with emotion and his eyes dart to and from Buffy, distressed at what he’s about to say to her.

    SPIKE: We both know the truth of it.

    Just like “Beneath You”, Spike moves his head so that it’s falling in and out of shadow because he’s afraid to raise the thought. It’s obviously something he’s thought for a long time now and since he’s slaughtered half of Sunnydale, he’s no longer feeling the need to hold his tongue.

    It’s also another example of one of Spike’s most notable traits. From season to season, from episode to episode, Spike likes to think that he’s a truth-teller, forcing people to face things they’d rather not hear. From Angelus to Buffy, Spike was always there to act as the jester in a Shakespeare play – telling the King and Queen that they were full of it. Spike fancied himself a free-thinker, confronting others with uncomfortable truths that he wielded like a weapon to pierce the ego of anyone around him.

    SPIKE: Right. Let's not listen to Spike. Might get a bit of the truth on you. (Normal Again)

    Before Spike reveals this ‘truth’, he turns so that his face is fully in shadow, head turned downward. Buffy braces herself for Spike’s reveal, her arms crossed and expression purposefully blank.

    SPIKE: You like men who hurt you.

    It sounds like Spike is just regurgitating psychoanalytic theories about women who are fatally attracted to ‘bad boys.’ Buffy often said in season six that she just wanted to ‘feel’ and women who date manipulative men are often drawn to the thrill and the sensation of trying to change the bad boy. The more he hurts a woman, the more drawn she is to enact the same destructive scenario over and over again in the hopes of changing him. Slowly, a woman associates pain with feelings of love until the two become inseparable. Buffy’s long history with Angel – and Parker – and Riley – and Spike – has primed her to accept pain intermixed with love.

    There’s a little truth to what Spike says here – Buffy herself admits it.

    WILLOW: So – he's nice?
    BUFFY: Very, very.
    WILLOW: And there's sparkage?
    BUFFY: Yeah. He's— have you seen his arms? Those are good arms to have. I really like him. I do.
    WILLOW: But?
    BUFFY: I don't know. I really like being around him, you know? And I think he cares about me, but – I just feel like something's missing.
    WILLOW: He's not making you miserable?
    BUFFY: Exactly. Riley seems so solid. Like he wouldn't cause me heartache.
    WILLOW: Get out. Get out while there's still time.
    BUFFY: I know. I have to get away from that bad boy thing. There's no good there. Seeing Angel in LA even for five minutes. Hello to the pain.
    WILLOW: The pain is not a friend.
    BUFFY: But I can't help thinking — isn't that where the fire comes from? Can a nice, safe relationship be that intense? I know it's nuts, but part of me believes that real love and passion have to go hand in hand with pain and fighting.
    A vampire jumps out and Buffy stakes him without even looking. He crumbles to dust.
    BUFFY: I wonder where I get that from. – Something Blue

    But Buffy immediately denies that’s the reason that she’s spared Spike for so many years.

    BUFFY: No.

    But just like their conversation in her bedroom, Buffy’s jumped to conclusions when Spike’s not finished yet. Spike didn’t mean to imply that Buffy chooses men who hurt her because she’s some kind of pathetic, simpering shopgirl. No, Buffy chooses men who hurt her because she needs the pain – she needs to feel hate – to fulfill her job as the Slayer.

    SPIKE: You need the pain we cause you. You need the hate. You need it to do your job, to be the slayer.

    The original script had a lot more to say:

    SPIKE: You like bad men. I don't mean troubled men. I don't mean brooding men. I mean, you like men who hurt you.
    BUFFY: No...
    SPIKE: You need the pain we cause you. You need the violence inside. You need the hate. It gives you the strength to do what you have to do. To be the Slayer. But it's killing you.
    BUFFY: You don't have any idea what you're talking about.
    SPIKE: You have to let it go. You have to kill me. I am destroying everything around you. I am killing off every piece of you that is good and pure. And in the end, after everything is gone and you have nothing else, I will come for you and I will – Original Shooting Script for Never Leave Me
    The one-note hammering on Buffy’s words “It’s killing me” when she breaks up with Spike in “As You Were” becomes repetitive here – but Spike is essentially saying the same thing as in the televised version, which is far more succinct and to the point.

    It’s a wild swing from love to hate as the reason that Spike is still alive – as wild as if Spike had it written on his knuckles like Robert Mitchum’s serial killer preacher Harry Powell in the truly terrifying film “The Night of the Hunter” – which was obviously a major influence on Nathan Fillion’s Caleb later in the season. Mitchum’s insane bible thumper gives his philosophy of life as a battle between love and hate – even as he leaves a trail of murdered women behind him:

    Ah, little lad, you're staring at my fingers. Would you like me to tell you the little story of Right-hand, Left-hand? The story of good and evil. H-A-T-E. It was with this left hand that old Brother Cain struck the blow that laid his brother low. L-O-V-E. See these fingers, dear hearts? They has veins that run straight to the soul of man. The right hand, friends. The hand of love. Now watch and I'll show you the story of life. These fingers is always a-warring and a-tugging, one agin t'other. – The Night of the Hunter

    Spike Lee paid homage to this scene in Do The Right Thing where Radio Raheem shows off his four fingered rings spelling out Love and Hate – shortly before he’s murdered by the police for protesting racism at a pizza parlour.

    Spike doesn’t have tattoos or rings on his fingers, but he’s got his ‘truth-teller’ speech that functions in the same way. And it’s one that has a lot to do with Spike’s new perspective as a souled vampire.

    When Spike was soulless, he could imagine in his own narcissistic way that Buffy loved him despite hiding under a White Hat, her heart at war with itself as she was drawn both to the light and the darkness due to her nature as the slayer. Every time Buffy punched Spike and threatened to dust him, it was both a Slayer punishment and a love tap, her desire and love for Spike warring with her duty to kill him as a monster. Which we see in the programming he gave Warren for the Buffybot.

    SPIKE: Is that your best, Slayer?
    SPIKE: Why not?
    BUFFYBOT: I want to hurt you, but I can't resist the sinister attraction of your cold and muscular body.
    SPIKE: Maybe I should repay you for your gentleness. Maybe I should let you go.
    BUFFYBOT: No! No, Spike. Never let me go.
    SPIKE: You know you should be afraid of me. I'm bad.
    BUFFYBOT: You are. You're very, very bad.
    Suddenly she flings him on the bed, putting her stake against his chest.
    SPIKE: Are you gonna do it that way?
    She rips Spike’s shirt open as Spike growls in pleasure, putting her stake against his bare chest.
    BUFFYBOT: This way.
    SPIKE: You can't do it.
    BUFFYBOT: I could never do it. I'm helpless against you, you fiend. – Intervention
    It’s the mixture of love and hate that makes Spike’s love for Buffy so exciting – and so rewarding in a masochistic way. Spike believes Buffy likes men who hurt her because Spike likes women who hurt him. Love relationships are a mirror of the inner self and it’s hard to say if Spike’s feelings about love and hate come solely from being a soulless vampire or they are predicated on William Pratt’s feelings of insecurity about love. We saw how William was naïve to believe that Cecily had feelings for him and mistook her feelings of contempt for love – feelings that probably carried on through his siring to affect the vampire, who swung between romantic fantasy and cynical reality when it suited him.

    SPIKE: Got to hand it to you, Goldilocks, you do have bleedin' tragic taste in men. I’ve got a cousin, married a regurgitating Frovlax demon, has better instincts than you.
    BUFFY: What does my taste in men have to do with this?
    SPIKE: You think Riley was out knitting booties for your future offspring while Maggie was stringing you up? – Goodbye, Iowa
    But now that Spike is souled, he has a different perspective from either William Pratt or soulless William the Bloody. Now that he can see what a loathsome creature he is – with thousands of crimes on his head – he can only see Buffy’s feelings for him as an extension of the hatred he feels intensely about himself. Buffy must have hated Spike, but allowed him to hurt her and abuse her and almost rape her because she needed the pain and hatred to do her job.

    It’s a great dramatic irony that Spike chalks up Buffy’s actions to love when he was soulless and hate now that he’s souled, which shows the difference between the narcissism of the soulless vampire and the self-loathing of the souled vampire. There’s also a parallel between the past and the present as Spike looks at Buffy expectantly, waiting for her to maybe make some halting admission that she does hate him – just as he begged in the bathroom for Buffy to admit that she loved him.

    Buffy has been patiently listening for most of their conversation in the basement, making calm objections and parrying Spike’s attacks while keeping personal thoughts to herself. But Spike’s accusation that Buffy is fueled by hate – that her life as the Slayer is dependent upon it – is a bridge too far. Spike may fancy himself a ‘truth-teller’ – but Buffy’s here to tell him that he’s full of it.

    Part of this is because she remembers a long-ago Christmas Evening when Buffy needed to talk another soulful vampire out of killing himself. Shortly after Angel returned from a hell dimension in season three, he was haunted by ghosts from his past, reminding him of his sinful ways and trying to tempt to revert to his evil ways. The same kind of arguments were made then – Angel trying to convince Buffy that he deserved death and warning her that he might harm her or her family and friends.

    Of course, there were major differences in how Angel and Spike wanted to die – Angel through his own deeds and Spike by Buffy’s hand – differences that were rooted in who they were as humans. Spike saw his evil deeds after returning to Sunnydale as a natural offshoot of his past history as a vampire who murdered thousands over a century. But Angel tried to draw a firmer line between past and present, refusing to accept that he was the same person without a soul.

    DANIEL: I was to be married that week. But then, as I recall, you knew that.
    ANGEL: It wasn't me.
    JENNY: It wasn't you?
    ANGEL: A demon isn't a man. I was a man once. – Amends

    Why did Spike feel differently? One reason is that Spike was relatively new to his soul, but Angel had already dealt with his soul for over a century, struggling for years to make amends for his past sins – to be a different entity whether that was a champion helping the helpless or a self-pitying wastrel hanging around sewers feeding on rats. Angel felt that his ‘spark’ of humanity – the soul - made a difference.

    But did it? The ghosts in the episode “Amends” were actually all embodied by a shape-shifting ancient evil known as The First Evil or by his catchy nickname, “The First”. This entity was aided by robed, monk-like, no-eyed servants called the Bringers or Harbingers. And the First’s ghosts of the past undermined Angel’s sense of humanity. The image of Jenny Calendar taunted him:

    JENNY: Oh, yes. And what a man you were! – Amends

    And we see a flash of Liam – the human who would become Angel – boozing it up in an 18th century pub.

    It’s ironic to see Angelus’s victims taunting Angel about his former human self. What a piece of work this man was! Liam was not noble in reason nor infinite in faculty. He was neither express nor admirable. And he certainly wasn’t an Angel in action.

    MARGARET: A drunken, whoring layabout and a terrible disappointment to your parents.
    ANGEL: I was – young. I never had the chance to –
    MARGARET: – to die of syphilis? You were a worthless being before you were ever a monster.
    ANGEL: Stop it! – Amends
    Unlike Spike, Angel felt his failings weren’t as a monster, but as a human. Not just the drunken, whoring Liam, but the soulful vampire Angel as well. Angel didn’t know the details behind the Gypsy curse that restored his soul the first time – that the soul would be snatched away when he achieved a moment of true happiness. Angel had that moment of happiness with Buffy and reverted to Angelus. Willow restored Angel’s soul a second time, but those desires for Buffy remained – even though now Angel knew the terrible price that would be paid.

    Like Spike, Angel’s solution to the problem was to attempt suicide. But Angel didn’t need to goad Buffy into killing him. He could just stand in an open field and let the sunrise do it. It was by his own doing.

    But unlike Spike’s perspective, it wasn’t a dangerous monster that Angel felt he had to kill. It was the man.

    ANGEL: It told me to kill you. You were in the dream, you know -- it told me to take you, to lose my soul in you and become a monster again.
    BUFFY: I know what it told you. Why does it matter?
    ANGEL: Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly, I want to take comfort in you and I know it'll cost me my soul and a part of me doesn't care. I'm weak. I've never been anything else. It's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man. – Amends
    As with Spike, Buffy tries to talk Angel out of suicide. But her argument is different in both instances because both vampires are very different.

    BUFFY: You're weak. Everybody is. Everybody fails. Maybe this evil power did bring you back, but if it did it's because it needs you. And that means you can hurt it. You have the power to do real good, Angel, to make amends. But if you die now, then all you ever were was a monster. - Amends

    The circumstances in which the two vampires obtained their souls informs how they view them. Angel had a soul forced upon him – with no desires or expectations. But Spike sought out a soul because he wanted things to change. Spike had high expectations on gaining his soul back – but when he won the soul and it made things worse, the entire quest felt meaningless. But for Angel, the soul was a gift that he did not earn or deserve. Every benefit from Angel’s soul was an unearned blessing.

    There’s also an element of their respective religions behind the differences in how Angel and Spike view the world. William appears to have been raised Protestant – to believe in salvation by faith alone. It was his belief in getting a soul that allowed him to acquire one. But Liam was most certainly a Catholic – prone to believing in salvation by good works.

    Faced with his actions under the control of Morphy, Spike fears that he is not one of God’s elect, not one of the chosen. But Angel looks to worthiness. Spike does not see himself as a man. But Angel asks Buffy a different question.

    ANGEL: (bitterly) Am I a thing worth saving? Am I a righteous man? – Amends

    It’s not whether Angel is a man or a monster – it’s whether he is righteous. His worthiness must be defined by his actions, by his fundamental character.

    MARGARET: That's what makes you different than other beasts. They kill to feed. But you, you took more kinds of pleasure in it than any creature that walks or crawls. – Amends

    Whereas Spike does not see himself as a man of any kind at all in “Never Leave Me.” He’s just a monster. Spike and Angel share similar pasts, but The First taunts Angel about how he’s not just a feral monster whereas Spike is literally turned into a feral monster by Morphy when he attacks Andrew.

    But when Buffy fights against both souled vampires who are determined to end it all, she has to take a different tact with both because of who they are. With Angel, Buffy has to argue with him about what kind of a man he is. With Spike, Buffy has to argue with him that he’s any kind of man at all. And that struggle within takes place between the two Buffy/Spike scenes in “Never Leave Me” – where Buffy apparently comes to a decision that we never see on-screen, but informs the entire season afterwards.

    When Buffy was sitting in her living room in the Scooby meeting earlier, she was deep in thought. All the events of the past few years must have been going through her mind with regards to Spike – especially the horrific memory of the AR.

    Since Spike’s return from Africa, she hadn’t been certain about who he was – was he the guy who tried to rape her or did the soul make him someone different like her view of Angel and Angelus?

    For Buffy, Angel’s murderous past is forgivable because she saw him as suffering from an inability to truly determine right from wrong because of the lack of soul. Even if he knew what he was doing was wrong, he was incapable of controlling his actions because of his demon. She saw Angel as fundamentally different from Angelus – they’re not the same person and so she can find Angel innocent of his crimes. But Spike is soulless – despite the fact that he may have been innocent of any crimes when sired (and she’s never quite sure of that), he’s a danger to everyone around him. And he deserves any punishment imaginable – even if Buffy is really using him as a stand-in for herself – because he’s a killer.

    BUFFY: You can't understand why this is killing me, can you?
    SPIKE: Why don't you explain it?
    She hits him a few more times. He takes it, not fighting back.
    SPIKE: Come on, that's it, put it on me. Put it all on me.
    Buffy kicks Spike.
    SPIKE: That's my girl.
    BUFFY: I am not your girl!
    She hits him hard and Spike falls backward on the ground. Buffy sits on top of him to punch him over and over.
    BUFFY: You don't have a soul! There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside! You can't feel anything real! I could never be your girl!

    Spike doesn’t fight back as Buffy hits him again and again. He looks bruised and bloody as he reverts back to human guise. Buffy stops and looks at his battered face in horror as he slurs his words.
    SPIKE: You always hurt the one you love, pet. – Dead Things

    But now Spike – the vampire who tried to kill her multiple times, the vampire who stalked and shamed her, the vampire who tried to rape her – has come back with a soul. A soul he got on his own – for her sake. Fairness would dictate that Spike should be given the same leeway as Angel because of his soul since William the Bloody and Angelus in her mind were simply the soulless demonic sides of Spike and Angel. But there was so much bad blood – literally – between Buffy and Spike that she found it hard to help him without getting too close and reopening the traumatic events of their relationship the year before.

    But the news that souled Spike was feeding again – that he had sired Holden and probably murdered many more – shook Buffy to the core and forced her to come to terms with her past. Was Spike once again about to betray her? Was he really nothing more than a monster even with the soul? For a moment, Buffy forgot about the soul and lashed out uncontrollably at everything she hated about William the Bloody in Dawn’s bedroom, kicking him brutally in the face.

    Now that the immediate danger was gone and Spike safely imprisoned in the basement, Buffy was probably confused by what had just happened with Andrew – did the soul mean nothing after all? But the conversation with Spike in her bedroom – the most intimate of places – his remorse, his acknowledgement of how toxic their relationship was in Season Six, his understanding of what she had been going through and how he made it so much worse was eye-opening to her. As was the recounting of a little of what Spike had gone through to win back his soul – for Buffy.

    So – when Xander is speaking about triggers and assassinations and stealing submarines, Buffy realized that Spike would never want to assassinate Tucker’s brother or then steal a submarine. This one time, souled Spike is truly innocent of his crimes – just as Riley was innocent of Adam’s crimes under the influence of the chip or Xander was innocent under the hyena spell.

    And this awareness has Buffy come to an important decision about her vampire ex-lover.

    We never see this decision. It’s all off-screen – or even on-screen in Buffy’s head – as she sits pondering in her living room in “Never Leave Me.” But sometime later, gathering a bowl of water and a blue towel, Buffy heads to the basement door, her mind made up.

    From her point of view, Spike is no longer a monster because of the soul. He’s capable of doing great good despite the puppet strings the Big Bad has tied to him at the moment. It’s not his fault. Spike isn’t the same soulless demon who tried to rape her in her bathroom. He’s souled now and not responsible for all of his soulless actions that were out of his control, then and now. Including biting Andrew.

    But for Spike, it’s not that easy. Buffy’s simple division between the unsouled vampire and the souled vamp has far more shades of grey than she thinks and the guilt of his former actions haunts him. Spike is trying to convince Buffy that he’s a danger regardless of the soul, that he’s still a monster capable of doing great evil and only Buffy can stop him. He’s not any kind of man – he’s still a demonic dead thing – this time to be used by Morphy to destroy Buffy and her friends and Spike is horrified that she’s decided to use the soul as an excuse to forgive Spike for what he did to her.

    Or – it must occur to Buffy – is Spike just taking advantage of his unfortunate state as a trigger-happy vampire as a way to achieve what he really wants, consciously or unconsciously – to embrace annihilation and escape the hell he’s going through with his new soul?

    Spike knows that Buffy can relate to the feeling of being trapped in a living hell – when she’s resurrected by Willow, Spike is the only one who hears her near-suicidal thoughts. Spike’s confession in “Sleeper” that he needs Buffy to kill him because he can’t cry the soul out of him is a sign – as are the knife slashes to the chest – that Spike has a death wish of his own. A suicidal cry for help that underlies the cold rationalism of killing Spike to save others.

    But Spike didn’t accept Buffy’s decision to end it all in “Once More With Feeling” – as the Scoobys stood by, paralyzed with guilt, it was Spike who grabbed Buffy at the last second and begged her to live for the both of them.

    SPIKE: Life's not a song
    Life isn't bliss
    Life is just this
    It's living
    You'll get along
    The pain that you feel
    You only can heal
    By living
    You have to go one living
    So one of us is living. – Once More With Feeling
    And Dawn’s words directly afterwards must come back to Buffy – the words that she once said on the tower.

    DAWN: The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. – Once More With Feeling

    At this point, it must be obvious to Buffy that Spike is intentionally going for the proverbial kill here – a ploy to earn a longed-for eternal rest at the end of her stake. Spike has used this kind of manipulation before – he fooled the Scooby Gang to pit them against each other in “The Yoko Factor” and angered Glory enough to accidentally sever his bonds with a massive punch.

    But this time there’s no hope of chip removal through Adam or escape from Spike’s torture by Glory – and no bumbling minions clad in monk robes chasing Spike as he pries open an elevator to fall into the shaft. Only Buffy standing opposite him as Spike pulls against his chains as far as he can to reach her, to get in range of her staking arm. But Buffy is thinking of her last words to Dawn on the tower: “Be Brave. Live.”

    The gap between them is impressively wide and Buffy keeps her distance so she won’t be sucked into Spike’s manipulations. She crosses her arms and cocks an eyebrow as she listens to Spike tell her about the ‘real’ him. Spike lunges forward until the chains are taut, trying to look menacing. But for Buffy, it’s beside the point. Spike isn’t the one who tried to kill Andrew – it’s whoever the hell is singing songs that manipulate Spike.

    Self-hatred has overwhelmed Spike to the point where he attributes it to everyone. It’s still narcissistic in a way – Spike believes that everyone must feel about him how he feels about himself. There’s still the touch of vampire selfishness in him – that will never change. Spike will always feel he knows the score.

    But “Spike the truth teller” also suffers from some severe cognitive bias. As a souled vampire, he’s putting all of his own fears on Buffy. He’s ashamed of his belief that she loved him – he’s scared that she hates him because of the way in which his perspective has changed and he can clearly see all the pain and suffering he put her through and now feels himself because he hates himself so much.

    But Buffy’s not depressed or anxiety-ridden. Not anymore. She’s come to terms with everything that’s happened to her in previous seasons and pushes back at Spike’s theory. Not with anger or bluster. But with cool detachment – which unnerves Spike as she calmly answers him.

    BUFFY: No. I don't hate like that. Not you. Or myself. Not anymore.

    And then Buffy mocks the idea of Spike the truth-teller. In his soulless state, Spike wasn’t even able to understand her suffering – so what makes him think that he can understand her now? Because he has his soul? Buffy’s had that all along.

    BUFFY: You think you have insight now because your soul's drenched in blood?

    Buffy turns the tables on him to point out that he doesn’t know the ‘real’ Buffy either despite being souled.

    BUFFY: You don't know me.

    And then Buffy lands the kill – she points out that soulless Spike wasn’t even able to understand himself because of the lack of a soul. And she’s not sure he understands himself even with a soul.

    BUFFY: You don't even know you.

    Spike thinks Buffy doesn’t know the real Spike? Spike doesn’t even know the real Spike. He’s just putting forward a self-loathing caricature of who he is and what he was. The real Spike? Does Spike even know anymore? As Spike said so many years ago, “Who do you want me to be?” Who is a soulless vampire, anyhow, in comparison to his human self? And how does that personality compare to one who has his soul returned to him?

    Tiny Tabby talked about how someone can commit a crime unconsciously while sleepwalking in her review of “Sleeper.” Spike was not conscious when he committed his crimes after returning to Sunnydale, so he was not really at fault. But this brings up a question that has been a major theme in Buffy ever since Angel confessed his soulless past. How guilty is a vampire of all crimes they’ve committed as a soulless being once the soul is returned?

    In legal theory, a crime involves three elements. The first element is the actus reus or the criminal action, the second element is mens rea or the mental state at the time of the act. The third element determines the connection between the act, the mental state and the final effect.

    The outcome doesn’t necessarily prove guilt or innocence. A driver hitting a car by accident is not guilty – a person trying to hit a car intentionally and missing is guilty. But mental illness or impairment can alter someone’s perception of reality so they do not understand the criminal nature of their actions. The law finds them not guilty by reason of insanity or mental impairment. There are different degrees of impairment – some courts define it as the ability to determine right from wrong. Other courts find defendants not guilty because they could not control their actions due to mental impairment or insanity, even if they knew them to be wrong.

    Buffy believes that a souled being cannot be held responsible for what they did as a soulless being because they didn’t have the capacity or mental state to understand the true criminal nature of their acts. So souled Spike is not the same person as soulless Spike – and therefore, he doesn’t deserve the same punishment.

    BUFFY: Was that you who killed those people in the cellar? Was that you who waited for those girls?

    In the original shooting script, Buffy also says:

    BUFFY: Was that you who tried to rape me? – Original Shooting Script Never Leave Me

    It’s an unnecessary line that’s implied by the above anyway and it sounds kinda cheesy. They wisely cut it.

    Like Angel, Spike’s identity is shattered, bisected, blurred into pieces. Soulless vampire have trouble remembering what it was like to be human. Don’t souled vampires have the same problem remembering what it was like to be soulless? And if the soulless vampire separates himself from his former human personality, then Buffy points out why wouldn’t a souled vampire do the same with his former soulless self? But Spike is determined to take all the blame for everything he’s done in the past on himself – more proof that he’s a monster not worth saving.

    Spike tries to bluster his way through the idea that the real him is evil and monstrous and irredeemable. That the soul makes no difference. But it sounds more and more hollow the longer Spike protests that he is the same person – when it’s obvious that his soul journey has already proven he’s a bad liar looking for suicide by Slayer.

    SPIKE: There's no one else –

    It’s a half-hearted response. Buffy has Spike on the defensive now – she’s basically turned the tables on him and is doing her own version of Buffy the truth-teller. She now interrupts him with a forceful shout, drawing out every word for effect.

    BUFFY: That's not true. Listen to me.

    This time, Buffy’s going to tell Spike the way it is and he needs to shut up and listen. The first thing Buffy does is knock away the foundation of Spike’s theory.

    BUFFY: You're not alive because of hate or pain. You're alive because I saw you change.

    Spike’s eyes widen at this revelation. After all, Buffy’s already spared him more times than he can count and that was long before he got the soul. Buffy always thought that demons couldn’t change despite Spike trying to tell her otherwise. And now she’s admitting that she did see incremental change – enough that Spike was finally driven to go get his soul.

    Was it from the moment in “Becoming” that Buffy saw more in Spike than just a monster? Or was it in “Lie to Me” when Spike protected Drusilla from Buffy by letting his victims go? Was it in “Intervention” that Buffy first started to rely on Spike? Or was it in “Blood Ties” when Spike assuages Buffy’s fears that she’s lost Dawn? Was it in “Crush” that Buffy realized that Spike was in love with her? Or was it in “Fool for Love” when Spike pats Buffy on the back after she learns her mother is sick? The slow progression of Spike from the monster in “School Hard” to the ally in “Becoming” to the chipped helper in “Doomed” to the Scooby compatriot of “Spiral” to the hero in “Once More With Feeling” to the vampire with a soul in “Beneath You” is remarkable.

    Without a soul, Buffy knew that there was a certain point, however, that Spike was unable to move past despite his willingness to change. But the impossible became possible when a soulless vampire made the decision to make the ultimate change – not for himself, but for love of someone else.

    With Angel, hope for redemption still lay in the future because Angel did not have any agency in obtaining his soul – it was forcefully given to him twice. The act of getting a soul did not redeem Angel because it was not something he fought for – it’s what he would do with the soul afterwards that counted. But Buffy believed that Spike deserved to live – the reason she let him live – had to do with the change she saw in him. Change that eventually drove Spike to actively seek out his soul and became a better man.

    Spike starts to see himself from Buffy’s point-of-view – but the vision comes crashing down to earth as Buffy makes a statement about his moral bearing.

    BUFFY: Because I saw your penance.

    Spike becomes enraged, convinced that the changes Buffy saw were either cosmetic to fool her or caused by events out of his control. Angelus losing his soul and stealing Drusilla away, Drusilla leaving him, the Initiative chipping him, Spike stupidly falling in love with Buffy and wanting her for himself, Spike using Buffy’s depression as a way to get to her, Spike going to get his soul to win Buffy back. In Spike’s mind, Buffy doesn’t understand that all the ‘change’ she saw was all for selfish reasons. There was no penance at all.

    SPIKE: Window dressing.

    Spike strains against his chains in a menacing way to try and impress on Buffy what a monster he still is, only a few inches away from touching her.

    Buffy walks even closer to Spike, undaunted by his Big Bad Monster imitation. If Spike’s change is window dressing, then she can see through the curtains all the way to his soul.

    BUFFY: Be easier, wouldn't it? If it were an act? But it's not.

    Buffy’s already seen Spike try to cover up his vulnerable, scared side in “Beneath You” when he vamped out and acted like a monster – but she’s also seen grieving Spike in the cellar, surrounded by the dust of those he sired, repentant and horrified at the new murders he was forced to do against his will.

    In the original shooting script, Buffy goes on to say:

    BUFFY: There's a man in there underneath that monster. A man who – even when he had no soul…
    SPIKE: It's window dressing –
    BUFFY: …struggled to find redemption. You're alive because I know he's in there –
    SPIKE: I'm killing you –
    BUFFY: And I believe in the man he can be. – Shooting Script, Never Leave Me
    Spike’s line “I’m killing you” in the original script once again echoes Buffy’s speech at the end of “As You Were” when she explains to Spike that her inability to love him is killing her.

    In the shooting script, Buffy talks about Spike as if he were torn in two, a man living inside a monster who sought redemption. And she tells Spike that he can still be a better man, able to try for some indescribable change, some form of future redemption. It’s very close to what Buffy thought about Angel in “Amends.”

    But Buffy’s words in the actual episode are very different. She walks slowly forward with her gaze focused on Spike – who looks away in shame.

    BUFFY: You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back.

    Until “Never Leave Me”, Buffy had no idea how Spike got his soul back. But their conversation upstairs solidified in her mind that it was done entirely of his own volition. No curses, no secret army base, no magic spell – Spike fought for his soul at the risk of losing everything so that he could be a man. He could have gotten the chip out instead – but he made the other choice because he wanted to be a good man. Because that’s what Buffy wanted. And nothing else that Morphy made him do could ever take that away from him.

    BUFFY: You risked everything to be a better man.

    It’s not just physical risk that Buffy is thinking about. Spike has made himself vulnerable by getting a soul, both mentally and emotionally. The shock of coming to terms with his past, the shame in confronting those he’s wrongs, the fears that he can never make amends for what he’s done. Spike willingly took on this burden. He may not have understood the true ramifications of what would happen, but he knew enough from his knowledge of Angel to know it wouldn’t be moonbeams and pennywhistles.

    For once, Spike has nothing to say to that. He feebly says her name in protest as she cuts him off.

    SPIKE: Buffy –

    Spike’s repeated denials are faltering now. Buffy thinks that Spike could be a kind of man? It’s too much to believe – not after all that he’s done since coming back. Not after all that he did before that. She’s wrong.

    But Buffy shifts the world under his feet with her next two sentences.

    BUFFY: And you can be. You are.

    And there it is. The important shift from future tense to present.

    Buffy tells Spike he has already has changed. That he’s already become a man – at least to her.

    This is pivotal in the relationship between Buffy and Spike. The idea that Spike was always struggling to maneuver between monster and man is made manifest in The Gift when Spike realizes that one of them (or both) may die in the fight against Glory and gets up the courage to tell the truth for once:

    SPIKE: I know you'll never love me.
    Buffy pauses halfway up the stairs, turns back to look at Spike.
    SPIKE: I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man. And that's... – The Gift
    After the AR, Spike risked everything to be a kind of man – maybe still a monster, but near enough to a man that he would never hurt Buffy again. But getting his soul only let Spike see himself through Buffy’s eyes, showing him what a monster he truly was.

    But Buffy doesn’t see that at all. Spike IS changed. He IS a man. Right now.

    The shock of her saying this overwhelms Spike, who stops talking to look away from Buffy, unable to meet her eyes. He wasn’t expecting that at all. Buffy walks even closer to him, keeping her gaze steady on him.

    BUFFY: You may not see it but I do. I do.

    Buffy’s repetition of “I do” sounds like she’s trying to convince herself as well as Spike. The fears of revealing her depth of feeling for Spike have kept her from saying kind words since he returned. Partly because of what he did to her before he left – which takes a long time to forgive even if she doesn’t believe he’s the same man – and Spike might take them as tokens of romantic love. She already finds it hard to explain to her sister how the change in Spike happened or how she feels about it because the only way Dawn can justify Buffy’s mercy is to jump to the conclusion her sister is in love with Spike.

    DAWN: Last night, you said you weren't helping Spike out of pity. What is it?
    BUFFY: It's a good question.
    DAWN: Is sitting there drinking soda some kind of a Zen non-answer?
    BUFFY: No, I just – I don't know what I'm feeling. I think I can't stand him, but sometimes –
    DAWN: You love him?
    BUFFY: No. I feel for him.
    DAWN: Feel what, exactly?
    BUFFY: Dawn –
    DAWN: No, I'm—I'm just trying to understand. I mean, none of it makes sense. First you say Spike disgusts you, but secretly you two are doing it like bunnies. And then Spike says he'd die for you, but he tries to rape you.
    BUFFY: For the record, Spike knew how wrong it was. That's why he went away. – Him

    Later, Giles also worries that Buffy’s feelings towards Spike are clouding her judgement.

    BUFFY: Spike has a soul now. That's what's gonna stop him from hurting people.
    GILES: Buffy –
    BUFFY: He can be a good man, Giles. I feel it. But he's never gonna get there if we don't give him the chance.
    GILES: Buffy, I want more for you. Your feelings for him are coloring your judgement. I can hear it in your voice. And that way lies a future filled with pain. I don't want that for you.
    BUFFY: We haven't— things have been different since he came back.
    GILES: It doesn't matter if you're not physical with each other anymore. There's a connection. You rely on him, he relies on you. That's what's affecting your judgment.
    BUFFY: You think I'm losing sight of the big picture, but I'm not. When Spike had that chip, it was like having him in a muzzle. It was wrong. You can't beat evil by doing evil. I know that.
    GILES: Well, I hope you're right. You're gambling with a lot of lives. – First Date

    Buffy is gambling with a lot of lives. Every day. With every choice she makes. But Buffy also has boundless compassion and love for those who try to change, to become better people. You can’t beat evil by doing evil is Buffy’s motto (with a few past exceptions) and preventing Spike and Angel from destroying themselves when they have so much to live for – despite being undead – is a part of that.

    So Buffy decides to throw caution to the winds and tells Spike what she’s wanted to say all evening after hearing his story about winning his soul – the final puzzle piece before Buffy could confirm what she had already felt for some time now.

    BUFFY: I believe in you, Spike.

    As Spike suddenly looks up, the expression on his face is similar to when he saw Buffy come down the stairs in “After Life” – it’s full of fear and hope and wonder at the astonishing woman before him.

    In the past, Spike dreamed that Buffy would fall in love with him and stay in the darkness. When he came back with a soul, Spike probably expected that Buffy would reject him and send him away. Best case scenario, she might spare Spike because she felt sorry for him. But never in his wildest dreams, did Spike ever imagine that Buffy would treat him like a man. Or even more impossible, that Buffy would say that she believed in him.

    But here Buffy is in front of him. Not only refusing to send Spike on the way to dusty death, but telling him that she believes in him. If it’s true, then there is nothing that Spike can’t do. Or that he can’t withstand. Buffy offers him the dignity and respect that Spike never thought he could earn even in a hundred human lifespans.

    It’s an emotional breakthrough followed by a more literal breakthrough as the basement windows suddenly explode with a bang as robed attackers rush inside.

    As one robed figure temporarily takes out Buffy with a pipe, the shooting script has Spike call out her name.

    SPIKE: Buffy!

    But Spike is no use in this fight – the manacles he’s wearing are every bit as effective as the chip in preventing him from trying to help Buffy and her friends.

    We see every Scooby member besieged by bad guys in robes who leap through the windows to attack in a coordinated effort. Were they waiting outside as Morphy monitored the conversation inside? Morphy had Spike attack Andrew just as he was about to spill the beans about his plans and it’s possible that Buffy’s words “I believe in you, Spike” finally crossed the line. Morphy had to pull Spike out as soon as possible before the Slayer and her friends could figure out the heart of Spike’s mystery.

    A Challenge to the Reader

    I mentioned back in the opening part of this rewatch how the Ellery Queen pulp novels and TV series issued a challenge to the reader and viewer.

    You now have all the information Buffy has to solve this case. Can you guess it before she does?

    Who is haunting Spike and Andrew? Who sent the robed, monk-like attackers to invade the Summers’ residence?

    Next time, the answer will be revealed.
    Last edited by PuckRobin; 23-10-20, 08:37 PM.


    • All said regarding writers, producers, actors, directors, viewers, readers, etc. are what I remember, my opinions, etc.

      What’s said in this post/comment is what I remember, my opinions, etc.

      * Buffy's 'had a thing' for Spike since "School Hard" (B 2.03).

      Buffy in "The Harsh Light of Day" (B 4.03) was seriously considering dating Spike and only doesn't because of how Spike treats her and regards her during the My Will Be Done spell.

      Buffy kisses Spike in "Intervention" (B 5.18).

      Buffy in "The Gift" (B 5.22) possibly makes a Freudian slip when she tells all assembled that she loves them.

      Buffy in "Afterlife" (B 6.03) goes to see Spike and interact with him. Twice. Buffy in early BtVS S6 seems most interested in seeing Spike and Giles.

      Its effectively canon that Buffy is in love with Spike in BtVS S6.

      It's canon that Buffy is in love with Spike in BtVS S7.

      * Spike in BtVS S7 wants Buffy and to be literal soulmates. At the end of "Beneath You" (B 7.02), he essentially asks her if they can be in Heaven together. THAT's what freaks Buffy out so much.

      Spike wants a literal eternal relationship. By getting his soul back, he forever chooses Buffy over Drusilla.

      Spike in BtVS S7 forces Buffy and he to have a Platonic relationship because he wants their relationship to be well beyond Eros and such.

      * Original scripts, shooting scripts, etc. aren't canon. What is in the US-version DVDs and what Joss Whedon says is canon (I reason post-Season 9 cannot be canon).

      * Spike pre-"Never Leave Me" (B 7.09) isn't happy that Buffy left him in the basement of Sunnydale High School for around 3 weeks.

      My personal canon is that Spike owned the house that he took Buffy to in "Sleeper" (B 7.08). But that's beside the point.

      Spike pre-"Never Leave Me" hasn't told Buffy how he got his soul back. Prior to that, Buffy only knows of being Cursed. Buffy very likely was considering what it would mean if Spike got Cursed and if that meant he was never perfectly happy with Buffy.

      * Anyway, Spike treated the Buffybot relatively well. The Buffybot was happy, completely well-adjusted, loved all of Spike, loved being the Slayer, and considering Angel stupid and unattractive. And probably didn't think highly of Riley.

      Spike in BtVS S5 seemed to ultimately want to be a member of the Summers family. It seems he wanted to steal a Porsche and literally ride away with Buffy and Dawn.

      Spike in BtVS S6 may have ultimately wanted to sire Buffy, but that's because he wants an eternal relationship. Part of Buffy's realizing Spike got his soul back is Buffy's realizing that she could have been a souled vampire. Although, Buffy post-BtVS S6 never expresses interest in becoming a vampire.

      * The 2020 C.E. elections have taken up a lot of my time. But these reviews have been interesting and I still plan to eventually go through all of the posts in all of the threads.

      But for BtVS S7, it's central to understanding Buffy/Spike by knowing and/or acknowledging that (1) Its effectively canon that Buffy is in love with Spike in BtVS S6. and (2) It's canon that Buffy is in love with Spike in BtVS S7.

      Buffy in "Lessons" (B 7.01) and "Beneath You" (B 7.02) speaks of her relationships with Angel and Spike as if they were equal in importance for her. She befriends Clem seemingly mostly to try to know when Spike is coming back to Sunnydale.


      • Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch
        Season Seven
        Never Leave Me
        Part Eight

        When we last left our heroes, Spike and Buffy’s conversation had been interrupted when the basement window shattered and robed figures attacked.

        But the basement wasn’t their only target. The front window of 1630 Revello Drive – so recently repaired by Xander shatters.

        Willow and Dawn jump back.

        In the kitchen, Xander and Anya prepare for action.

        But the kitchen window shatters too.

        This isn’t one pesky troublemaker but a coordinated mass attack – one that tears through the physical barriers (doors and windows) of the home. The forces of darkness are stripping away that which kept Buffy’s home safe from the darkness of the world.

        The various Scooby HQs have been attacked over the years.

        There were any number of assaults on their original HQ – the Sunnydale High School Library. It was attacked by the vampire armies of the Master and Drusilla, by the Mayor in giant snake form and by the Hellmouth itself – which lurked below.

        Although one of the creepiest invasions is when the Mayor just calmly strolled in and checked for dust.

        Buffy’s later headquarters saw invading hordes too. Such as when the spirits of the Chumash people came to Giles’s apartment for Thanksgiving Dinner in “Pangs”. They smashed through the windows and shot several arrows into a bound Spike.

        The previous successful attacks on 1630 Revello Drive have largely been committed by the individuals rather than armies. You needed an invitation to enter. And while Darla, Angelus, Spike, Dracula and Harmony got invitations, the vampire hordes did not. Even one of the creepiest invaders – bug-man Norman Pfister was invited in.

        The full-on assault of Buffy’s home – her personal sanctuary – feels like a destructive new development. The script identifies the attackers by name – but I think I’ll hold back that reveal until Buffy works it out. Have you deduced who is behind everything yet, gentle reader?

        One of the robed attackers takes a swing at Anya.

        And Xander is knocked down by a looming figure.

        As the show cuts to a commercial break, things look bad for our heroes.

        And yet when we return from the commercial, we don’t go straight back to the assault on Buffy’s home. Instead we return to Principal Robin Wood digging a grave.

        Then Wood rolls a body into the grave.

        We see Jonathan – the last time we’ll see the true body of Jonathan in the present – in the ground as Wood shovels dirt onto the deceased form of one of the Buffyverse’s most frequent recurring characters.

        Wood continues his grim task – the impromptu grave site is illuminated by the headlights of his car.

        This scene brings up the question once again – who is Robin Wood? Of course, reading this in 2020 (or later), you probably already know. But at the time, fans didn’t. I think it was a couple more weeks before the truth leaked. While I am sure some astute fans guessed the truth, most threads I glanced at the time didn’t guess that.

        Of course, his name sounds like Robin Hood – and in France the famous outlaw is known as Robin des Bois – Robin of the Wood. But it’s more likely that Joss Whedon was paying tribute to the British-born film scholar who spent most of his career in Toronto, Canada.

        One particular area of interest for the real-world Robin Wood were horror films, an appropriate tie to the Buffyverse.

        I believe secret agent of the Watchers Council might have been the most popular option for Wood, a month after this episode. Another suggestion was that he was a relative of Forrest – Riley’s cybernetized friend from the fourth season. Wood=Forrest. Of course, just because there are so few Black characters on Buffy doesn’t mean a new Black character is somehow related to a previous character. Why that kind of logic is … oh, wait. Never mind.

        Anyway, in December 2002, “T'h'a'd'd'e'u's L O'l'c'z'y'k” posted the theory that Principal Wood was the First Good, an ancient embodiment of goodness – sort of a counterpart to that First Evil which bedeviled Angel long ago.

        Intriguing but the suggestion was quickly dismissed. A poster named Jonathan asked “Why did he cover up Jonathan's murder?” and concluded “He is in cahoots with the baddies, just like every other town official of past...” Others suggested that Wood may not be completely in cahoots with the baddies, but unwillingly under their sway. It wasn’t clear whose side Wood was on, but the idea that he was all good seemed to be tarnished.

        Thaddeus argued back:

        From whom did he coer [sic] up the murder? The police? You almost never see the police in Buffy and besides why would they be looking in the school basement? The Scoobies? They know about Jonathan and Andrew.

        No he was just cleaning up the place and giving Jonathan a burial while at the same time making sure that noone [sic] in the school stumbled across the scene.
        Just cleaning up? That sounds more than a little cold for the ultimate embodiment of goodness. It’s more in keeping with the secretive, Machiavellian “greater good” line of thinking that the Watchers deal in.

        And then there’s the question, once Robin Wood is brought into Buffy’s inner circle, does he tell her or anyone what he did with Jonathan’s body? Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think we ever see him tell Buffy and her friends about this nighttime burial. If he didn’t, then this is just another mysterious occurrence in Sunnydale – with Jonathan’s body as effectively gone as if he had burst into dust like a vampire.

        And are the Scoobies and Andrew the only ones who would care?

        In “Conversations with Dead People”, Andrew suggested that not even the Scoobies would care.

        JONATHAN (cont'd): I miss my friends. I miss my enemies. I miss the people I talked to every day. And I miss the people who never knew I existed. I miss 'em all.

        ANDREW'S POV again. He glances up at Warren. Warren stares directly at him.

        ANGLE: JONATHAN (and we don't see Warren again for the rest of the scene)

        JONATHAN (cont'd): I want to talk to them. You know? I wanna find out how they're doing. I want to know what's going on in their lives.

        ANDREW: Yeah? Well, you know what? They don't want to talk to you. All those people you just mentioned -- not one of them's sitting around going, "I wonder what Jonathan's up to right now?" Not one of them cares about you.

        Jonathan thinks about this for a while. A peacefulness washes over him. He shrugs. There's an almost Zen-like clarity about him when he says:

        JONATHAN: Well I still care about them. (softly) That's why I'm here. – Conversations with Dead People

        Is Andrew right, is he gaslighting Jonathan on Morphy’s orders, or is he throwing back in Jonathan’s face what Jonathan said to him in “Villains”?

        JONATHAN: Really? I- (stops himself) Shut up. This is real life and nobody's coming to get us. Not your Aunt, who won't even return your one phone call-

        ANDREW: (hurt) She must be out of town-

        JONATHAN: She. Doesn't. Care. And neither does your partner in crime, Warren- -- Villains
        Andrew expresses his faith in both Warren and his aunt, but Jonathan’s family isn’t mentioned. Did he call anyone when he was in jail?

        Jonathan’s parents had been mentioned earlier. After Jonathan tried to commit suicide with a high-powered rifle in a vantage point overlooking Sunnydale High – his choice of weapon and venue was clearly serving up a plate of red herring for the audience – Buffy tells Giles about the aftermath.

        GILES: And Jonathan? How is he doing?

        BUFFY: Pretty crappy. His parents are freaking, he's suspended, and toting a piece to school not exactly earning him a place with the 'in' crowd. But I think he's dealing. -- Earshot
        Jonathan’s mother was still in the picture when he was palling around with Andrew – although given their immaturity I’m not sure if this was when they were young or in the post-Sunnydale High years.

        ANDREW: He's got that same look on his face, the one he had that time I highlighted in his Babylon 5 novels.

        Andrew looks back at Warren, paranoid worry etched on his face.

        ANDREW (cont'd): (realizing) Right before he told his mother on me! Warren! I don't think we can trust him. -- Entropy
        So, what happened to Jonathan’s parents? Did they die in one of the many apocalypses on the show? Did their freaking in “Earshot” involve disowning their son? Or did Jonathan just not want to face them, and avoided calling them when was arrested in season six?

        Assuming Jonathan’s parents survived to season seven, what would they have known about their son’s fate? That he was arrested for a string of crimes with one of his geeky friends, and that the two of them vanished in a strange attack on the police station?

        Wood may have carried out a ritual burial, but if he didn’t tell anyone, then Jonathan would still be a Schrodinger’s Cat to Mr. and Mrs. Levinson – both alive or dead.

        It’s sad to think of them – and any of Jonathan’s other friends or relatives – forever wondering what happened to him. It’s even sadder to think that maybe Andrew was right, and no one truly did care.

        American Aurora did an amazing job looking at Jonathan’s history in part 12 of her epic rewatch of “Seeing Red”, 12. Jonathan– Demon Cosplay in a Sock Puppet Theater.

        And in “Seeing Red”, it looked like Jonathan was finally on the road to redemption. He betrayed the Trio to give Buffy the vital clue needed to defeat Warren.

        JONATHAN: (hissing in her ear) The orbs! Smash his orbs –
        Jonathan further drives down that road to redemption in “Two to Go” when he tells Andrew.

        JONATHAN: (lowering his sword) Xander's right. We're not leaving Sunnydale. And when this is over, you and me are going back to jail and do our time.
        But Jonathan takes a big detour in “Grave”, when he decides to run away after all.

        ON JONATHAN, as he turns to Andrew.

        JONATHAN: Mexico, huh?
        Andrew nods and without another word, they turn and run off. -- Grave
        In a way, it’s totally understandable. They were hopelessly out of their depth, facing a possible world-ending threat – Willow, someone who wanted them both dead. Who wouldn’t have run away in a situation like that?

        Members of the Scooby Gang, that’s who.

        In the show’s third episode, “The Witch”, Xander quips:

        XANDER: I laugh in the face of danger. Then I hide till it goes away.
        But that’s just not true. Xander is not Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. Rather than run away from monsters, Xander volunteers to help fight them. He risks his life time and again, such as when he faced a vengeful Willow in “Grave” and talked her down from committing a terrible atrocity.

        Xander is a hero. Jonathan is a supporting character.

        That’s not to say he hasn’t risen to the moment on occasion. Jonathan tackled a vampire in “Graduation Day” – a day when Buffy and her friends inspired many of the supporting cast to rise to the level of heroes.

        But none of the special Sunnydale High Scooby Auxiliary got promoted to the big leagues that day. Many, like Percy, even chose to forget that Buffy and her friends were heroes. But Jonathan remembered. Unfortunately, many of Jonathan’s actions in the years that followed weren’t heroic – they were selfish and destructive.

        Perhaps there’s a practical reason why Jonathan didn’t take his chance at redemption in “Grave”. It would have raised an uncomfortable question.

        If Jonathan’s path to redemption was to stay in jail for his crimes…why did Willow also not deserve jail time?

        Jonathan had another shot at redemption. He was manipulated into returning to Sunnydale with Andrew. They were going to investigate and tell Buffy what they knew.

        JONATHAN: (to himself) We're gonna make it right...
        Jonathan wanted to go directly to Buffy, but Andrew manipulated him out of that.

        JONATHAN (cont'd): Maybe we should just go get Buffy.

        ANDREW: No way.

        JONATHAN: We'll just tell her what we know about the Seal of Danzalthar -

        ANDREW: Think McFly! Why would she believe us without any proof? We go to her empty handed and we're cooling our heels in the clink inside a Bell's microsecond.

        Jonathan considers this.

        JONATHAN: I ain't going back to the big house. That place changes a man.

        ANDREW: That's why we need proof. Think of it as a trial by fire -- a quest.

        Jonathan gets a romantic look on his face.

        JONATHAN: Una questa.

        ANDREW: We find it, we alert the Slayer, we help her destroy it, we save Sunnydale. (beat) Then we join her gang and possibly hang out at her house. – Conversations with Dead People
        But there would be no “questa”, no joining of gangs, no hanging out at the Slayer’s house for Jonathan. That would be Andrew’s fate. As for Jonathan – that scene was his last chance at redemption. Jonathan knew in his heart that the right course of action was to go to Buffy and tell her first.

        But Jonathan chose not to take the right course of action out of fear of the consequences of his actions – out of fear of prison “the big house”.

        So, instead of joining the Scoobies, Jonathan was murdered by his best friend, all for a demonic ritual that ended in failure.

        During “Dead Things”, Jonathan turned away from the Trio, but Andrew was more sucked into Warren’s vicious worldview. It seems unfair that Andrew gets to have a chance at redemption whereas Jonathan gets an unceremonious death and burial. But life is arbitrary – even more arbitrary than the Buffy writing team.

        No one really knows when their last chance to redeem themselves will be. And in the Buffyverse, even characters who sacrifice their own lives sometimes have another chance to make good or bad choices. When Spike returned for Angel season five, his redemptive act in “Chosen” was less of an “ultimate sacrifice” and more of a “penultimate sacrifice”. The twice-revived Buffy’s death in “Prophecy Girl” turned out to be an “antepenultimate sacrifice.”

        But for Andrew to benefit where Jonathan did not, he needs to make it through this night. As the creepazoid monks invade the Summers’ residence, Andrew’s survival and future redemption looks very much in doubt.

        Willow and Dawn are fighting their robed adversaries in the main room. In the shooting script, Willow uses a spell to propel her enemy across the room. But the Willow in the aired episode is holding back, afraid to use her magic to avoid releasing the darkness within her. Instead it is Dawn who gets the heroic spotlight.

        The younger Summers sister elbows her attacker. Dawn’s prominence in the fight might be an attempt to position her to star in a potential non-Buffy continuation of the Buffyverse.

        Meanwhile, older sister Buffy continues her own fight.

        Buffy smashes through the door leading to the basement and takes the fight to the ground floor. This episode has seen a consistent shattering of barriers. Spike broke through the bedroom wall to attack Andrew. The robed attacks smashed doors and windows to enter 1630 Revello Dr. And now the home’s owner – herself a supernatural presence crossing the boundaries of the demonic and the human – shatters part of her own home to protect others.

        Buffy takes out an attacker by the door. But the foes get their licks in too. At least on Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double.

        Would you believe that much like how vampires go into “game face” to gain a competitive edge in battle, that slayers also are imbibed with the power and knowledge of the slayer line – something that temporarily makes them look older and taller than usual? No, I thought not. It’s just something we have to live with in our screencap world.

        The attackers head up the stairs and Buffy follows them.

        Buffy fight with these attackers covers most rooms in the Summers’ house. Her journey begins in the basement – the underground, the realm of monsters, and then she breaks through to the ground floor, and now she has ascended the stairs. It resembles the journey from Hell to Purgatory to Paradise.

        On the ground floor, Dawn continues her fight, knocking an attacker against the wall.

        Meanwhile, upstairs, Andrew dreads what is happening below..

        Tied up on Dawn’s bed, Andrew stares with bulging eyes as a robed attacker comes through the door. The invader discards his staff and draws two knives – ready to slice Andrew as if he were a pig.

        Buffy rushes into the room to protect Andrew from the invading hordes.

        In the commotion, Andrew rolls off the bed and contemplates how to escape this dire predicament.

        Meanwhile, on the ground floor, Dawn gets up to go check on her apparently unconscious attacker. But he wasn’t down for the count after all, he trips Dawn and scrambles on top of her. The attacker looms over Dawn, reading to plunge his knife in.

        Just as it looks darkest before the dawn, the attacker is knocked on the head. Xander has come to Dawn’s rescue. It’s a brief moment that possibly could be used to establish the most improbable romantic relationship the two characters have in the official continuation comic.

        Buffy continues to find the attackers hand-to-hand. Andrew seizes his opportunity and tries to run out of the room. Buffy seizes her opportunity too … and seizes Andrew.

        Buffy uses Andrew as a human battering ram. The script calls it an “old Jackie Chan move”. Jackie Chan is said to have been influenced by the classic silent film slapstick comics like Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. Who knows maybe Buffy picked up a bit of Keaton’s slapstick timing after Scott Hope invited her to Buster Keaton film festival in “Faith, Hope and Trick”.

        Buffy uses the person she’s protecting as a weapon to protect himself. It’s an amusing variation of the old saying that the best defence is a good offence.

        Then she continues the fight with the attackers’ own weapons, seizing a set of twin daggers and plunging them into the attackers.

        Buffy looks down at her dispatched adversaries.

        Xander enters calling Buffy’s name. She asks after Dawn.

        XANDER: She's okay. (looks around) Is this it? I thought there was more of them –

        Buffy realizes what they were after.

        BUFFY: Spike.

        Buffy has often been distracted in a battle when the adversary’s real target was elsewhere.

        Angelus mocked her for this in “Becoming, Part 1”

        BUFFY: Come on. Let's finish it. You and me.

        Angel starts to laugh.

        ANGEL: You never learn, do you? This wasn't about you. This was never about you.

        Her expression drains. She turns and bolts, Angel calling after her.

        ANGEL: And you fall for it every single time! – Becoming, Part 1

        This time isn’t quite the same as “When She Was Bad” or “Becoming”, Buffy didn’t assume it was about her. She assumed it was about Andrew. After all, triggered Spike just tried to kill Andrew. But both Andrew and Spike (unwillingly in Spike’s case) were both tools of Morphy and held in Buffy’s house for protection.

        They run down to the basement, and stop on the stairs.

        They look to see how Spike is. He’s gone. He’s lost nothing but his chains. Morphy has a world to win.

        Meanwhile in the Summers’ living room, Willow carries a small First Aid kit over to Anya and Dawn who are glumly sitting on the couch.

        A dead attacker lies in the hall. Unlike vampires, these creatures don’t conveniently vanish into dust. It’s just another part of the clean-up job. Xander and Buffy enter.

        XANDER: They were so fast and organized –

        BUFFY: They were after Spike all along.

        XANDER: (getting it) And we were just in the way.

        Buffy is starting to put it together. And then she stares at the dead attacker on the ground. It’s a clue.

        She looks into the eye-face of her foe, and what she experiences is recognition.

        Buffy takes a good look at the Bringer’s face. A chill runs down her spine – her worst fears being confirmed.

        BUFFY: I know these guys…

        She stands up, thinks.

        BUFFY: I fought them before…

        Morphy might have made a miscalculation here. It sent its servants to kill Andrew and reclaim Spike to prevent Buffy learning anything, and yet because of this she now knows she is dealing with. This has also happened to Buffy before too.

        WESLEY: (excited) By attempting to keep a valuable clue from us, the Mayor may have inadvertently led us right to it!
        BUFFY: What page are you on, Wes? ‘Cause we already got there. – Graduation Day, Part 1
        So, gentle reader, now comes the big reveal. The secret that the show’s creators had been carefully keeping since the season premiere. Have you followed the clues? Did you figure it out?

        BUFFY: We aren't being haunted. This isn't some demon.

        BUFFY: It's all the same thing – Spike's ghosts, the people that you guys saw, from beneath us…it's all the same thing.

        BUFFY: (softly) I know what we're up against.

        They had been treating these threats as connected, but she means that it’s more than linked threats – it’s the same entity playing all these rules.

        And finally Buffy gives her foe a name.

        She pauses, scared. She has everyone’s full attention.

        BUFFY: (scared) The First.

        So, did you guess it? Well, of course, reading this with 18-years of hindsight, you did. But the First or First Evil was one of the top suspects this whole season. Oh, fans had alternative theories. One fan thought it was Glory and explained the shape-shifting abilities away as a result of being untethered from Ben. Both The First and Glory had servants clad in monkish robes.

        There was a sense of it being anti-climactic. Fans who knew Buffy history had largely figured it out. (And for those who hadn’t guessed from “Lessons”, the script to “Sleeper” was making the internet rounds on Nov. 20, 2002 – days before “Never Leave Me” aired. The Big Bad was clearly identified in the “Sleeper” script as the “First”. Whoops … so much for keeping it secret.)

        For more casual viewers who didn’t pick up on the clues, the First was largely meaningless to them. Buffy doesn’t even explain who are what the First is in this episode. She doesn’t mention the time with Angel. From this episode alone, you’d have the bad guy’s name and little more.

        But there are others who are familiar with The First – the Watchers. Will they get their heads out of their …books and help the Slayer and her friends? Tune in tomorrow for the conclusion.


        • Worked much later than I thought yesterday. So I'm finishing it up today and will post tonight.


          • Stoney
            Stoney commented
            Editing a comment
            Fabulous! I'm looking forward to reading through all of this through the school hols.

          • debbicles
            debbicles commented
            Editing a comment
            Really enjoying this!

        • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
          Season Seven Rewatch
          Never Leave Me
          Part Nine

          When the bad guy is finally unmasked in a lot of action films, the hero makes some calls and soon there’s a motley group of good (and sometimes sorta bad) guys working together to defeat the threat. From The Seven Samurai to The Searchers, the heroes are individuals struggling together to save others without any help from the outside world – or even from each other.

          A lot of the battles with bad guys Buffy and her friends face work on this principle. From Angelus to Adam and the Initiative to the Trio, there’s no need to call in anyone else from on high. Buffy can handle it herself. But in terms of actual power, Slayers aren’t really in charge in the Buffyverse.

          Sometimes, heroes are constrained from doing it all alone. They have mentors or trainers who guide them, organizations that fund them or even a panel of judges who condemn them if they step over the line. The Federation and Starfleet, the Rebel Alliance, SHIELD – all modeled on various military alliances dating back to ancient times – are often guiding and sometimes commanding their heroes to back all military endeavors, following the rulebook. And sometimes, when a Captain Kirk – particularly the more impulsive movie reboot Chris Pine Kirk -- decides to take matters into his own hands, there’s a threat of a court martial waiting when he returns from his mission.

          And then there are the secret societies – mysterious councils of priests and shamans who watch over supernatural and/or spiritual domains invisible to the average person. Holding massive stores of knowledge in ancient libraries, their origins are lost in the mists of time as they hand down important information from generation to generation. These societies are usually invisible even to the hero – or sometimes even directly opposed when the hero disagrees with ancient prophecy or belief.

          One of the most popular secret societies in literature was Anne Rice’s Order of the Talamasca – a powerful organization set up to monitor the supernatural. Founded in the first century CE, the Order had major bases in major European cities like London, Amsterdam and Rome and played a part in covering up major scandals concerning vampires, witches, werewolves and other supernatural folk. A lot of vampires and witches are revealed as former members of the Order.

          And their motto? “We watch. And we are always there.”

          Which makes it obvious that the Talamasca had an enormous influence on Whedon’s conception of Watchers and Slayers and The Watchers Council. But the influence of the military alliances of superhero comics and science fiction live-action also played a part in shaping their history.

          The Watchers – well, a Watcher – first appeared in Joss Whedon’s 1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie. The following year a mysterious group known as Watchers turned up on the Highlander TV series which also seems to have been influenced by the Anne Rice literary universe. Like Giles, Joe Dawson befriended the immortal he was assigned to watch and was the best of a very suspect lot. (Okay, possible second best. I know a lot of Highlander fans are big fans of Methos – the extremely-old immortal who infiltrated the Watchers.)

          But in some ways, the Talamasca and the Watchers of Buffy resembled the Time Lords of Doctor Who that predated the Anne Rice novels by a decade. Andrew, who has viewed every episode of the classic British science fiction series, could speak at length, no doubt, about how the Doctor’s own people the Time Lords were introduced at the close of that show’s sixth season in the final episode of the 10-part serial “The War Games”.

          In their initial appearances, Time Lords were portrayed as god-like figures of wisdom and authority who viewed the interfering Doctor as a sort of naughty child. This changed in the 1976 serial from the show’s 14th season, “The Deadly Assassin”. That story’s writer, Robert Holmes, decided to model the Time Lords and the Doctor’s home planet after the authority figures at universities. No one longer were they gods. The Time Lords were now old duffers, who complained a lot – their so-called wisdom once mostly an act and they were masters of deception. The Doctor’s old academy teacher, Borusa, was now a high-up politician. The Doctor’s old foe The Master, a Time Lord arch-criminal had been in league with a prominent member of Time Lord society, Chancellor Goth. Rather than reveal the truth of Chancellor Goth’s treachery, Cardinal Borusa decided to cover the matter up.

          BORUSA: Then we shall rely on their silence. We shall change the appearance of the corpse, Castellan. We all know the posthumous effect of a staser bolt. Within the hour, the body will be charred beyond recognition. Our story is going to be that the Master arrived in Gallifrey to assassinate the President, secretly. Before he could escape, Chancellor Goth tracked him down and killed him, unfortunately perishing himself in the exchange of fire. Now that's much better. I can believe that.
          ENGIN: You're making Goth into a hero?
          BORUSA: If heroes don't exist, it is necessary to invent them. Good for public morale.
          ENGIN: And the Doctor's part in all this?
          BORUSA: Best forgotten. Of course, Doctor, the charge against you will be dropped.
          DOCTOR: How kind.
          Borusa had one request of the Doctor before he left to continue on his travels. The Master had deleted all trace of himself from Gallifrey’s records.

          BORUSA: Then before you leave, you can assist Coordinator Engin to compile a new biog of him. It doesn't have to be entirely accurate.
          DOCTOR: Like Time Lord history.
          BORUSA: A few facts, Coordinator, will lend it verisimilitude. We cannot make the Master into a public enemy if there is no data on him.
          When Borusa leaves, the Doctor mutters an ironic quip.

          DOCTOR: Only in mathematics will we find truth.
          ENGIN: What?
          DOCTOR: Borusa used to say that during my time at the Academy, and now he's setting out to prove it.
          Today, fans of the series hold “The Deadly Assassin” as a classic – ignoring that not a single female character appears in its four episodes. But in 1976, fans were outraged that this episode dared to sully the good name of the Time Lords. They wanted gods of high moral character – not fools and Machiavellian schemers. Fans would have a chance to be outraged again in 2020 when further aspects of Time Lord history were revealed to be lies and deception. If Warren had lived to now, I can imagine him being particularly incensed that a woman of colour was now at the heart of the Time Lord’s true history.

          The Time Lords were now supposed to be watchful schemers – but they were caught off guard an awful lot – suffering the destruction of their home world on at least three separate occasions. It’s a combination of arrogance and stupidity that carries over to the Watchers on Buffy.

          So what we seem to get is the worst of both worlds – a combination of the most secretive tendencies of the Talamasca with the authoritarianism of Starfleet. Quentin Travers and the WC (that’s Watchers Council – or COW, Council of Watchers) are steeped in the lore of vampires and witchcraft, spellcasting and apocalyptic scenarios – but with a martial flair that tries to create programmable soldiers out of the various Slayers who come under their control.

          But unlike the vampires who adhere to the lore of the Talamasca or the officers of Starfleet who volunteered to serve, Slayers don’t have much of a choice. They are the ones chosen to be the Slayer, forever bound to duty and in some ways powerless to change their fate. They need to be hard-headed and hard-hearted about their job in the little time that remains to them before one dies and another is reborn.

          This is why the Watchers Council insists that Slayers have “no outside attachments” – not even to their Watchers who train them. Giles was viewed as detrimental to Buffy’s mission because of his paternal feelings of love for his ward – as were Buffy’s friends and family – and the Council did everything they could to separate Buffy from her support system as a kind of paring down of her human side in favor of her Slayer side.

          But Buffy doesn’t feel this way – like Captain Kirk, she sees her supposed human weaknesses as strengths. It’s not enough to follow the Watchers Handbook – Buffy has to trust her own instincts, too. Not even Slayer instincts, but human instincts of imagination and empathy.

          KENDRA: Emotions are weakness, Buffy. You shouldn't entertain them.
          BUFFY: Kendra, my emotions give me power. They're total assets! – What’s My Line?
          Buffy is able to fight off bad guys again and again because she refuses to reduce herself to a military fighting machine who spouts Watcher dogma. Instead, she feels her way through every crisis – sometimes failing and sometimes succeeding in a single battle – but always winning every war in her own way.

          But the downside of this kind of fighting spirit is the same as the lone adventurers in the Seven Samurai or the Searchers – the hero has to constantly take an emotional roller-coaster as they become invested in the battle against the bad guys. It’s as if they took to heart the cliched action hero tagline – “This time, it’s personal.”

          So when Buffy or one of her own gang is endangered or missing or killed, it’s not just a military setback – it’s a heart-breaking turn of events that fills Buffy with rage and motivation to strike back.

          Like Angelus, the season seven Big Bad toyed with Buffy and her friends, enjoying the cat and mouse game more than the kill. Morphy played on Willow’s fears of being the Big Bad again, destroyed Buffy’s living room as it taunted Dawn with memories of her mother and literally made Spike a murderer in his blood-soaked sockpuppet theater.

          But Buffy’s worst fears are confirmed when she and Xander rush down to the basement to find it empty.

          Like Angelus, this Big Bad uses the biggest weapon it knows – to kill this girl, you have to love her. Or concurrently – to kill this girl, you have to hurt the things she loves. So in a repeat of the past, Morphy tries to murder Buffy’s friends and family while kidnapping someone important to Buffy. In fact, someone who had just moments ago made a major emotional breakthrough with Buffy.

          Right before the home invasion, Buffy had finally convinced Spike that his actions had made him a man, not a monster, in her eyes. The fight for his soul and his subsequent guilt changed everything for Buffy – because she saw Spike change. But now – Spike was in the clutches of the Big Bad, the chains restraining the monster now lying empty on the floor.

          When Buffy figures out who these guys are, she realizes that it’s the same group who tormented Angel in “Amends.” Which means, this time, it’s really personal.

          Whereas with the pragmatic Watchers Council, every salvo in the war against evil is treated as just another move on the chess board, more interested in protecting the legacy of the organization than the actual Slayer or Watcher protecting her. To them, Spike’s kidnapping would be little more than an interesting footnote in a Watcher’s Diary and certainly nothing to get upset about, soul or no soul. Authoritarian idealists like Quentin Travers convince themselves that all their Machiavellian strategies are for the greater good – and both sides war against each other like most dysfunctional organizations – to the point where the Big Bads are able to get away with murder (literally!) because of the tug-of-war between generals and those on the ground.

          We’ve also seen that actual Watchers who train Slayers or potential Slayers appear to be chosen themselves as expendable chew toys – the chances that they die with their charges are very high. Merrick died, Faith’s Watcher died, Wesley almost died and Robson died alongside his potential ward. The dismissal of Rupert Giles in “Helpless” is coldblooded and callous – hardly the actions of an organization that held their actual Watchers in esteem.

          GILES: The test is done. We're finished.
          TRAVERS: Not quite. She passed. You didn't.
          Neither Giles nor Buffy knows what to say.
          TRAVERS: The Slayer isn't the only one who must perform in this situation. I have recommended to the council, and they have agreed, that you be relieved of your duties as watcher effective immediately. You're fired.
          GILES: On what grounds?
          TRAVERS: Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgment. You have a father's love for the child and that is useless to the cause. – Helpless
          Viewers got an initial sense that perhaps the Watchers weren’t all they were cracked up to be in the first introduction of Giles, who was played as a stuffy, out-of-touch guide for comedic effect. Buffy gets the better of him in their training sessions and Giles’ track record in pulling information out of his books was spotty at best. No real knowledge of famous vampires Angel and Spike despite the fact that certain Watchers wrote their theses on them and they were almost as well known as Dracula. Wesley Wyndam-Pryce seems even less competent in his Buffy appearances, only gaining his skills after the Council fired him.

          In some senses, the Watchers could be perpetuating the Noble Lie that Plato discusses in The Republic. In his massively influential work of philosophy, Plato has Socrates propose that a great society needs to be founded on a massive but Noble Lie. The lie is that people are not born of man or woman, but raised from the Earth, and that they are mingled with metals. Some – those who should be the guardians of society – have gold in them, and other classes are mingled with silver and bronze.

          This lie is to be maintained to keep society in order, and it’s easy to see how it would appeal to the Watchers. They sit in judgment and rule, the Slayer slays, and the vampires go “poof”. Giles himself rebels at the Council’s view of the role of the Slayer. But we also discover through the course of the show that what Giles believes about vampires may indeed be a Noble Lie told by the Watchers or even their predecessors – the Shadowmen – in order to control their Slayers.

          GILES: This world is older than any of you know, and contrary to popular mythology, it did not begin as a paradise. For untold eons, Demons walked the earth; made it their home... their Hell. But in time they lost their purchase on this reality, and the way was made for the mortal animals. For Man. What remains of the Old Ones are vestiges: Certain magicks, certain creatures.
          BUFFY: And vampires.
          XANDER: So vampires are demons?
          GILES: The books tell that the last Demon to leave this reality fed off a human, mixed their blood. He was a human form possessed -- infected -- by the Demon's soul. He bit another, and another... and so they walk the earth, feeding. Killing some, mixing their blood with others to make more of their kind. Waiting for the animals to die out, and the Old Ones to return. – The Harvest
          Is this true? Anya – herself a former vengeance demon – backs up Giles’ description of demons as a kind of vestige of the Old Ones.

          WESLEY: I'm sorry... Lohesh was a four winged Soul killer, am I right? I was given to understand they aren't that fierce. Of all the demons we've seen...
          ANYA: You've never seen a demon.
          BUFFY: Excuse me, killing them professionally for four years running...
          ANYA: All the demons that walk the earth are tainted, are human hybrids, like vampires. The Ascension means a human becomes PURE demon. They're different. – Graduation Day
          And yet, there are other things that Giles says in the early episodes that are proven untrue.

          One example is when Giles warns Xander against thinking of the now vampire Jesse as his friend:

          GILES: You listen to me! Jesse is dead! You have to remember that when you see him, you're not looking at your friend. You're looking at the thing that killed him. – The Harvest

          And Giles definitively rejects even the possibility of a good vampire.

          BUFFY: I can't believe this is happening. One minute we were kissing, and the next minute – can a vampire ever be a good person? Couldn't it happen?
          GILES: A vampire isn't a person at all. It may have the movements, the, the memories, even the personality of the person that it took over, but it's still a demon at the core, there is no halfway. – Angel
          And yet – there is Angel. And yet – there is Spike.

          Was Giles a bad student? Was he sent as a kind of Watcher cannon fodder to live and die quickly on the Hellmouth while training his new Slayer? The Council knew that Buffy’s first Watcher had died in service. Or did the Watchers Academy teachings deliberately leave out Angel’s Gypsy curse, the Orb of Thesulah, the First Slayer, the Shanshu and so forth? Back in 1943, the fledging Demon Research Initiative of the US government knew that Angel had a soul, but the Watchers Council doesn’t know this in 1997? It seems more probable that the Watchers overseeing the Council’s books don’t want people like Giles to learn that some vampires can obtain a form of humanity – or that some vampires might even want to through gaining a soul.

          We got a sense that the Council was a bit dodgy and secretive when Gwendolyn Post turned up as Faith’s new watcher.

          GILES: She was kicked out by the council two years ago for misuses of dark power. They swear there was a memo. – Revelations

          While Giles could have missed a memo, I suspect it’s just as likely the memo was only sent around AFTER Post’s rather public actions in Sunnydale. I can imagine that the Council wouldn’t want anyone to know that their organization was less than perfect unless they absolutely had to. When Faith went rogue, when did all the Watchers hear about it – before or after their wetworks kill-squad failed?

          We get true confirmation of the shadiness of the Watchers when learn about the Council’s traditional 18th Birthday party for slayers, the Cruciamentum – power-zapping drugs administered against the slayer’s will and a challenge to face the worst vampire imaginable without any special abilities. Giles was right when he called it a barbaric ritual, but the fact that Giles even went along with it – if only for a while and under protest – darkens his character.

          But like many bureaucratic organizations who are controlled from top-down, the WC seems to have broken down into small factions that keep necessary information from each other. Small groups of Watchers like Giles and Wesley apparently make their own decisions that are only tangentially related to the general guidelines from above. And in many ways, they have to play both sides in a political battle to achieve the same result.

          The hierarchy with Watchers on top, Slayers in the middle and Vampires in the dustbin all contributes to the topsy-turvy nature of Buffy as she feels her way through the Watchers dogma to truths that don’t exactly fit their narrative. What if instead of killing vampires, Slayers were charged with redeeming them by restoring their souls? Would Watchers retain the same position, the same authority, if it were that kind of battle? Does expediency triumph over humanity? It seems so by all indications since the WC barely treats its own Watchers and Slayers better than the Vampires they fight.

          Director Alfred Hitchcock supposedly said that “actors are cattle”, but he disputes that in a 1966 interview and clarifies that “actors should be treated like cattle.”

          I can imagine Travers at least thinking that Slayers – and some Watchers - should be treated like cattle. Or at least easily replaced canon fodder in the war against the forces of darkness. The humanity of the Slayer and her Watcher doesn’t matter to him – only their strength and skill in fighting the war against the forces of darkness. It’s a black and white world in which Travers sees himself and the Watchers as good as opposed to the evil of vampires, demons and hell-gods. And that definition of good doesn’t include a sense of fairness.

          TRAVERS: We're not in the business of 'fair', Miss Summers. We're fighting a war.
          GILES: You're waging a war. She's fighting it. There is a difference. – Checkpoint
          The distinction reminds me of scene from the first episode of Blackadder Goes Forth, set during World War I.

          GENERAL MELCHETT: Are you looking forward to the big push?
          PRIVATE S. BALDRICK: No, sir, I’m absolutely terrified.
          GENERAL MELCHETT (goat-like laugh): The healthy humour of the honest Tommy. Ha ha! Don’t worry, my boy, if you should falter, remember that Captain Darling and I are behind you.
          CAPTAIN BLACKADDER: About 35 miles behind you.
          In “Helpless”, it’s hard to tell if Travers is directly fighting or waging any wars. In the script, Travers refers to the Watchers’ Council as “they” not “we”, suggesting that while he might outrank Giles, he is not at the very heart of the Watchers’ Council.

          TRAVERS: But you lodged your appeals with the Watchers’ Council. And, still, they've decided to go forward. There's nothing we can do now but carry on. – Helpless

          While that line does not appear in the finished episode, Travers does refer to the Council as something separate and distinct from himself, as if he does not have a real leadership role. But things change when Travers returns in “Checkpoint,” heading up a delegation. Travers and his fellow Watchers are now identified as members of the Council in the script, although it is not clear if that he runs the full Council or is merely a representative of a higher authority.

          But once Buffy exposes the great lie of the Council – that she is the one with power and they are reliant upon her good will to obtain their goals – the Council seems to back down from their authoritarian stance.

          BUFFY: You didn't come all the way from England to determine whether I'm good enough to be "let back in." You came to beg me to let you back in. To give your jobs, your lives, some semblance of meaning again.
          NIGEL: Oh, this is beyond insolence--
          Buffy hurls a sword across the room, sticking into a shelf inches from Nigel’s head. A beat.
          BUFFY: I'm fairly certain I said no interruptions.
          XANDER: That was excellent.
          BUFFY: You're Watchers. And without a Slayer you're pretty much just watching Masterpiece Theatre. You can't stop Glory. You can't do anything with the information you have except maybe publish it in the "Everyone Thinks We're Insano's Home Journal." So here's how it's going to work. You're gonna tell me everything you know. Then you're gonna go away. You'll contact me if and when you have any information about Glory. The magic shop will stay open, and Mr. Giles will stay here as my official watcher, reinstated at full salary.
          GILES: Retroactive –
          BUFFY: To be paid retroactively from the month he was fired. I'll continue my work, with the help of my friends. – Checkpoint

          We’ve already seen bad blood between Quentin Travers and Buffy – a feud that started with her Cruciamentum and the Council’s refusal to save Angel’s life. The confrontation between them that finally climaxed in Checkpoint has left an uneasy alliance between the Slayer and the uber-organization that dominates her kind.

          So when Buffy calls Quentin Travers to seek for news of Rupert Giles, his stonewalling and refusal to tell her the truth matches Buffy’s hidden reason for her call. There’s no doubt that Buffy’s isn’t going to tell Travers about Spike and his trigger and there’s no doubt that Travers isn’t going to tell Buffy about the murders of the Potentials. Giles is the missing link between the two and he’s nowhere to be found – and both sides feel that they need to talk and confide in him without informing the other.

          There’s also a subtle juxtaposition of American independence vs English orthodoxy. As a Canadian, it’s always amusing to see how shows push the idea of Yanks vs Brits as some kind of psychological battle between stuffy authority and “Freedom!” It’s like a re-enactment of the War of Independence. So it’s not surprising that the establishing shot of the Watchers’ HQ shows London, England’s iconic black cabs. The show wants us to know that they are very English, even if the actor playing Quentin Travers is not.

          If the Watchers’ Council is over in England, they likely won’t be watching Masterpiece Theatre, the US anthology show on PBS that brings many BBC and ITV shows to North American audiences. Although Andrew Wells is certainly a fan of that show, as you’ll discover when I do my rewatch of “Storyteller”. But TV schedules aside, Buffy’s point still stands. As she finished Giles’s sentence way back in the first episode, a Watcher “watches?”. It is the Slayers that act. As we will see in the next scene.

          The camera pans up from street level to show a building that is as the script describes it “old-school”. The Watchers were meant to be old, dependable, sturdy, reliable – just like institutions are supposed to be, but so rarely are.

          In “Never Leave Me”, Travers seems to have now gained absolute authority over the remaining Watchers. Was he underselling his job previously? Or did Travers perhaps “fail upwards” as his fellow Council members were killed off one by one by the First and its agents?

          As we join the Watchers inside their HQ, we find them milling about on their mobile phones – urgently checking for status reports. They have been attacked and the script describes the scene like this:


          The place has been RANSACKED. Maps are torn off walls, file cabinets are emptied, overturned.

          Our Watcher-types from before are there. The atmosphere is frantic -- Some of the Watchers look as though they've been beaten up, subdued, others are cleaning up the mess, talking on phones excitedly, and just generally looking English and grim.
          But that’s not quite the scene we see. For one thing, the exterior shots at the beginning and ending of the scene are in daytime. It was nighttime in Sunnydale, though, and England is eight hours ahead, so perhaps it’s now early morning in London and overnight, the Bringers must have paid an unfriendly visit to Watchers HQ. Perhaps they killed the night shift while Quentin Travers was sleeping the sleep of the just…well, the sleep of the self-righteous anyway. I imagine the Watchers filing in a perfect queue for the morning shift and finding the place ransacked and the nightshift slaughtered while they all furiously clean their eyeglasses in unison.

          Although, about that ransacked thing….

          This isn’t quite what I’d call ransacked. While there are some scattered papers and a few books on the floor. Maybe the Watchers have a super efficient cleaning staff? The script gives a name to the man who speaks to Quentin Travers.

          A fellow Watcher-type (call him BLAKE) briefs him.
          BLAKE: They took our files and wiped out our records.
          The online transcripts from BuffyWorld and the Buffy Wikia follow the scripts lead and call this man “Blake”.

          Maybe it’s the new moustache and hairstyle change that is throwing them off, but this role is played by Oliver Muirhead and we’ve seen him before. He appeared as a Watcher in “Checkpoint” where he was identified on-screen as “Phillip.” Phillip was the Watcher who questioned Xander and Anya and played “attack the dummy” with Buffy.

          Nancy Holder’s novelization goes with the on-screen evidence and calls the character Phillip, who returned along with Quentin Travers, Nigel and Lydia – the most prominent of the various Watchers from “Checkpoint”. (Lydia is probably best remembered as the Watcher who wrote her thesis on Spike, as she confesses in “Checkpoint”.)

          So, if the Bringers took Watcher files and wiped their records clean, why are there still so many books on the wall? I expect the real-world answer has to do with the restrictions imposed by the filming location to not mess up the room too much. But I have another theory beside real-world filming realities, a hyper-efficient cleaning staff or any imminent attacks on the room that renders its contents irrelevant.

          Perhaps Caleb (the human servant of the First who we’ll meet once Firefly has been cancelled and Nathan Fillion is available) and the Bringers discovered that all those books on the wall were meaningless. Just random books – possibly blank books – put there to make the Watchers’ store of knowledge look bigger and more impressive than it actually is. A noble lie, indeed. Very much like the background settings of many a journalist on TV making their Zoom appearance with carefully set history books and literary classics adjusted just so.

          Blake…I mean Phillip…continues to brief Quentin.

          PHILLIP: We've lost contact with operations in Munich, Switzerland and Rome. We've got casualty confirmations coming in from as far away as Melbourne.
          LYDIA: Sir – we are crippled.

          That’s four bases that Phillip mentioned – five if you include London itself. I don’t know if those are the main bases that you’d need to attack to cripple the Watchers or just the ones that Phillip thought worth mentioning – but it’s not coincidental that are all placed in countries where the population is predominantly white. The Watchers Council smacks of European guilds and organizations that based their power in Colonialism. Also, I notice Phillip couldn’t be bothered to name a city for Switzerland – no Bern, Geneva or Zurich. That’ll teach those cheese-loving pacifists.

          Travers tries to reassure Lydia with words of wisdom from the past.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: It's all right, Lydia.
          QUENTIN TRAVERS: “We are still masters of our fate. Still captains of our souls.”
          Winston Churchill's words give Lydia resolve, as they do all British people.
          LYDIA: Yes sir.
          The original script has Quentin reassuring “Blake” with these words – the scene as filmed reassigned Blake’s dialogue to Lydia and Phillip. The line “as they do all British people” also comes from the script. Winston Churchill said those words in his September 9, 1941 address to the House of Commons. It was an update on the state of World War II, a year and two days after the terrible Blitz – the German bombing raids on London – had begun, although not several months after the Blitz had ended.

          CHURCHILL: Thus far then have we travelled along the terrible road we chose at the call of duty. The mood of Britain is wisely and rightly averse from every form of shallow or premature exultation. This is no time for boasts or glowing prophecies, but there is this—a year ago our position looked forlorn and well nigh desperate to all eyes but our own. To-day we may say aloud before an awe-struck world, "We still are master of our fate. We still are captain of our souls."

          You can listen to Churchill – at least I think it’s Churchill and not radio actor Norman Shelley who apparently had to impersonate the Prime Minster on a few radio addresses – deliver those lines toward the end of this recording.

          I wonder if old Winnie would judge Quentin Travers’s use of the phrase as “shallow and premature exultation”. Churchill only borrowed and slightly adapted the memorable phrase. The lines are from a poem by William Ernest Henley written in 1875 and published in 1888. The poem was published under many names and acquired its current name Invictus (Latin for unconquered) when in published in 1900’s The Oxford Book of English Verse, edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch.

          William Ernest Henley’s left leg was amputated when he was 16, due to complications from tuberculous. In his 20s, it looked like he might need to lose his other leg, but recovered thanks to several surgeries by famed surgeon Joseph Lister. (The Doctor from Doctor Who once claimed to have received his medical degree from Lister.) Henley’s triumph over adversity inspired him to write these words that have often provided comfort to those in times of trouble. It is the spirit of the British “stiff upper lip” – the sort of façade that Quentin Travers very much wants to maintain.

          Out of the night that covers me
          Black as the pit from pole to pole,
          I thank whatever gods may be
          For my unconquerable soul.

          In the fell clutch of circumstance,
          I have not winced nor cried aloud.
          Under the bludgeonings of chance
          My head is bloody, but unbowed.

          Beyond this place of wrath and tears
          Looms but the Horror of the shade,
          And yet the menace of the years
          Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

          It matters not how strait the gate,
          How charged with punishments the scroll,
          I am the master of my fate:
          I am the captain of my soul. – Invictus
          An ironic quotation of these lines of Henley’s comes in the 1942 film “Casablanca.” The Vichy French Captain recites the lines to show that despite all appearances, he isn’t really under the thumb of the Nazis. He doesn’t finish the quote before he’s summoned to attend the major from the Gestapo. “You were saying?,” Humphrey Bogart’s Rick asks dryly.

          In 2014, Prince Harry introduced The Invictus Games – an international supporting event for wounded, sick and injured armed forces personnel. A variety of celebrities and athletes recited Henley’s poem to promote the first games.

          When I first started researching the poem, I even ran across a contemporary reference that a fan fiction writer had used Invictus that summer in a fic about Spike regaining his soul. I can certainly see how the lines would apply to Spike even more fittingly than the Council of Watchers. Who knows, perhaps the mortal William ran across Henley during his bloody awful time in England’s poetry scene.

          The other Watchers look to Travers as he addresses the room.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Ladies and gentlemen…
          He gets everyone’s attention.
          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Our fears have been confirmed. The First Evil has declared all-out war on this institution.

          We learn that Travers knew all along who Morphy was – and he kept the information from Buffy. And for once, we learn that the Watchers are actually fighting a war rather than just waging one now that they’ve been attacked in their own home like Buffy.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Their first volleys proved most effective. I, for one, think it's time we struck back.

          In previous installments, I talked about the sort of cop show role-play of Xander, Anya and Andrew. Is Travers is performing a similar kind of role-play in the role of general? Is Travers a true leader or is this a case of “fake it until you make it”.

          Being a leader doesn’t mean freedom from self-doubt. Buffy has led on many occasions, but she remains a fallible human even as she’s also a superhero. Her reaction to the realization that it’s the First is far more emotional than Travers. Unlike Buffy, Travers doesn’t seem to feel the same kind of emotional rage. Whether he’s unmoved by the destruction or just sublimating his feelings in order to project a calm and steady attitude, Travers has the opposite reaction of Buffy as he rallies the troops, projecting success.

          If it is an act, Travers plays it to the hilt – barking out orders like he’s General Patton. (See my early post where an online poster once compared Harris Yulin to a “poor man’s George C. Scott”.)

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Give me confirmations on all remaining operatives. Visuals and tacticals – highest alert. Get them here as soon as possible.
          He paces, he’s on a roll.

          He certainly is on a roll, and then he gives the most curious order – the one to roll out.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Begin preparations for mobilization. Once we're accounted for, I want to be ready to move.
          NIGEL: Sir?

          While we’ve seen the Watchers travel before, they clearly seem to be stay-at-home types. No wonder poor Nigel is confused. It’s a little like how shocked Sherlock Holmes was when discovered his brother Mycroft Holmes was going to pay a visit to 221B Baker St. in “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”.

          It was the maid with a telegram. Holmes tore it open and burst out laughing.
          'Well, well! What next?' said he. 'Brother Mycroft is coming round.'
          'Why not?' I asked.
          'Why not? It is as if you met a tram-car coming down a country lane. Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them. His Pall Mall lodgings, the Diogenes Club, Whitehall - that is his cycle. Once, and only once, he has been here. What upheaval can possibly have derailed him?'
          In this case, the destination isn’t quite so far off Travers’s rails. He’s stopped at this destination twice before.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: We'll be paying a visit to the Hellmouth.

          It would appear finally – after all this time – that the Watchers’ Council has to openly acknowledge just how badly they need the Slayer. Unless, of course, Travers just intends to pop by to share information. But it does seem like the Watchers’ Council’s relationship with the Slayer might finally change.

          Or – it’s possible that Quentin himself is cosplaying the role of the Slayer. It’s possible that Travers has decided that he has to take the reins from a very foolish Buffy and direct her Slayer energies where they belong, treating Buffy much like the First treated Spike – as his own little sock puppet on strings.

          The fact that Travers quickly shifts the conversation to the possible upcoming glory that awaits this awesome act of the WC shows his hand. It’s all about them. Not the Slayer or The First.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: My friends, these are the times that define us.

          And define them, they shall. Travers’s next words are a summation of the almost comically pompous view that most armchair generals have of themselves.

          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Proverbs 24:6. “Oh, by wise council, you shall make your war.”

          To expand some of those Proverbs, and to use the King James translation:

          24.1 Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them.
          2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief.
          3 Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
          4 And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches.
          5 A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.
          6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.
          7 Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate.
          My interpretation of Proverbs 24 - the entire thing - is that it inspires people to have confidence in a government (or governing system - can apply to most social structures, like religion) composed of wise judges and counselors. It's a Proverbs precursor to the idea of the Social Contract. We ensure continued safety (or religious growth, or pursuit of happiness) by submitting ourselves to being governed. Of course, it’s a beloved passage by those who actually do the governing.

          The proverb, interpreted in that light, becomes even more ironic in the scope of BtVS. Buffy and Giles have both rejected the Council of Watchers as a governing body. Buffy and her Scooby gang have become their own small cell within the larger organization, slipping in and out of the main structure in order to fight bad guys in the only way they can. Since “Checkpoint,” the only useful role the Watchers have had is sharing information – and as we see, they’re not even that good at the one job they have left.

          Which makes one wonder what the Watchers’ Council thinks of Buffy’s relationships with vampires – especially souled vampires, since neither Spike nor Angel can truly be considered evil men after their souls are returned to them.

          The quote by Travers brings to mind the title of the episode, “Never Leave Me”, and also the quote from Spike’s trigger song, “Early One Morning”: “Oh, don’t deceive me.” It’s easy to see why Proverbs 24.6 would appeal to Travers and the Watchers. They fancy themselves Philosopher Kings right out of the Republic by Plato.

          The idea of the Philosopher King has had a long - and sometimes bloody history - ever since Plato put his ideas down at the Academy. The vision of a just city in which philosophers ruled over the average man was a model that supposedly mirrored the human psyche. The 'guardians' who ruled over the city would be virtuous and utterly selfless, sharing food, housing, and wives in common (although exceptional women would be allowed to become guardians as well.) These rulers would be the 'guards' of society with various soldiers as their 'auxiliaries" who would keep the people in line.

          It sounds like your typical Royal regime with its view of divine right and the social hierarchy with peasants on the bottom and aristocrats at the top. But the important distinction that separated Plato's vision was the idea of a meritocracy. Philosopher Kings would be chosen through distinction rather than birth. In fact, they must be well-trained philosophers who put the common good above their own needs. As philosophers, they would not desire power - which means that they should be the only ones to wield it. These philosophers would then be suited to rule because of their great knowledge of the Good.

          This vision of rulers as enlightened leaders had an enormous impact on Western Civilization - every Nero with a fiddle danced while Rome burned, certain of their genius. From Roman Emperors to Popes to Kings, so many rulers claimed to be the embodiment of Plato's Philosopher King that even Queens such as England's Elizabeth and Russia's Catherine the Great adopted that title. Reform movements throughout Europe, the Founding Fathers of American democracy and the Revolutionaries of France saw themselves as Philosopher Kings, creating an ideal society. By the 20th century, both religious theocracies like the Ayatollahs of Iran and Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin also considered themselves to be in that illustrious group. In fiction, almost every bad guy in their mansion or tower chuckled at their own genius as they plotted their evil schemes like philosophic supermen and ran their empires, a mirror image of the benevolent Philosopher King. And in Buffy, both humans like the Trio and vampires share this common trait of believing themselves the only ones smart enough to rule.

          In more recent times, the world seems to have grown cynical about the so-called Philosopher Kings even as the idea of Philosophy itself has become debatable. The idea of Philosopher Kings was almost always contradicted by the numerous bad faith acts of that leader - but Plato left a perfect blueprint in which everything could always be swept under the rug as a misunderstanding by non-philosophers of their intention. In fact, even in Plato's lifetime, he was courted by many dictators claiming to be his perfect Philosopher King - only to turn on Plato after the philosopher criticized their less than benevolent rule - and Plato had to escape death by the skin of his teeth several times by sailing away in the dead of night. Which proves that philosophers aren’t always the best judge of good and evil despite their theoretical brilliance.

          Sadly, this seems to extend to Quentin Travers. There’s one last line given to Travers that is cut from the on-screen scene – probably for time. Or maybe because it made the sudden death of the entire Watchers Council of London too comical because Travers is such an idiot that it never occurs to him that the Bringers might have booby-trapped his precious cabinets full of Watchers information.

          (Shooting Script deleted line:
          QUENTIN TRAVERS: Now let’s get moving. We’ve got work to –
          As he talks, he turns and opens up the map cabinet behind him. As he does so, we hear an audible CLICK and –)
          In the episode, we get a shot of the exterior that’s slightly different from the scene’s establishing shot.

          And suddenly, the building explodes.

          And so ends the Watchers. The Biblical phrase that immediately follows the passage Quentin Travers’s final words is “and in multitude of counsellors there is safety”, but there was no safety for this multitude of counsellors.

          But should such a vital part of the show’s mythology have been written off so easily? Was it just to demonstrate the First’s power and the ultimate foolishness of the Watchers? Was it that important to isolate Buffy and leave her without any backing at all? A lot of fans at the time didn’t buy it. They felt the building exterior at the beginning of the scene was too different from the one at the end. It was a trick, they insistently claimed. In reality, the Watchers blew up a building to make the First think they were dead. Or maybe the First blew up the wrong building.

          It was understandable – but – wishful thinking. If the First could truly assume the form of any dead person, it would have known the Watchers weren’t truly dead. Then again, the First doesn’t seem to be aware that Warren isn’t truly dead, but merely skinless and having a whirlwind romance with Amy the Witch. (From the supposedly canonical season eight comics, and no, I don’t like it either.)

          But like it or not, the Watchers were dead. And in a bit of cutesy line transition, the First actually apologies for it – well, sort of.

          At this point, I apologize, but this is the penultimate part. I’ll post the remaining Spike/First scene separately.


          • debbicles
            debbicles commented
            Editing a comment
            Fabulous. Thank you, hope everyone is well.

        • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
          Season Seven Rewatch
          Never Leave Me
          Part Ten

          We turn from an ending to a beginning as the episode deftly performs a series of jump cuts without dialogue to transition from above to below, from outside to inside, from the political to the personal. The camera’s focus on the explosion of the Watcher’s Council – seen from a confusingly dizzying height through an upward long shot – suddenly becomes an extreme chose shot focused on Spike’s eyes as the camera pans from left to right – or at least the eyes of a being wearing Spike’s form.

          We’ve seen this room before – it’s where Andrew slaughtered Jonathan. We’ve also seen this basement before – it’s where Spike tried to cut out the “spark” as Morphy tormented him. And it’s as far underground as the Watchers Council was in the air – both far removed from earthly matters and gambling for much higher stakes.

          And now we have a name for the Big Bad – the First – who has appropriately adopted Spike’s form to prepare for a ritual to open the Seal of Danzalthar. But it’s only Buffy and her friends who have this vital information – as far as Spike knows, he’s still just Morphy who put a trigger in his head and a song of murder in his heart to break his spirit and soul.

          Spike most likely does recognize, however, that something very painful is going to happen as the camera slowly pans across a table of medieval instruments of torture set in a perfect line, like a fancy display by “Torturers R Us” on the Demon Shopping Network. Order now and get a few racks thrown in for free!

          Then, we see a thick leather strap being tightened across an outstretched bare arm. An echo of the constant theme of “Prisoner: Cell Block Summers House” that runs through “Never Leave Me” where both Spike and Andrew are bound physically and mentally by their captors – Buffy – and the First.

          And finally we see Spike from the back, shirtless yet again, and strapped up against a wooden contraption as his other arm is bound and raised to the side.”

          The imagery is – obvious – and it acts as a mirror image to his draping over the wooden cross in “Beneath You.

          We didn’t see this contraption in “Conversations with Dead People” when Andrew and Jonathan prowled the basement, so it’s obviously something the First has been working on his spare time between scaring Willow and trashing Buffy’s house. There’s a link here between Xander fixing up Buffy’s living room and the Bringers fixing up the First’s bizarre contraption to bleed their victims. While Xander makes order of chaos, the First makes order to create even more chaos.

          And it is an orderly little ritual scene viewed entirely from the First’s perspective – its gaze, its instruments of torture and finally, its sacrificial victim who is so dehumanized that we only see him from the back. In fact, it’s telling that Spike doesn’t speak a single word in the scene. Unlike Quentin Travers who never stopped discussing what he was about to do, Spike doesn’t seem to see the need to talk at all. He lets the First do all the talking for him.

          Is this a deliberate tact by Spike? Is it even in his control or has the First somehow silenced him? Spike doesn’t seem to be under any influence or in his zombie trigger phase. The First seems to feed off of Spike’s fears and insecurities throughout season seven (just as he fed off of Angel’s self-loathing in “Amends”) so it seems likely that he’s doing the same thing here. Maybe a visit by Angelus or Momma Pratt could have put Spike in a major funk, reminding him again of all the horrible things he’s done. Or maybe the First has sowed doubt in a different direction.

          How long has it been since Spike was kidnapped? More importantly, from Spike’s perspective, why didn’t Buffy immediately run after him? Why didn’t she think to look in the school basement as soon as he was kidnapped or force Andrew to bring them all to the Seal of Danzalthar?

          It’s revealed in the next episode that Andrew is in a fugue state for much of the episode, unable to tell the Scoobys much of anything. And Buffy is a wreck, searching through books, desperately looking for something – anything – that might tell her how to fight the First and find Spike.

          But Spike doesn’t know any of this. He only knows that he’s been kidnapped by the same morphing monster who tormented him for months in the school basement and Buffy the heroic figure who always saves her friends in the nick of time is nowhere to be found. I’d bet that the First has been filling Spike’s with despair in an attempt at psychological warfare to dishearten his victim. In the few scenes we see of The First torturing Spike throughout his ordeal, we see it fling fragments of Spike’s life at him like projectile weapons, constantly hitting their target even as Spike is physically broken down.

          It wasn’t like that when Glory kidnapped Spike. He was all mouth then, sarcastic and unafraid to snap back at his tormentor no matter what the consequences might be. But soulful Spike looks dispirited, beaten, almost broken here. Has the First been filling Spike’s head with tiny white lies that sound convincing considering Spike’s history with the Slayer? Has it been convincing Spike – perhaps in Buffy’s form – that she only said she believed in him so that she could use him to get to the First? That it was all Slayer business and she had no feelings for Spike at all?

          When the Bringers smashed through her windows, did Buffy stand in front of Spike to protect him? No, as always, she rushed up the stairs to protect those she really cared for and loved, leaving him to be kidnapped by the First’s minions. The First probably taunted Spike over this despite the fact that it’s possible Buffy was thrown through the basement door by one of the Bringers, landing in the living room just in time to save her friends.

          But why didn’t she immediately go back down into the basement to rescue Spike, who was chained and defenseless against what appear to be humans? In the heat of the fight, from what we see, it’s understandable that she chased the bad guys where they were. But it’s also easy for the First to skew the narrative to make it look like Buffy just doesn’t care.

          So it’s possible that Spike is silent because the First has been doing a number on him – making him fear that perhaps Buffy was bluffing when she called him a man. And the proof was in the fact that she’s not coming. Willow doesn’t even cast a locator spell to try. And this is exactly what the First wants. It must have heard every single word that Buffy and Spike said to each other in the basement and entered in the nick of time before Spike could stop his suicidal descent into Hell.

          And it’s now determined to mock Spike with the very idea that he could be anything like a real man. So The First dressed as Spike Classic looms into view, a very soulless Spike smirk on his face.

          FIRST/SPIKE: You'll have to excuse the spectacle…

          Placed as a transitional line, it seems like the First is apologizing for the big Watchers Council explosion in the previous scene. Maybe as an extra-dimensional being of evil, the First is capable of breaking the Fourth Wall and winking at the audience.

          FIRST/SPIKE: But I've always been a bit of a sucker for the ol’ classics.

          The First’s dialogue intentionally calls back to a line from the first season Angel episode “In the Dark”, when the pre-chipped, pre-souled, pre-triggered Spike had Angel chained up in a similar position. Spike had contracted the vampire torturer Marcus to extract the location of the Gem of Amara from Angel.

          SPIKE: Marcus is an expert. Some say artist, but I’ve never been comfortable with labels. He’s a bloody king of torture, he is. Humans, demons, politicians – makes no difference. Some say he invented several of the classics, but he won’t tell me which ones.

          This evocation of Spike’s former self must pain newly souled Spike. The First knows this and purposefully takes Spike’s form to remind him what kind of monster he used to be. There’s no need for Spike to convince the First who he really is – since the First seems to have a photographic memory of everything that Spike has said and done. It’s fitting justice that Spike is now one of the helpless victims he used to revel in hurting. The First knows the old pre-Angelus in Sunnydale, pre-chipped Spike would have eagerly participated on the other side in the kind of torment he’s about to endure.

          The only question that remains for Spike is what kind of torment is it?

          In the original shooting script, the First wasn’t just referring to the spectacle of shirtless Spike being tied up and tortured yet again. Nor does he even mention ‘spectacle’ – it’s all about the imagery.

          FIRST/SPIKE: You'll have to excuse the imagery.
          We're in the basement antechamber. Torches light the space. Bringers work industriously over a contraption they've assembled around the Seal of Danzalthar We don't get a clear look at it yet -- we see wood, chains. Whatever it is, they appear to be fastening Spike to it. The First, in the form of Spike, surveys the scene with pride. The Bringers pull Spike's arms out at his sides.
          FIRST/SPIKE: But I've always been a bit of a sucker for the ol' classics.
          Bringers place large metal nails up against Spike's wrists. Other Bringers raise hammers...
          WHAM! They nail Spike's arm to the symbol. Spike SCREAMS in pain. – Original Shooting Script for Never Leave Me

          The classic in question here is crucifixion – an ancient form of execution deliberately designed to be one of the most endless, painful and torturous ways to murder someone. Stretching a body on a piece of wood with a cross beam, arms stretched to either side, the idea was to keep a person hanging or standing on a small piece of wood until they slowly asphyxiated to death or died of a heart attack due to the inability to inhale through the hyper-expansion of the chest and lungs.

          Although crucifixion is most famously associated with Christianity, it has a long history that pre-dates the Caesars of Rome by thousands of years. Crucifixion was commonplace in the Ancient World – Persians, Macedonians, Greek, Egyptians all used it as a common practice. Alexander the Great famously crucified over 2,000 prisoners when he conquered Tyre. The Romans who crucified Spartacus and his 10,000 strong band of Gladiator Slaves who had successfully led a revolt against Rome almost a hundred years before Christ.

          For vampires who were raised within Western Christian Tradition, crucifixion seems to have been a major event – maybe THE event because rejoicing in Christ’s death was turning their back on everything that made them the humans they used to be.

          VAMPIRE: When I kill her, it'll be the greatest event since the crucifixion. And I should know. I was there.
          SPIKE: You were there? Oh, please! If every vampire who said he was at the crucifixion was actually there, it would have been like Woodstock. – School Hard

          One wonders whether a formerly Jewish or Hindu vampire would feel that strongly about it – or does each vampire selectively reject and condemn anything spiritually meaningful in their culture? In the Buffyverse, there seems to be an acceptance that Christian iconography harms vampires – but there’s also an implication in the Buffy comics that vampires and demons are adversely affected by any spiritual symbol of a culture. It’s certainly the case in the Marvel Comics.

          In Uncanny X-Men #159 (from 1982) writer Chris Claremont and guest artist Bill Sienkiewicz pitted Dracula against the mutant superheroes. The Dark Prince lured the heroine Storm under his spell. It was likely an influence on “Buffy vs. Dracula”. The youngest X-Men Kitty Pryde was the inspiration for both Buffy and Willow. But as Jewish character, the cross didn’t work for Kitty, although her Star of David necklace repelled Dracula.

          The cross didn’t work for the atheist Wolverine either, but the demonic-in-appearance, but deeply religious Nightcrawler could use a cross.

          Andrew might note the concept also exists in the Doctor Who universe. In the 1989 story “The Curse of Fenric”, the vampiric monsters from the future could be repelled by objects of faith – a Soviet Russian soldier used his hammer-and-sickle pin to protect him.

          But the TV Buffyverse vampires mainly interacted with the Christian religion, although they tried to avoid it.

          BUFFY: Vampires probably not that big on Christmas, now that I think about it.
          ANGEL: Not as a rule. – Amends

          The First could have chosen to bleed Spike by just ripping into him and hanging him by a wire over the Seal. It’s possible that the ritual to open the Seal is tied into the very tenants of Christianity – the Devil is often depicted as an actor in the Second Coming scenario who is directly fighting Christ and his influences – but it’s also possible that the First is screwing with Spike by using the trappings of Christianity that William Pratt learned as a child to mock him. Spike’s certainly mocked the idea of Christmas before.

          SPIKE: What’s this? Sitting around watching the telly while there’s evil still afoot? That’s not very industrious of you. I say we go out there and kick a little demon ass! What? Can’t go without your Buffy, is that it? Too chicken? Let’s find her! She is the Chosen One after all. Come on! Vampires! Grrr! Nasty! Let’s annihilate them for justice and for – the safety of puppies – and Christmas, right? Let’s fight that evil! Let’s kill something! Oh, come on! – Doomed

          Plus, the First would know that the word itself is a Latin-English derivative of an early Greek word that literally means to impale. Crucifying a vampire is ironic considering how deadly wood is to them and to impale is to send them to dust.

          But then the First seems to have a special jonesing for Christmas. It hides its lair in a Christmas tree lot. It mocks the Crucifixion. And it even brings up Christmas again when pretending to be Drusilla to break Spike in a later episode:

          DRUSILLA/FIRST: Ooh, daddy. No kicking. It's almost Christmas day today and you've gone spoiling it. I've been so very good all year. But I could be bad if you like. – Bring on the Night

          I imagine the First is just as angry about other religions when dabbling in other countries, so maybe it’s only when The First torments people in the US, where Christmas is so culturally significant and overly commercialized. If the First is attempting to be truly evil, then one supposes that it concentrates on the prejudices and beliefs of its audience – since Spike was most likely brought up Anglican, the First delights in mocking that particular religion to create maximum suffering and fear in the victim. Well, at least if he’s souled. Soulless Spike would probably have cared less – souled Spike must wince at how he’s run roughshod over every religious tenant he was taught as a child.

          In the filmed episode, the First doesn’t go as far as to actually nail Spike to the wood. Whether this was because of network sensibilities or a sense of going too far, tying Spike to the wood since accomplishes the intended effect of mocking William Pratt’s entire religious upbringing and calling attention to the monster he has become.

          Spike looks at himself – looming there before him. Perhaps for the first time, Spike realizes that this isn’t some figment of his imagination – not some reminder of past sins like a cartoon devil appearing on his shoulder. What is before him is independent of Spike, and yet a reminder of the bad old days when he was soulless. And this, more than anything, is also why Spike holds his tongue and refuses to speak. Chastising a tormenter who looks like his former self only brings back everything he’s tried so hard to forget. The First as classic Bad Old Days Spike flicks his tongue backwards in anticipation of the torture that is to follow.

          Spike steals himself as the Bringer chooses a small sharp blade and moves towards him. As we hear the sound of tearing flesh, we imagine the scene off-camera from the expressions on Spike’s face as he tries to be captain of his soul and keep a stiff upper lip, but ultimately gasps in agony.

          Spike grimaces and looks accusingly – with possibly a hint of pleading -- at his fully-clothed doppelganger with his tongue still rolled behind his teeth in a perfect imitation of cold-blooded soulless Spike.

          FIRST/SPIKE: Oh, don't look at me that way. I wanted to do this more subtle-like.

          We hear again that the First wanted to stay on the downlow for a lot longer than what transpired thanks to Spike’s stupidity in allowing one of his victims to get away and tell Buffy what happened. It’s odd that the First never considered Spike’s sirings would inevitably end up talking with Buffy – but perhaps it figured that Buffy’s ‘stake now, talk later’ strategy would never end up in a deep therapy session with a former classmate.

          It also didn’t figure that Spike would start having flashbacks that revealed what he had done. Apparently, the First’s plans are contingent upon people being selfish and monstrous – which leaves it at a loss in how to deal with trust and generosity of spirit.

          SPIKE/THE FIRST: You shouldn't have done that. It's not time yet. Not nearly. You're going against the plan, but we can make it work. – Sleeper

          The First was possibly hoping to weaken Buffy by having Spike attack her – but only drain her to the point of insensibility. Spike’s fate doesn’t seem to have come into its plans at all, since The First is willing to sacrifice its puppet to Buffy’s stake. The disappointment that Buffy is willing to help him by bringing him into her home was more than enough to give the First a turn. But Buffy forgiving Spike and telling him she believes in him? That’s when the First had to step in despite giving away the whole show to the Slayer, who now knows who the Big Bad is.

          FIRST/SPIKE: My harbingers have a tendency to call attention to themselves.

          Yeah, breaking through windows and doors, trying to slaughter everyone in the house tends to do that. The First couldn’t have been more subtle if he danced into Buffy’s house like the WB’s mascot Michigan J. the Frog, singing “Hello! Ma Baby" and kicking up his heels with top hat in hand. But now that the secret is out, the First seems to have decided to speed up its operations and calling upon a much more valuable entertainer than Spike to dominate the stage.

          Of course, this conversation is just another mockery of Spike, who did everything he could as a soulless vampire to call attention to himself – at the expense of others.

          DARLA: Look, we barely got out of London alive because of you. Everywhere we go, it's the same story and now-
          ANGELUS: You've got me and my women hiding in the luxury of a mine shaft, all because William the Bloody likes the attention. This is not a reputation we need.
          SPIKE: Oh, I'm sorry. Did I sully our good name? We're vampires. – Fool for Love

          As if to underline the First’s mockery, Spike’s attention is called to the Harbingers, or more precisely, their signature weapon – a silverly blade, now stained red with Spike’s blood.

          Spike screams in pain as the knife slices into him again while the First takes “full responsibility” like all puffed-up supervillains do – by blaming the other guy.

          Which is, again, very much like Spike in a similar situation when he had both Buffy and Drusilla chained in his underground lair.

          SPIKE: This is your fault. You're the one to blame for all this.
          DRUSILLA: Am I?
          SPIKE: Bloody right you are! If you hadn't left me for that chaos demon, I never would have come back here! Never would have had this sodding chip in my skull!
          Spike turns to Buffy.
          SPIKE: And you – wouldn't be able to touch me, because this, with you, is wrong. I know it. I'm not a complete idiot. – Crush

          And now it’s Spike who’s chained up as the First throws accusations at him.

          FIRST/SPIKE: You're the one who couldn't hold his end of the bargain. You're the one who couldn't take care of what's-his-name.

          Yes, even the First – the primordial master of all evil with the complete memories of both Warren and Jonathan – cannot remember Andrew’s name. I wonder if the Scoobies ultimately had to resort to a “Hello. My name is Andrew” name tag to finally get this straight. Maybe Tucker was jealous of his little brother’s super villain team-up and cast a spell so everyone would have trouble remembering Andrew’s name, like the spell that kept humans from remembering that Ben is Glory.

          FIRST/SPIKE: You're the one who had to make breakthroughs and learn something about himself.

          This is a caustic reference to souled Spike’s lament in “Lessons” that Buffy will never understand what happened to him.

          SPIKE: The thing is...I had a speech. I learned it all. Oh, God. She won't understand, she won't understand. – Lessons

          The First mocks Spike’s fears, telling him that it’s futile to try to learn anything – not a speech or ourselves.

          THE FIRST: The next few months are going to be quite a ride. And I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You'll learn you're a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn't sunk in already. Look at you. Trying to do what's right, just like her. You still don't get it. It's not about right, not about wrong. It’s about power. – Lessons

          Nothing matters but power – like the First has over Spike who is trussed up like a condemned criminal before him. The Bringers drive another blade into Spike as his eyes roll up in pain.

          And the thought of Spike enduring unbearable torment makes the First crack a reptilian smile.

          Spike looks up and then glances to his side in an almost Christ-like position – well, if Christ were a bleach-blond vampire.

          There’s a premonition of this moment in “Restless” where Giles dreams of Spike striking a pose in his crypt for the photographers.

          SPIKE: I've hired myself out as an attraction.
          GILES: Sideshow freak?
          SPIKE: Well, at least it's showbiz. – Restless
          And the First – who seems to remember everything – seems to callback to even this fragment of a dream within Giles’ psyche that Spike was the main attraction – especially now that he’s gone against the plan and made a ‘breakthrough’ with Buffy and ‘learned’ something about himself. Or so Spike thinks.

          FIRST/SPIKE: So now, fittingly, you're the one who gets to do the honors.

          And with that the First – or Morphy – lives up to its old nickname and morphs once again – to a scowling, disapproving Buffy. The Buffy that Spike fears the most. The Buffy who didn’t see Spike as a man, but just a disgusting monster.

          And the First as Buffy puts on quite a show, poking Spike right in the heart with his greatest shame and regret outside of his siring of his mother and his past as a soulless vampire – his sexual relationship with Buffy in season six.

          FIRST/BUFFY: I have to admit, I'm glad it worked out this way.

          The First folds its arms leers at Spike as if he’s a piece of meat on display – a feral-looking Buffy who used Spike like a sex object – as Spike looks genuinely distressed and full of guilt.

          BUFFY: I was going to bleed Andrew. But you look a lot better with your shirt off

          So, the First can remember Andrew’s name, after all. Perhaps it can only remember Andrew’s name when it is in the form of Buffy – who at this point is closer to a sleeping Andrew than Spike ever was.

          If Andrew had been hanging on the wooden cross instead of Spike, the sight might not have been as pretty, but he might have been able to cope better by turning off his mind and retreating into his pop culture happy place to reflect on how this scene would remind him of the cover from one of his favourite issues of the Uncanny X-Men, issue 251 where Wolverine is chained up to a cross-like X.

          Andrew would have voluntarily put himself into a fugue state like in the Summers home, without a spark of consciousness. But for Spike, the spark only burns as the First/Buffy smirks at him, regarding him as little more than a disgusting thing. The Bringers start to crank up the wooden structure until Spike is raised off the ground and tilted towards the seal where Jonathan died.

          Looking carefully at the Seal of Danzathar, it seems to be a series of pictographic symbols connected by a pentagram, an ancient symbol that goes back as far as recorded time. Literally. Pentagrams were found on tablets unearthed at the site of Ur of the Chaldees in 3500BC where Gilgamesh was apparently using it as a symbol of imperial power.

          Ancient Mesopotamia wasn’t the only pentagram-hungry culture, either – the ancient Hebrews saw it as a representation of the Five Books of Moses and the Egyptians a symbol of fertility and the underground womb. Druids also associated it with the underworld and rebirth and Ancient Christians saw it as the Five Wounds of Christ after the Emperor Constantine converted and apparently used it as his official seal.

          In medieval times, the five sides of the pentacle – known as the Endless Knot – represented the five knightly virtues and was placed on doors and windows as a ward against evil spirits. In Gnostic Hermeticism and Alchemy, the pentagram became synonymous with both the microcosmic world of Man and the macrocosmic world of spirit and the elements, the points of the star representing an outstretched man with one star point reaching upwards like a head with legs and arms spread. The star points also represented the five elements – Spirit, Fire, Air, Water, Earth – and the five senses. Pagans saw it as a blending of opposites where the horned God and the Triple Goddess met in harmonic convergence.

          The pentagram was so compelling that an occultist named Éliphas Lévi drew a goat with a pentagram on his forehead in the two-volume bestseller, Dogma and Rituals of High Magic in 1856. It was meant to represent the absolute, the god Pan, the god of philosophy, the god of Neoplatonists, the god of Spinoza and Plato, the god of the Gnostic schools; the God Christ. And like the Big Mac, this combo caught on with devotees and was dubbed the Baphomet Pentagram, the official symbol of the modern Church of Satan.

          Wait! Satan? How did that happen? The pentagram was originally a symbol of eternity, beauty, humanity, spiritualty, fertility…well, when the top of the pentagram had a star pointing upwards. But turn the star around and – Houston, we have a problem.

          The idea that a pentagram could change its fundamental nature and become evil through orientation (sound familiar?) began in the 19th century with the Protestant Witch Hunters who were convinced that the symbols of protection women and men hung on their doors were actually signs of the Devil. The horned god Pan was equated with Satan and the pentagram – especially when turned upside down – suddenly became a symbol of evil for the first time in history. Dubbed the “witch’s foot”, the pentagram was adopted by various organizations eager to devote a lot of time and money to becoming Satan’s most fervent followers, adopting the ideas of the Protestant Witch Hunters.

          Falling in line with 19th century notions of evil, the Seal of Danzathar features an inverted pentagram which is generally associated with the Devil or evil spirits, a ‘sign of the cloven hoof’ or the “Goat of Mendes’ because the star looks like the head of a goat. Sometimes known as Satan, sometimes known as Bahtomet, the combo of goat and pentagram has become a form of occultism representing Satanic Black Magic ever since Stanislas de Guaita published a drawing of a pentagram with a goat-head inside in La Clef de la Magie Noire in 1897 that became the standard “This is SATAN!” black magic icon, with its simple lines and mischievous goat smirking for the camera.

          Baphomet was actually a kind of made-up Satanic deity that was used by enemies of the Knights Templar to smear and break up their order. It’s probable that the name was a corruption of the Prophet Muhammad as 13th century medieval Christians believed that the Islamic religion required cultic worship of Muhammad as a god. Lurid descriptions of orgies and blood sacrifices were all attributed to this supposed demon of chaos and even after the Knights Templar were disbanded, the fear of Baphomet continued with the belief that the secret societies of Freemasonry and the Illuminati were guided by this evil beast with the head of a goat. The Goat of Mendes was considered one of the worst demons of all time, a representation of everything Satanic and evil, leaving a trail of murder, sacrifice and torment behind him.

          The naughty Templars have been villains in various pop culture tales. And one fictional offshoot of the Knights Templar were the titular villains in 2016’s Robin of Sherwood: The Knights of the Apocalypse – the audio drama reunion of the popular 1980s TV series. The leader of the nasty knights Guichard de Montbalm worshipped Baphomet. You’d recognize his voice – as would Buffy and Spike. Anthony Stewart Head plays Montbalm.

          You can hear him very briefly in the sample trailer here:

          There’s practically a small industry devoted to the image of Baphomet and the pentagram, popularized by Dan Brown novels and promoted on rock album covers. From Dungeons and Dragons to Tarot Cards, Baphomet is considered by many to have gotten a kind of rough deal starting with those Witch Hunter jerks. In the 20th century, Wiccas attempted to reclaim the pentagram with two points upwards as the sigil (sign) of the 2nd or 3rd degree of certain Wiccan traditions, although others adhere to a strict “up equals good; down equals bad” cosmology.

          Sometimes people get confused though – as happened with a 1970s comic book character Daimon Hellstrom aka The Son of Satan. (He lost one of the Ls when adapted to the TV series Helstrom that just dropped on Hulu this month.) Created by Roy Thomas and Gary Friedrich in his early appearances, Hellstrom had a split personality. A well-dressed, evil-fighting occulist by day, and a nastier, bare-chested figure by night. To show his evil roots, the Son of Satan had a pentagram birthmark with a single point facing upwards…. Whoops.

          Fans noticed and complained. A few issues later, Marvel Comics – with a demonic assist by Daimon’s daddy Satan -- fixed his star to be the symbol of Baphomet. They also changed his nature, so that Daimon’s dark side would … never leave him.

          In tarot lore, the pentagram or pentacle symbolizes earthly matters, including commerce – and that’s appropriate given how many people have tried cash in on the image these days. They could set up a whole Demon Shopping Channel devoted to Baphomet.

          Sure, there’s your garden variety t-shirt:

          But why stop there?

          For example, say you’ve had a long day doing the Dark Lord’s bidding. Maybe you want to rest your head for a bit. Well, you have an Amazon Prime account, Amazon has the product for you! They’ve even flagged it as Amazon’s Choice.

          Or maybe sleep isn’t your problem. Maybe you’re having trouble staying awake during those long, boring meetings at Wolfram & Hart. Why not keep your coffee or blood in a mug that shows you are evil?

          Sure, vampires aren’t big with Christmas, but what if your Evil Corporation has one of those hell-spawn Secret Santa events? How do you reconcile forced corporate holiday jollity with your commitment to Baphomet? Don’t worry – Amazon has you covered with the evil Santa baseball cap.

          And Amazon assures you that it can be sized for children – perfect for the Lil’ Anti-Christ in your family.

          But how do you show your evil allegiance at the Beach? Why, why not go with the evil beach towel.

          Virginal sacrificial victim not included.

          At least, I don’t think she is.

          And say you’re cooking pizza in a hell-dimension. You don’t want to scorch your hands on the hellfire. Amazon has the Baphomet oven mitts for you.

          And if you want to recharge your phone, there’s a phone charger with the Baphomet pentagram too. But this one lacks the demonic sobriety of your basic black.

          It’s perfect for the unicorn-and-rainbows-loving creature of evil. Harmony has probably bought a dozen of these babies, which is probably why it’s out of stock on Amazon.

          You just know that if Mr. Trick hadn’t been staked back in the early days of Amazon, he’d be the one running this business. Trick could see the internet’s potential for commerce a lot faster than most demons and many humans could.

          So the goat-in-a-pentagram Seal of Danzalthar doesn’t really seem all that scary – certainly, nothing that Spike wouldn’t have seen nightly in his raves at CBGB in the 70s. Maybe he even saw the famous Punk Rock band Pentagram perform – with the famous seal as their logo – during his Nikki Wood days.

          But as interesting as the emblem on the Seal of Danzalthar is, it’s what it represents and what’s beneath it that’s important. There are a lot of fissures in Sunnydale that represent the boundary between the Hellmouth beneath the inhabitants and the human world – but none seem to have as much significance as this particular seal which acts as a literal gateway between one place and the next. The question is - who put it there and what is it connected to?

          It’s evident that the First did not place the seal on the Hellmouth since it’s obviously not in full control of opening and closing this firm barrier between Hell dimensions and this one. Unlike some of the other cracks in the surface, this particular Hell opening seems to be linked to something very old – probably to one of the places that the Old Ones like Ilyria were banished.

          Was it set up by ancient witches/wizards under the direction of the Powers That Be and the Guardians we briefly meet at the end of the season? Was it purposefully or accidentally left closed by the last bad guy who fled this dimension for another? We never quite learn the history – but we eventually learn the purpose. To end the Slayer line and flood the world with evil by inhabiting every single human being.

          To this end, the First seems to have opened the door to another dimension where monstrous creatures lie in wait to overrun the earth once more. All the First needs to do is complete the correct ritual and POP! Goes the Weasel as vampire after vampire pours through the seal. Which brings to mind another question. Why doesn’t the First just open up the seal and let it all hang out? Why not flood the world right away?

          We never really understand the total plan – but it’s obvious that the First has had a premonition or read a prophecy that the Potentials will spoil everything. And so it’s possible that it’s more concerned with taking them all out first before walking his fanged friends outside. And it’s fun to torment and torture while taking its sweet time. After all, the First predates almost everything – so time means nothing to it. And it seems to have no actual shape – just the ability to imitate others as long as they’ve passed through the spirit world of death at least once. The only thing that seems to animate it is animus towards figures that represent all the human virtues.

          So just like Andrew cosplays Spike, the First Evil cosplays the Crucifixion with Spike mockingly placed in the role of Christ. A redeemer played by a murderous, tainted vampire who has the blood of thousands on his hands – the moral opposite of the redemptive figure of Jesus. And what makes it all the more worthwhile is that the vampire in question has a soul – and so he can feel the death of every single one of them.

          The word ‘seal’ itself has several meanings. Putting aside the animal, the idea of something being used as a sealant between things – is actually a late construction from the 12th century where a piece of wax or lead ‘sealed’ up a document. This later led to the idea of an actual metal or cement ‘seal’ that plugged up a hole in the 15th century.

          But the original meaning of ‘seal’ dates back much farther to pre-Indo-European language. It comes from the word for ‘sign’ meaning a mark, token, indication, symbol that is “cut out” or “carved out” from something. Variants of this word are found in both Indo-European and Semitic languages and there is a direct corollary between the idea of a ‘seal’ and a ‘cutting knife’ that creates the impression that conveys an individual symbol in wood, wax, stone and other materials.

          So in a way, the Seal of Danzalthar must be opened through a correspondence between the seal below and the ‘seal’ that is Spike’s body – another barrier – this time of skin – that has been broken with blood dripping through the fissures to open the seal the below.

          So it makes sense that when Spike is fully lifted in the air to hang over the seal, we see that the slashes in his chest aren’t just mark of torture. They’re ritual symbols. As Spike hangs in the air, Buffy Summers looks up at him and smiles at the handiwork of the Bringers.

          FIRST/BUFFY: To be honest, I'm getting a little tired of subtle.

          The sarcasm is a bit heavy-handed here. After all, the First has already been working it with Spike for the past few minutes as a Jesus and Devil cosplay duo. But all thoughts of Spike as a potential audience are waved away as pointless. There’s only one spectator that the First is interested in – Buffy Summers – and outfitted as Buffy herself, the First is dressed to kill.

          The only problem is the tiny little issue with corporality. But that can easily be solved through Spike’s presence. Not that it means Spike himself represents power in any way. Like sex with Buffy, Spike’s only there to be used and then discarded when convenient. There are better choices – and Spike is useful as a walking, talking version of pig’s blood to open the door.

          FIRST/BUFFY: I think it's about time we brought some authority to our presence.

          The First seems to echo here Spike’s very first days in Sunnydale when he challenged the weak leader of the Aurelian clan by barbequing him in mid-air just as weakened souled Spike now dangles from the wooden cross/circle, body helplessly splayed out.

          SPIKE: From now on, we're gonna have a little less ritual.
          Spike slings a meat hook to the top of the cage, grabs a pulley chain and starts raising the cage.
          SPIKE: And a little more fun around here.
          As the cage enters the sunlight and the Anointed One cries out, Spike gives a last final tug on the chain and ties it off. – School Hard

          The First seems to feel the same way – less ritual at this point and more fun coming in a moment. As rivets of thick blood drip on the seal, it starts to light up and the First smiles at Spike with Buffy’s face, realizing that the vampire is finally about to learn something really important.

          Spike looks at the evil version of Buffy with pure hatred in his eyes before he looks down at his blood streaming across the seal.

          The act of blood ritual – using blood to open portal to somewhere else – is common through every culture. Moses sprinkles the blood of sacrificial animals on his people before meeting with the God of Israel in his own land. Odysseus pours blood into the trenches dividing the world from the underworld until spirits come out to speak with him in The Odyssey. The Aztecs required blood to commune with the higher Sun God. In Kenya, Maasai warriors ritually drink blood from open veins of cows after a bloodletting to enable spiritual powers. Blood is often used as ink in talismans and on contracts to ‘seal’ the deal.

          Of course, it was Dawn’s blood in season five that was needed to open the portal between dimensions because she was the key. Spike himself explained the importance of blood as a ritual force.

          XANDER: Why blood? Why Dawn's blood? I mean, why couldn't it be like a lymph ritual?
          SPIKE: 'Cause it's always got to be blood.
          XANDER: We're not actually discussing dinner right now.
          SPIKE: Blood is life, lackbrain. Why do you think we eat it? It's what keeps you going. Makes you warm. Makes you hard. Makes you other than dead. Course it's her blood. – The Gift

          And now it’s Spike’s blood that is being used to open the Hellmouth. Spike’s blood that will enable the First to slaughter Buffy and her friends and all of humanity. As if he hasn’t caused enough chaos and damage already. Buffy should have killed him when he begged her to do so.

          The First is probably reading Spike’s mind at the moment, because it takes Spike’s conversation with Buffy in the basement and flings it back in his face.

          FIRST/BUFFY: Now, Spike, you want to see what a real vampire looks like?

          This callback to the idea of what is the ‘real’ version and what is not has followed Spike throughout his life. It’s no different this time. The First says it with a condescending, almost emasculating tone in the same way that one might use the term ‘real man’ to denigrate a weaker male.

          As the seal begins to shift, the script describes it as opening like the infamous puzzle box in ‘Hellraiser’.

          Spike’s gaze seems to be riveted on the seal below as it continues to open. Does the demonic side of Spike feel any pull at all towards the Hellmouth energy down below? The goat-pentagram folds up and sinks deep into the earth as the rest of the seal folds in on itself.

          The First/Buffy looks down with pride and excitement at the new, fresh Hell it’s bringing forth from beneath the seal.

          And then - a hand emerges.

          It’s a classic horror trope that the show has used time and again to depict things rising from beneath you. We see vampires constantly breaking through the dirt to raise their hands in the air before Buffy pulls them out and stakes them.

          We saw Buffy’s hand burst out of the ground as she fought her way to freedom from her coffin in “Bargaining, Part Two.” And there’s no doubt that Spike has seen his share of undead hand modeling, including his own that he describes to Buffy in “After Life.”

          SPIKE: Her hands.
          Buffy lowers her hands, puts them behind her back, looks uncomfortable.
          DAWN: I was gonna fix 'em. I don't know how they got like that.
          SPIKE: I do. Clawed her way out of a coffin, that's how. Isn't that right?
          BUFFY: Yeah. That's – what I had to do.
          SPIKE: Done it myself. – After Life

          But this is different from any vampire birthing. This hand isn’t digging its way to freedom – its crawling out of a crack like a spider. Spike looks more than concerned – he looks terrified. Maybe it’s because he expects to see the most feral parts of his vampire nature given form.

          The script is pretty blunt about what happens next:

          The Ubervamp comes fully out of the ground, and we're left with a final shot (let's get as much of this as we can -- it should look epic): Spike, nailed to the symbol, bleeding, broken; the First/Buffy looking evil; Bringers spread out, chanting, looking scary; and a crazed, animal Ubervamp standing in the middle of it all.

          Well, the chanting didn’t really make it to the final reel, but the rest sticks fairly close to the script.

          The Ubervamp roars in fury as the First looks on approvingly.

          The script calls the creature an Ubervamp. That’s not a reference to the modern taxi-like service, but uber as in the German word for over, above or beyond. It’s not quite the right direction for a creature which comes from below instead of above. But it’s a play on ubermensch, the Nietzschean ideal so beloved by Nazis. In English, we would translate that phrase as “superman”. Given the English phrases use to describe a upstanding hero, the original German is used to convey a more fascist sense.

          In later episodes the creature will be identified as a Turok-Han, and compared to the vampires of Sunnydale, it seems to be their version of Neanderthals.

          The original shooting script doesn’t give much description of this ancient vampire:

          And then from the depths rises a horrible, terrifying UBERVAMPIRE (details TBD.)

          The ‘details TBD’ ended up looking like this:

          Of course, it’s an homage to Count Orlok from Nosferatu … just as the Master, the Prince of Lies and a certain presidential lawyer are visual callbacks to that classic film.

          But the Ubervamp or Turok-Han also strongly reminded fans of a more recent cinematic threat –Saruman’s cross-breeding of “orcs with goblin men” from The Lord of The Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring by director Peter Jackson which had been released a year before. We saw Lurtz – the leader of the new breed of bad guys emerge from the mud. He was a creation of the movies, to give the Fellowship an identifiable villain to fight in the final scenes.

          Many fans would call this new or rather ancient vampire an uber-orc” or “Uruk-Hai”. There was a perception at the time that perhaps the Buffy creators were jumping on the bandwagon. The second Lord of the Rings film – The Two Towers – was due to be released in a few weeks and the media hype was strong. So was the resemblance between the two.

          But proto-orc or proto-vampire, the First obviously considers the Turok-Han to be far superior to the Next Generation standard issue bloodsucker we see throughout the series. They are impervious to stakes through the heart and are much stronger than your average demon.

          GILES: As Neanderthals are to human beings, the Turok-Han are to vampires. They're primordial, ferociously powerful killing machines, as single-minded as animals. They are the vampires that vampires fear. An ancient and entirely different race. And until this morning, I thought they were a myth – Bring on the Night

          Ah, there’s Giles flaunting that good old Watchers Council tradition of claiming total ignorance of a subject that they were trained their entire lives to understand. They have ONE job. Sorry, I mean they HAD one job.

          Or they must have forgotten to send the memo to Giles. Or maybe the Council really doesn’t have a clear picture of how the original vampires looked and acted. What little Giles tells Buffy is unclear – if the Turok-Han are to vampires what Neanderthals were to human beings, then does that mean that there are more than one species of vampire from the days of the Old Ones? Is that why Spike and Angel look more human? Or were the Turok-Han created from something other than humans?

          Giles’s comparison suggests his knowledge of human evolution is as murky as his knowledge of vampire evolution. Of course there’s much debate about the exact relationship between us and the remains of hominids found in the Neander Valley (or “thal” or “tal”, to use the German word for valley.) They didn’t evolve into us, per se. And yet some modern humans do apparently carry their DNA. There is evidence of them being cannibals but Neanderthals don’t sound as vicious compared to humans as the Turok-Han were compared to vampires.

          The same year that “Never Leave Me” aired, Canadian science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer published Hominids, the Hugo award-winning first novel in his Neanderthal Parallax trilogy, where regular interact with Neanderthals from another dimension where fate took a different path. In this parallel Earth, it’s humans who are mere bones in museums and the Neanderthals who have a thriving and prosperous society. It’s an entertaining sideways glance at a part of human history that we can only guess at. We can only guess at vampire history too.

          We never really get the answers to these questions, but the only time that we ever get an inkling of what it means to be a ‘real’ vampire before this moment is in the Angel TV series when Angel regresses to his demon side while trapped on Pylea, any semblance of the former humanity of Liam stripped away.

          WESLEY: I have a suspicion I may know what. Angel's vampire-self has been sublimated somehow by this dimension.
          He picks up a handful of wet mud and gets ready to smear it over Gunn's scratches. Gunn holds up a hand.
          WESLEY: It's okay.
          Gunn lets him pack the scratches with mud.
          WESLEY: Only his human side has surfaced since we've been here.
          GUNN: You mean being able to walk around in the sun - seeing his reflection, like that?
          WESLEY: Yes. And now, for whatever reason he's accessed his demon, but he can't find the balance he normally would in our world. His demon-self has totally overcome his human side.
          GUNN: So that's what the thing inside of him really looks like?
          WESLEY: In its purest form. – Through the Looking Glass

          Interesting language considering what Glory says about Spike:

          GLORY: This is a vampire. Lesson number one, vampires equal impure.
          SPIKE: Yeah, damn right I'm impure. I'm as impure as the driven yellow snow. Let me go.
          GLORY: You can't even brain-suck a vampire. He's completely useless. – Intervention

          Is Glory referring to all vampires as impure – including the Turok-Han – or only a modern vampire like Spike? Is there an evolutionary aspect to vampires where siring takes its toll, leading to increasingly weaker versions of the original demon?

          Like most who adhere to ancient lore, the First seems to see the history of the vampire from the classical sense of four ages – A Golden Age of Evil where the Old Ones reigned that was followed by a Sliver Age of Turok-Han and then to the Bronze Age and finally, to the pathetic Age of Iron where a vampire falls so low that he wins back his soul for the love of a Slayer.

          DEMON: You were a legendary dark warrior, and you let yourself be castrated. And you have the audacity to crawl in here and demand restoration?
          SPIKE: I'm still a warrior.
          DEMON: You're a pathetic excuse for a demon. – Villains
          As always, the First knows exactly how to torment his victims with echoes of the past.

          MASTER/FIRST: The next few months are going to be quite a ride. And I think we're all going to learn something about ourselves in the process. You'll learn you're a pathetic schmuck, if it hasn't sunk in already. Look at you. Trying to do what's right, just like her. – Lessons

          So, when the First taunts Spike with the idea that he’s never seen a REAL vampire before, it’s a direct reference to Spike claiming that Buffy had never met the REAL Spike.

          SPIKE: Do you have any idea what I'm capable of?
          BUFFY: I was in the cellar with you. I saw what you did.
          SPIKE: I'm not talking about the cellar. The people in the cellar got off easy. I'm talking about me. Buffy, you have never met the real me.

          Who is the ‘real’ Spike? He’s evil – but what is he compared to the Turok-Han – or the First?
          It’s a mocking echo of Spike’s words. The First Evil is scoffing at Spike’s pathetic attempts to make Buffy dust him based on his history of raping, torturing and murdering humans. But that’s child’s play to the First Evil – try closer to a genocide or a massacre of millions if you want to win a kewpie doll for the lady.

          But Spike from the beginning has always been beset by insecurities that he’s never quite real enough to measure up to the standards of the person he loves. Not a real poet to Cecily, not a real demon to Drusilla and certainly not a real man to Buffy. There’s always a sense within that Spike is lacking somehow – that he doesn’t deserve what he wants – and in return, Spike often settles for less.

          SPIKE: Some say it's better than the real thing.
          WARREN: Better than the real thing. – Intervention

          Despite Spike’s aspirations as a poet, he was considered a failure by his peers. Spike tried to be a dutiful son, but his mother-turned-demon lambasted him for being too much of a mamma’s boy. Spike blustered and bragged of his evil deeds as a soulless vampire, but Angelus and Drusilla always made him feel second-rate, pushing him to accomplish even more monstrous deeds to prove himself. Spike tried to change for love of Buffy, but she and the Scooby Gang refused to accept even the smallest evidence that Spike was anything other than a ‘thing.’

          It’s not a wonder that when Buffy sees Spike in school basement for the first time since his return from Africa that her question sets off a bout of hysterical laughter.

          BUFFY: Spike? Are you real? – Lessons

          With his new soul, Spike is even more certain that he’s not anything of the sort – he’s destined to always be a shadow of the genuine article no matter how hard he tries.

          FRED: I've been working on a theory. Well, more of a hunch, actually, but I think I'm getting close.
          SPIKE: To making me a real boy again?
          FRED: As real as a vampire with a soul can be. – Hellbound

          But all the bluster in the world can’t cover up Spike’s insecurities that he’ll never be anything ‘real’ enough to satisfy himself, no matter how hard he tries to fool people.

          SPIKE: You've had your turn, luv. Leave the real violence to the demons, yeah? – Beneath You

          Spike’s fighting words to Buffy that cover up his new soul in “Beneath You” take on another meaning here as the First implies that Spike isn’t a ‘real’ demon at all. It’s not just the sight of the Turok-Han that has Spike contorting his face in fear and pain. It’s the feeling of inadequacy once again. He almost died to regain his soul and yet Spike is still a pathetic monster who can’t even protect the woman he loves, almost draining her in the basement. He deserves to die. Spike is nothing.

          And yet –

          BUFFY: Be easier, wouldn't it, it if were an act, but it's not. You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man.
          SPIKE: Buffy –
          BUFFY: And you can be. You are.

          Maybe Spike isn’t a ‘real’ vampire. Or a poet. Or a lover. But Buffy said that he was a man. A better man.

          BUFFY: You may not see it, but I do. I do. I believe in you, Spike.

          The First thinks it can control Spike as before, using Spike's feelings about his mother, Drusilla, Buffy and those he cares about to manipulate Spike and force him to do his bidding. It mocks Spike for being a pale imitation of the Big Bad vampire Spike’s blood has released from the Hellmouth. But there’s one big difference between then and now. Spike knows that Buffy – the real, not-so-pleasant Buffy – believes in him.

          If Spike can hold onto that thought, keep it from never leaving him, maybe he can withstand the First’s deceptions. And just maybe, that’s enough to save the world.
          Last edited by PuckRobin; 31-10-20, 08:14 PM.


          • debbicles
            debbicles commented
            Editing a comment
            Fabulous. Thank you.

        • Bravo—


          • Really pleased to have carved out time today to watch the episode so will look to weave in reading through PuckRobin 's review this week before BotN is posted this coming weekend.

            There's always something soothing about getting to pop on the DVDs and switch off to everything apart from revisiting this world full of characters and stories that I love.


            • Some initial responses...

              PuckRobin I love the continuation of the theme of the whodunit with NLM the final part of the trilogy. I have never heard of the Ellery Queen mysteries, so that was really amusing to see. Particularly how he questions all possibilities to the viewer, after having just said he knows who did it.

              Having not been in fandom when the show aired it was interesting to read about the speculation that happened over the season's big bad. Again, with no AtS episode alongside yet the thematic ties still lend weight from Apocalypse Nowish into the threats being faced and the truth being hidden. But as more comes to be understood in this episode in the culmination of the whodunit, knowledge of the danger being planted within the group by The First with Spike's trigger, representative of how all their inner fears have been preyed upon, it brings the Scooby gang further forwards in understanding what they're facing this season than the fang gang have been left at.

              Jonathan was a delightful character in Buffy. Actor Danny Strong brought a lot to the part, and the writers responded by transforming him from a comic victim figure in the background of season two to one of the Big Bads, and a Big Bad with a genuine redemptive arc.

              I've never been shy in cheerleading for Jonathan's story across the show. I think it says a lot about the cohesion they manage to create in the writing that they could draw a character from the background to reappear and reflect the episode specific stories at varying points. But by bringing him forward more in the last two seasons (however briefly in S7), he also then echoes a lot of the show's overall themes as he starts to look to become his best self. We've seen his experiences and struggles and understand him. Doing this with a background character just adds depth to the show I think. Even though Jonathan's story ends here in tragedy, it ends whilst heading towards a more positive path, a turn towards redemption and positive use of power and his journey enriches the show.

              Betrayal and loneliness are themes that recur throughout the episode and touch on many characters.

              That the episode starts with emphasis to this in the 'previously on' flows so well into using Dawn at the start of the teaser. With all the destabilising experiences she has been through, as you considered, uncertainty radiates off her at the moment. All of which really brings forward the importance that the connections between the characters has through this season. How the choices taken are in part a response to the influences around them now as well as from the past.

              It's interesting that betrayal in the lyrics of the trigger song is spoken of as deceit, "Oh, don't deceive me". And that ties into the negative manipulations that The First favours to try and break the positive connections between people and make self-doubt and fears destructive. To deceive is defined as, 'keeping the truth hidden' and the act being to cause, 'someone to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid'. The truth of what lies beneath them connects to what lies behind the lies and manipulations that are meant to weaken them.

              Perhaps Dawn is thinking of the old horror movie trope. They haven’t locked the monster out. They’ve locked inside with them.

              I think the way that they use Dawn to keep questioning Spike this season, someone who used to be so positive about him, is done well. It is a disappointment to some viewers in seeing the gulf between them when there used to be that brotherly/guardian vibe at its best. But I think it actually works for another aspect to showing a serious response to all that happened since early S6. Dawn has a lot of reasons to be uncertain towards Spike and angry. As much as it is also a shame that the final season never saw them reconciled, it works better to take seriously the events that passed and how some things aren't easy to work beyond. That the comics actually kept this standoffishness through S9 and it wasn't until S10 that they reconnected I think worked really very well overall.

              I agree that they offset this understandable perspective with Willow's. Coming from the point of view of having lost control at the end of S6 and struggling still herself with the power within her, she looks at the situation with Spike from a different vantage point. The parallel aspects of Spike and Willow's paths this season, also Buffy's, in their internal balance and fears about themselves works really well when placed with a different point of view and Dawn here offers that.

              Willow herself felt so isolated that her magic apparently fractured space and time to separate her. The line “Never Leave Me” could apply to Willow’s insecurity regarding her friends.

              Neat, I really like this. Looking back at STSP calls to mind how the fear of power and what it means for them does cause these emotional separations, literally manifested. As you say, loneliness is a theme through the season and those fears often come with a sense of separation. Even in a house that gets increasingly more busy!

              Her past experiences inform Anya’s resentment, but she doesn’t seem repentant at this point for her demon days. For her, perhaps, Anya the Demon is “of the past”.

              Anya comes off really poorly here as the two situations are very different. Anya was a demon again and fully cognizant of the choices she was making. I think it works believably though that Anya doesn't become instantly regretful when she is first returned to being a human after Selfless. As she did choose to be a vengeance demon, twice, knowing what she was opting for, there has always been a side to her personality that handles bitter emotions badly. Her poor attitude at several points towards others after Selfless I think reflects that insecurity about her place that she has always held, but was greatly mollified before by her relationship with Xander. Now she is more adrift within the group and so she is more inclined to lash out defensively and be resentful despite the fact she is being supported and given another chance herself.

              It works well I think against your suggestions that Xander's more measured response is grounded in learning from his own past experiences too.

              It’s like their heads are buried in the sand – as Anya points this out. Both Xander and Willow react – Willow with that strange poker face of hers.

              It feels like they are deliberately using William the Bloody to try to create an unsouled reference for Spike like the 'us' in Angelus. As you say, like a psychological way to separate him then and now. Here of course Anya is, like Dawn, serving to provide the balancing concern of whether that separation is warranted. Because as much as Buffy feels certainty that Spike was being influenced, who 'souled Spike' really is, is something they can't be sure of yet.

              Angel they knew when he was souled first. The biggest fears on his return in S3 focused on whether he and Buffy would get too close again. That was the threat. They may have known Spike for a lot of years unsouled and known him willing to fight alongside them, but souled Spike is a new entity. Perhaps William the Bloody is a moniker that comes from the original human he was, perhaps a human known for violence (rather than the truth that instead it was because of his crimes against poetry). They don't know what difference the soul will make. As Dawn fairly raised at the start of the season, a soul doesn't stop people doing bad things.

              And we've seen Spike's own fears and worries. His struggle on where the line is on who he was and who he can be. This isn't something with an easy answer and this episode won't be the only one that explores it. But Buffy has been closer to Spike than the others in the last few years and her perspective on him and his potential will become key. Not only to the support he's given, but also, returning to influences and connections, in how he perceives himself and the possibility of having worth and purpose. The impact of emotions a big part of considering all these connections.

              The walls of Buffy’s home or the mystic seals over the Hellmouth keeps the forces of evil locked up tight.

              I really like this consideration and how well it works with the ideas of what is contained within and, as you say, how The First looks to break down defences.

              But the song lyric immediately before “Oh, never leave me” is “Oh, don’t deceive me.” It is a song about deception and people who are not as they appear.

              And of course it works not only for how The First is manipulating them and their own fears of what the truth is, but in how people can fool themselves too. Andrew having always been a character that lives under the shield of imagined truths and self-deception.

              Very amused by your comparison of Andrew's reveal with John Travolta's strutting walk. Really interesting thoughts about the desired transference of people adopting others' styles. It is amusing how Andrew is arguably impersonating Spike, someone who very much constructed his image to outwardly recreate himself.

              How much the outward reflects what is within, shields it or is a mixture of both works well alongside the self identity issues we so often see woven through characters facing such self-identity and image crises.

              Now, if we were to take Morphy’s words at face value, the entity is more than just copying dead people. It is the actual dead person as well, or is it just plundering the memories of the dead?

              It always seems to me that there's an access all areas level that The First gains when impersonating those who died. So, as you say, using their memories. But with that comes knowledge of their pasts, strengths and weaknesses. From there it is a matter of manipulation and what best serves their goal. So the truth can help, as can manipulation and deceit and mixing them all together helps to unnerve. A point raised by Anya in Sleeper about the truth often being effective too.

              Instead it seems like Morphy is using the memories of the dead person to play a part.

              Exactly. It is all a means to the end they desire. I like your reflection back to Giles' initial description of vampires.

              This evasion of Andrew’s will reach its ultimate conclusion in “Storyteller.” Does Andrew truly object to “wet works” being done? Or does he just object that he’s the one to do them. Does he object to blood being spilled or just blood on his hands...
              Here’s the thing though. Andrew is dressed up like he’s supposed to be evil. The Big Bad. Like Spike. Or possibly Tucker. He’s the dangerous villain of the tale.

              And yet the Star Wars references in this scene and back in “Conversations with Dead People” are to the actions of the heroic characters – to the Rebel Alliance, not Darth Vader and the Empire. Does Andrew want to be the hero or the villain?
              Great catch. I think Andrew is looking to be accepted and belong. There's more similarities between him and William than just the belief a coat will go a long way towards helping create the persona you want to present.

              The true Jonathan would not advocate murder. The true Jonathan would … maybe not perfectly … advocate for moral responsibility. And as Andrew continues to protest, maybe he’s taken on a bit of the morality of the true Jonathan.

              In the quote you gave, as The First!Jonathan is trying to sway Andrew, he makes a reference to pain in the context of high school. "It's kinda like when I used to get ulcers in high school, only at the end I became one with Light and Hope." I think this really plays on Andrew's sense of isolation and is using his connection, his history to Jonathan, in a very clever manipulation. He's reminded of the pain and distress of being rejected in school, what presumably gave Jonathan ulcers, and what probably is what threw The Trio together. So in his desire to be comforted, to be absolved and assured he didn't do something terrible, to continue to ignore (for now) that he killed his best friend, he turns to lean on the illusion of Jonathan instead. Even though this simultaneously underlines his loss and the cost of his actions.

              He still holds firm on not killing. Perhaps it’s this moment here that shows redemption for Andrew is truly possible.

              Subconsciously I think Andrew is deeply traumatised by what he has done to Jonathan and the revulsion and inability to murder again is directly connected to that internal rejection of being bad. Which ties well to your observation that he keeps trying to turn references towards more positive ones.

              This moment touches on the big elephant in the room – the attempted rape. When Buffy pleaded with Spike to stop, and he didn’t until she stopped him.

              This is an interesting suggestion. It isn't something I'd thought of as being referenced here but I can see that under the surface they'll be concerned with boundaries, uncertainty and where the lines of the relationship are.

              I think there is also the play of how Spike is responding to the danger he poses now in allowing that brief uncertainty on what is he going to say. Will he finished by telling her that she can trust that he's safe, or is he worried he'll escape? As it turns out, it is his inner fears of himself that are on his mind. And perhaps even that desire to be punished that we've seen repeatedly, to be seen as bad as he feels he is.

              I think it was a good move to take out the more suggestive phraseology they originally had that you quoted. Making it sound like he might be going for innuendo doesn't fit his mood or where they are together here. It isn't part of what's happening, it would have been odd, and I feel would have derailed the focus on that underlying uncertainty around him. Even if there was an intention to allude to their problematic past within the scene too, that wasn't the way.

              This fear of himself and the power that he has being misused does definitely again tie well to the history between himself and Buffy, and the major theme of the season. The abuse of power is also another factor that works well with the earlier transition to Andrew after mentioning William the Bloody and then now, in the transition to Robin, whose story ties to the fallout of the danger Spike has been in the past.

              I really liked your analysis of Wood's scene with the students. I think one of the other differentiating factors between Robin and Sunnydale High's previous two principals is charisma. He is someone the students are more likely to look up to rather than just fear because of the power he has over them. Yet it plays a real part of how he's able to manipulate them so well.

              It is a great scene to then transition into Buffy talking to Travers I agree, what with the power play established between them in the past. As you say, Travers is defaulting here, trying to control things and withhold details, consistently unpleasant rather than varying his approach as Wood did. As both he and Buffy don't tell each other what they know it emphasises separation rather than the understanding and desired result Wood just achieved. Another compare and contrast on the connections people make and how they influence others, or don't.

              Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
              Maps take a complex reality and simplify it to preserve – or even heighten -- the essential meaning of what they represent. They ensure that you see the forest, not just a bunch of trees. Maps represent, record and communicate a vision of the world. Maps craft a reality we achieve in no other way. We are always mapping the invisible or unattainable.

              The use of maps here is very interesting in drawing the lines around the world when we see the focus normally on what is happening in Sunnydale alone. Emphasising that the Council is viewing globally and that the threat is likely connected worldwide of course has been shown in the different potentials being chased down already and Willow's assertions of everything being connected. But it is a wider view those in Sunnydale don't currently have. It's also an interesting factor against all the other examples of seeing, what is seen and what is hidden, that are featuring in the season.

              Then we cut back to Buffy’s room – Spike is still tied up in a chair. He’s twisting his head, sniffing and grunting. We’ve seen Spike depressed before. We’ve seen him hurt before. He was starving away in “Pangs”. This isn’t starvation though. This is something else...
              Spike – like Angel before him – is locked in a power struggle with his vampiric nature. It’s Spike’s mind and soul vs. his animal instincts and bloodlust.
              It is hard to totally reason through how Spike is behaving here. As you say, we've seen him starving before and he's been more in control. Likening his behaviour to Angel's return from hell is really very interesting. It does have notes of that more feral response, the animalistic side rising more to the fore than we normally see.

              With Angel it is easy to consider that the more human side of him was probably withdrawn as a way of dealing with the torture of being in hell over such a long period. The animalistic drives focus on physical survival become front and centre. Spike is more lucid, but the points when the more feral elements win dominance could also be partly with the withdrawal from dealing with his current emotional horrors, beyond just losing to a rising animalistic drive for blood. 'Within' it isn't all about hunger although outwardly what is left is as you say, " a beast with little identity beyond a need for blood."

              So this isn't the celebration of feeling the strength of his animalistic drives and physical power. This is distressing as it is going against his will and control. Spike was greatly motivated to get his soul because he saw that what he wanted to be, someone Buffy could want and need, was out of his reach because he couldn't walk the line from free will alone. Getting his soul, although it was greatly a self-destructive choice, was still making his own decision to change to reach for something he wanted.

              This lack of control here touches back towards what had him so depressed in Doomed (will have him so again at the start of AtS 5), that lack of ability to affect things around him. The combination of the struggle with the memories of what he's done and the fear from the knowledge of control being taken from him must be very traumatic. That he can't just assert control now really underlines how much of a literal struggle must be happening for him within.

              It’s not hunger that Spike is suffering from. He’s not the sickly, starving creature we saw in “Pangs”. It is withdrawal from quitting cold turkey from his weeks long blood-fest. For three years Spike had been feeding on animal’s blood – sometimes mixed with Weetabix – and then suddenly he was having more human blood than he ever had in his bad old days.

              Certainly the physical side is being shown as 'more' than normal. Spike's souled journey so far has been peppered with struggling to face reality and guilt. The internal battle of coming to terms with his soulless past has made feeling any balance or certainty in how he can move onwards impossible at times and made keeping a grip on reality at points impossible too. The manipulations whispered away at him by The First certainly added in another layer. So the withdrawal in the basement greatly displayed the emotional traumas he was already struggling with. This is coupled now with further trauma in the knowledge of the deaths he has now been responsible for, deaths he caused with his soul. All of these factors I think play into how the drive for blood, the withdrawal aspects of that, actually result in these momentary loses. Of course, this must then in itself add to the distress and the cycle that he's battling with.

              Buffy says she’ll be okay. We’ll see other characters later in this episode lie when they claim to be fine. While Buffy draws strength from her friends, there’s always a part of her that she feels she can’t share...
              But Buffy puts up barriers of her own – to keep the emotional toll her responsibilities take on her from spilling forth and affecting her friends.
              This is a great follow on from what we've just seen with Spike and the idea of these layered pressures and influences that shape and affect the characters. The cut then to Warren's assurances to Andrew about the pig not feeling a thing, which we know is a lie, again presents the themes of influence and deceit.

              Somewhere in his time at the original Sunnydale High Andrew must have taken an English class where they broke down the three initial conflicts in a story. Man vs. Man (Wood getting the better of his students, Buffy and Travers verbally sparring), Man vs. Himself (Spike struggling with his bloodlust) and Man vs. Nature. Nature in the form of the pig looks pretty cute actually.

              The episode’s title “Never Leave Me” refers in part to how one’s past never leaves, and these two are haunted by a shared past.

              Oh I really like this! Not just for the emphasis of connections again, but the ties to their history together. I've never thought of linking the title to someone's past. Even though that has been such a fundamental theme from the very start of the season. Indeed flagged as something to look for from episode one where Buffy trains Dawn and we see them returning to the past setting of high school with the focus on the notion of Lessons underscored hence forth. Kudos (and doh to me!).


              • I'm aware that I haven't finished reading NLM and BotN is due today. I apologise to ghoststar and everyone else for creating an overlap when there has been plenty of time between reviews. I can only say that I will endeavour to complete PuckRobin 's excellent review in the next few days and have assured ghoststar that they should just post when ready and not wait on me. Sorry again for the overlapping.

                I will use this post as a placeholder for further responses on NLM and hopefully that will help to limit if not entirely avoid the disruption/overlapping within the thread itself.


                • PuckRobin

                  I must second Stoney here: between anxiety
                  over the election and other obligations, I have
                  not yet had time to read, mush less respond...

                  Shall try my best to do both soon...



                  • I've had a very enjoyable morning looking through another couple of the parts of NLM. Some more thoughts follow, with others to come soon.

                    Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
                    Warren was the most evil of the Trio. And even the Trio paled next to the might of Dark Willow.
                    In terms of power? Yes, for sure. In evilness? I think Warren outstripped Willow. Even though she ended up in world ending territory, she was running on blind grief that definitely released an extreme loss of control, but was more specific and temporary. Warren was far more deliberately, consistently, consciously evil and callous.

                    It’s also why she’s more intimidating than Andrew’s attempted bluff. Andrew tries to make himself forget the bad things he does. But Willow’s past actions haven’t left her. She’s in no denial about the darkness within.
                    This is great, particularly after your point that they have both killed another member of the original trio. (really looking forward to your review of Storyteller )

                    I'm quite surprised the original script considered Willow going darker with what she says to Andrew at this point. It would have made her look far more on the edge of losing control for just the surprise of seeing him to push her so easily, rather than struggling with the actual use of power itself. Again I think the choice they went for works better with where she is generally in terms of what she is struggling with. I wonder if they had originally considered having her be more precarious overall?

                    It’s clear that Season Seven is all about redemption. The joke is that even as Buffy fights off the Big Bad, her house is full of villains who in other seasons would be the bad guys the Scoobys were fighting. It becomes even more of a Halfway House for Former Legion of Doom members when Faith arrives.
                    I've never thought about this element of those gathering at Chez Summers. But yes, it works well in a season that is looking at the positive use of power that we can see so many people that are walking a path of redemption. That Andrew is brought in really does indicate he's going to be drawn into the good guys' influence and choose a more positive direction. Even if he does remain an outsider to the group albeit on the inside for a while, with characters like Anya providing a prickly presence with her mix of solidarity and resentment, he should soon feel quite at home.

                    Is the headquarters of the Legion of Doom deliberately made to look like a squashed Darth Vader head?

                    One of the reasons that Buffy is the hero of the show is because she allows all of these repentant villains to live in her home even though she’s battled all of them at one time or another. Not because they deserve it but because they need it...
                    And Willow, Spike, Anya, Faith and Andrew need to know that someone believes in their possible redemption even when they are at their most despairing like Spike at the end of this episode. And that belief then allows them to forgive not only themselves, but each other.
                    This. Buffy's capacity for forgiveness when she can see people trying is huge. Yes Anya bristles and is even ungrateful at points, but her choice to lose her powers and undo what she did in Selfless was what Buffy responds to.

                    Often these interrogations are conducted in a special room, where observers can watch through special two-way mirror. Andrew is placed in 1630 Revello Drive’s Holding Cell #2. Better known to viewers as Dawn’s bedroom.
                    The interrogation taking place in such a warm, character filled room, as opposed to an empty police interrogation room, works so well in an episode that is exposing what is under the surface and rejecting surface presentations. Andrew's coat being stripped from him and stomped on is a great precursor to the group peeling away the layers of evil and image that Andrew has tried to wear.

                    Following the clear presentation of an affected image that Andrew gave at the start of the episode it is interesting to consider the different viewpoint that Spike currently has towards his duster as you underlined. His need to push it away and the desire to not be connected further to who he was. Andrew is needing a bit of a nudge in the right direction and this stripping away of something he'd been encouraged to use to become what The First needed is great. I really like the emphasis on how things seem with Xander and Anya taking on these created personas/roles themselves and how it all links to the influence of others as they try to gain the information from Andrew.

                    But there’s a different kind of pretense going on in Buffy’s room where Spike is tied up. He’s trying desperately not to let Buffy see the monster within, to see how weak he truly is and how little control he has over himself. With the chip, Spike was incapable of killing humans, but he was still able to maintain control over his image. With his soul, Spike believed it was impossible that he could kill and Buffy was wrong about him siring Holden. Because he’d changed. Now, he’s been proven wrong and the soul almost seems like a pointless quest, a pathetic attempt to become a man that’s ended in disaster because of his need to hunt, to kill, to drink human blood.
                    I think Buffy's presence is a factor that makes what he is going through harder in some ways, but the focus for Spike is very much on his internal worries, the lack of control and fears of himself, who he is now. I do agree that the humiliation of it will be impacting how he is feeling for sure, but he possibly just sees that as the least he deserves, as full of loathing as he is towards himself and guilt for what has happened in the distant and now recent past too.

                    Nice link back to Something Blue and I enjoyed reading your consideration for why this is something Buffy is so matter of fact about.

                    As a bit of an aside, I find the idea of Spike neatly feeding from the bottom of a bulging bag of blood a bit ridiculous. I can't see how that wouldn't be going everywhere.

                    The bathroom of the Summers’ home is, in cop parlance, the scene of the crime. Spike’s big crime – his attempted rape of Buffy. After seeing a feral Spike, Buffy has come to the place where she last saw soulless Spike. Maybe as she rubs her neck, she’s thinking of past times.
                    Huh, I'd never even registered they were in the bathroom there.

                    I like your thoughts around the varying factors at play when Buffy returns to speak to Spike. Their history is there but Spike's difficulties facing his current situation, let alone provide information about what has been happening, is the context they are in too as they try to communicate.

                    Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
                    In fact, what Spike is describing sounds like the psychological state Stoney talked about in her brilliant season six rewatch review of “After Life,” a state that Buffy knew well after digging out of her own grave. Depersonalization Disorder (DPD), is a very serious mental health state that involves a certain level of disassociation from oneself because of severe trauma. Sometimes it gives you a sense of watching yourself, or acting like a robot while going through the motions. In the magic-filled Buffyverse with its possessions and body-swaps, it is a bit more literal than in our world. In fact, you could say soulless vampires are the ultimate expression of feeling like a robot. Or it would be if the original soul was present and conscious of what was happening.

                    I find the sense of separation and connection the souled vampires feel to their soulless selves as fascinating as the same between the soulless vampire to the human they were. Each state is meaningfully distinct and yet the character is coherent across it all. That the souled vamps literally have the memories of doing these things, even if they are acts they would never commit themselves, must be very confusing. That they still have that demonic side of themselves that craves and desires the violence and blood too, I can imagine adds just a further layer that makes it difficult to work out where the boundaries lie of who you are. Likening it to a state of disassociation connected to trauma is really interesting.

                    As you say, although Spike is feeling very negatively about who he is and we'll see this starkly at the end of the episode, so much of how he is responding is because of the difference in him now and how deeply he feels about everything.

                    In “Out of my Mind” and “Smashed”, Spike took great delight in the thought that his chip – the thing that had kept him in check for seasons – was gone or stopped working. He relished the thought of being able to hunt and kill without the searing pain. But now, he tosses off that revelation matter-of-factly as Buffy had asked the question. In fact, he seems almost regretful that it still doesn’t work because people have died. All of which makes Buffy realize that it’s likely he honestly didn’t know.
                    And of course it's significant because he had done nothing to try to test the chip, he doesn't desire to get back the power he once brutally wielded. It is actually another factor that underlines how absent Spike is from the acts that have been taking place. We've debated on and off how the chip works and what triggers it to fire, but some connection to Spike's thoughts, intent and perceptions seems to be a factor. For Spike to be able to kill numerous people without the chip firing means it is either not functioning, he thought his victims weren't human or he wasn't conscious for the acts.

                    It’s sad to think that Spike had forgotten what human existence was like. But then he only spent between 25-30 years as a human, and over 120 years as a soulless vampire. His past humanity would be a distant memory, and one filtered through his much longer experiences as a murderous demon.
                    It's a great point that memory fades and his interpretation of what he does remember now is coming from such a distance. When I first saw the show there were points I was dubious about soulless Spike's inability to see how his behaviour came across. That he couldn't see why suggesting he should be praised for not feeding off disaster victims was ridiculous. But it really isn't that surprising when you consider that everything he remembers from being human he is not only distanced from but trying to understand as a demon. Now he's resouled that doesn't mean he'll instantly feel like he's human again and be reconnected to all that he was back in the 1800s. He's still a demon too and it is still over a century ago. Deciding he may have just forgotten how difficult it was to be souled isn't hard to accept.

                    The tension between Buffy wanting information and Spike's need to play down his quest to be souled because of how he now views himself, results in a really interestingly nuanced scene. The eventual reveal that Spike is greatly responding now to a newly acquired level of self-disgust suggests that as much as everything romantic is still all about Buffy for him, the newly souled Spike is also responding more widely to others that he affects and that significantly impacts how he feels too.

                    The actual phrase ‘moonbeams and pennywhistles’ doesn’t seem to have an origin in any poem, nursery rhyme or lyrics that I could find. There is only one reference I could find and it’s regarding Victorian children’s literature – a mention of the moonbeams-and-pennywhistle aspects of fantastical tales of the time. So I’m assuming that it’s a Victorian phrase that evokes childhood flights of fancy for William Pratt, a namby-pamby view of the soul as a precious and wonderful thing – a far cry from the darkness and self-loathing that emanates from his actual soul.
                    I like that this has even a loose connection to Spike's human origination. It works well with the simplicity of which soulless Spike thought that becoming souled would 'fix' things. He didn't know what he'd be getting but that it might achieve what he wanted for himself. The determination and willingness to change fuelled something that was an incredible choice for him to make, but there was a self-focus bound into it too. For the reality of being souled to be so much more deeply affecting, more impactful for him personally then he could have envisaged works well with more of a fantasy notion, a perceived romantic quest. The brutal reality of how it would change him and give him morality that vastly altered how he sees himself and his past wasn't at all expected.

                    But perhaps the clearest explanation of these feelings is what he said to Willow and Buffy in “Normal Again”, the first time he saw them after the failed wedding.
                    XANDER: I know that I'm a better person with her in my life. But things got so complicated with the wedding, and with my family, and with her ... demons, and ... what if it all goes to hell, a-and forever? But then I left ... and ever since ... I've had this painful hole inside. And I'm the idiot that dug it out.
                    I hadn't thought before how this follows on really well from Spike's confession to Buffy about how becoming souled has affected him. The consequences and sense of literal change that comes through experiences feeds well into the season theme of learning from the past. The way both characters are talking of such a core change within themselves consecutively like this is excellent.

                    Xander’s rapid change in tone to his story recalls a similar comic beat in “Crush” where Spike is telling Dawn a scary story.
                    Xander's switch to the literal and the reference to intestines also brings to mind Anya's desire for Xander to be in actual physical pain in Entropy when he talked of the way he was feeling and she wishes it was affecting him more directly, "ANYA: (confused) I ... I wish you had tentacles where your beady eyes should be! I wish your intestines were tied in knots and ripped apart inside your lousy gut!"

                    I really like your observations about the immediate shift in tone and temperament of Spike when Buffy reenters the room, he is somehow absent although he appears coherent.

                    More soon.


                    • I'm just placing another holding post to try to reduce the overlapping in the thread itself. ghoststar was in touch yesterday and was having some difficulty posting BotN, but hopefully we'll get that solved asap.


                      • Originally posted by PuckRobin
                        In the next shot, we see that Morphy has accomplished all that he set out to do. He has broken down the walls of the interrogation cells into one giant room where the two suspects are placed side by side – and only one is found wanting. All four humans are gathered on one side, Buffy, Anya and Xander checking out Andrew to see if he is okay after the attack.
                        I just assumed that The First was trying to get Spike to kill Andrew before he gave away too many details to the good guys. It seems surprising that just distrust towards Spike would be worth clearly using the trigger again, as distrust and uncertainty towards him is already somewhat the situation since Sleeper. It also is using up the potential surprise attack Spike can be used for by flagging what a ticking time bomb he is too.

                        It could be that The First is trying to make sure the group turns from Spike and doesn't trust him, possibly dusts him even. It feels a little like trying to tidy up the mess its pet projects are turning into as both are close to giving details away that might help Buffy figure out what is happening. So Spike kills Andrew, which leads to Buffy killing Spike.

                        It could be about getting that psychological division as you suggest. Maybe wanting them to feel unnerved at the potential enemies within their own group and making sure Spike is more unsettled and disoriented as well as increasing separation. But I think silencing Andrew has to be a key part as The First is giving quite a lot away through this.

                        In “Becoming”, Buffy realizes that Angel’s soul has been returned to him despite not knowing that Willow has been working to re-ensoul him (thanks to Xander’s ‘Kick his Ass’ line). Yet, Buffy senses that Angel has changed and is not the man she was fighting a moment before and treats him with tenderness.

                        In “Never Leave Me”, Buffy is aware that Spike is having blackouts in which he’s unknowingly killing. Or at least, that’s what Spike has told her. We the viewer have seen Morphy singing its song to Spike and encouraging Andrew to buy leather dusters and kill pigs. Buffy hasn’t seen that. Yet, she seems to ignore that he has changed shortly afterwards and seems to be as bewildered as her about what just happened and brutally kicks him in the face.
                        I think the situations are just very different. The unpredictability with Spike is key here. They don't know why he is turning and killing and so despite seeming to be back to himself again she can't assume he's not still a threat. Buffy keeps more distance from him by walking up and kicking him to knock him out. If she'd reached down to punch him she would have compromised her centre of balance and moved closer to him. It is brutal and it does feel somewhat cruel, but I think it is mostly expeditious and the safest option.

                        She is clearly grim about the situation overall though and yes, there is probably some degree of frustration mixed in too. Whether it is just current or fuelled in part by their history is hard to say. But that is also very different from the emotional moment of Angel's soul returning after months because of the very different foundation, the relationship they had before she suddenly lost him.

                        Xander speaks of Andrew as if he were a child, or perhaps a dog that needs one of those huge neck collars to keep from scratching itself. It’s funny in some ways, but also makes the Scoobies seem like exclusive jerks.
                        I can see your later point that after the fallout from S6's actions of The Trio, not remembering Andrew's name still doesn't feel right. Here I actually think the joke of not remembering who Andrew is serves to bring emphasis to him as an outsider and it informs the way that Xander then speaks about him. Later when the joke is used again, when Buffy is tending to Spike in the basement, it groups Spike more with the gang rather than outside of it with Andrew, despite the response at the time to his feral attack on Andrew that just occurred.

                        Of course Andrew is only one of a number of murderers currently under the Summer's roof. But what he doesn't benefit from that Willow, Spike and Anya do, is a past relationship with other members of the group that gives them wider context, interest or investment in him. Even with more current uncertainty hanging over Buffy and Spike, there is a lot of history there and they've been interacting for weeks at this point. How they were towards him when he was first found in the basement and during episodes such as STSP was far more distanced too and probably more similar to this dehumanising of Andrew.

                        Or maybe Willow is thinking about how “fine” or “good” are used as quick responses from those with depression, anxiety or chronic health issues to their “friends” who really don’t want to hear the truth, and are instead looking for some Pollyanna reassurance that everything is “okay” in a moonbeam-and-pennywhistle world when really they are filled with self-doubt and self-loathing.
                        There's definitely a tension in Willow's look and I can totally see that her own internal battles can be playing a part in it. Generally for me it seems a look that is focused on what is to come, has tense anticipation of what Buffy might say as clearly everything wasn't 'fine'.

                        But what made him stop? What made him retrace his steps? What made him open the door?

                        Does Wood have a trigger too? Did Morphy appear and play a snatch of Early One Morning to Principal Wood?
                        I'm really looking forward to your thoughts on Wood's actions from here. The desire to keep him an ambiguous character we are unsure of I think works well up to this point, but his response to finding Jonathan and later actions are more problematic to me.

                        I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the symbolism and psychology of the basement. And on the separation Spike has felt in the past (human and soulless vampire) and now souled from those that dwell elsewhere to him, literally and socially.

                        Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
                        The bloody mouth makes Spike look both monster and victim at the same time. Which is kind of what a souled vampire is...
                        I really like that and agree that Buffy possibly feels some responsibility for Spike because he got his soul for her, but she shouldn't really. It isn't something that she asked of him. But as she can now see the potential in him, as she'll soon tell him, she is doing what she does, caring.

                        The possible ties Buffy might feel back to the situation in early S3 are interesting for sure.

                        With this phrase, Buffy takes on full responsibility for Spike’s actions. She’s not just reassuring Spike that Andrew is okay, but that she can take care of anything if Spike goes insane again. Buffy even gets up to rinse the bloody cloth in the sink – a subtle metaphor for clearing Spike of his bloody deeds as Spike slowly raises himself off the floor, fear clearly overwhelming him.
                        I don't think that Buffy's, 'It's okay' here is offering herself as the defender of others if Spike loses control again so much as just generally trying to reassure him because she feels that she has a lead to fixing what is happening to him. But it is interesting to think that Buffy might have considered that playing that role may be a necessary precaution in the meantime. Of course it's not a leap for her to have thought that way, the chains are a way to do this currently without having to literally stick by his side.

                        I like the suggested metaphorical representation of cleaning the blood and rinsing it away, which of course removes the moment that happened for both of them, bite and kick. It's a nice moment to underline that things between them aren't the same any more, something Buffy will make clear in their coming conversation.

                        Their varying responses to the situation and risk is interesting to watch and I really like your observation of the contrast to Doomed where Spike is wanting to die because he can't hurt people and Buffy doesn't care at all. The distance travelled really underlined by the extreme opposites reached.

                        Is it really cold, hard logic though? Does Spike believe that he’s doing the same kind of self-sacrifice like Buffy on the tower – that there’s no other way to protect others from his monstrousness? But is this really even self-sacrifice for the greater good or is Spike acting out of a sense of panic that Buffy can’t control him? Of course, Buffy disagrees. If Buffy couldn’t kill soulless Spike when he was impotent because of the chip, she’s not going to kill souled Spike when he’s obviously being used like a puppet by someone else.
                        I think there is a feeling that he is just a liability and he fears hurting someone, anyone, but probably especially those he cares about. As he knows he has no control it is alarming to him and even if he can't remember much he knows he broke free of the bindings on him in the chair and managed to bite someone before Buffy could stop him. What if she'd been just a little later?

                        There is probably also a sense of justice in it too. Since he was found at the start of the season he's continuously walked on the edge of seeking judgment. His sense of guilt over all his crimes, and his past with Buffy, how he sees himself now, it doesn't feel to him like it would be the wrong thing to happen, perhaps even just.

                        The past that is hinted at through his description of what he's done gives another snippet of the internal torture he has been going through recalling his past with a conscience. JM plays it so well in that slight choke and avoidance of just saying what he's hinting so clearly at. As you say, Spike has always been very sexual in his manner and is flirtatious to get what he wants. And there will be plenty of occasions in his past I'd imagine when he isn't making any effort to try to manipulate people but just doing as he pleased. It is no surprise with so many memories like that, of yourself doing those things and enjoying it, that his belief in his own potential for having real worth is so low. Especially now, now when he's not even able to reliably control himself even souled. The best solution feels clear to him here, remove the danger.

                        But when it comes down to it, we never do see Spike actually physically torture anyone.
                        Again, it is off screen, but he does torture Dr Sparrow in AtS 5 to get details of Illyria's plans. It's probably the most 'evil' thing he consciously does when souled. But I do agree that Buffy knows enough about vampires and saw enough of Spike pre the church organ and chipping to know the kind of things he could do if unleashed without the moral restraints of his soul and a more animalistic drive to the fore.

                        I also agree that Spike is trying to make Buffy more inclined to kill him, to cite what he believes of his past that will push her to draw a line finally on the story of William.

                        Besides, is it actually the “real” Spike who raped and tortured young girls who faces Buffy right now? Souled Spike who can barely say the word ‘rape’ without flinching and breaking down in tears? Spike doesn’t seem to see any difference between his soulless and souled states except that he’s now disgusted with himself.
                        That sense of separation yet connection the souled vampires feel is one of the most fascinating aspects of both characters. It does make sense when you have the memories and the demonic drives still within you too that you'd feel the past was 'you', even if you turn in revulsion now from what you revelled in before. I always think that seeing the motivations which drove the choices and actions of your soulless self reflecting aspects of your ongoing personality would be very disturbing.

                        But Buffy does see the difference in what is happening here and how Spike's free will is being stripped from him. I really like the parallel you draw to Oz being 'triggered' by the full moon into becoming feral and being a danger that he can't control himself. The very thing that drove Oz away to learn control over his transformation, fearing being a risk to those he loves and any others unfortunate enough to cross his path, is what Spike is worrying about now too.

                        Originally posted by PuckRobin View Post
                        It’s a wild swing from love to hate as the reason that Spike is still alive – as wild as if Spike had it written on his knuckles like Robert Mitchum’s serial killer preacher Harry Powell in the truly terrifying film “The Night of the Hunter” – which was obviously a major influence on Nathan Fillion’s Caleb later in the season. Mitchum’s insane bible thumper gives his philosophy of life as a battle between love and hate – even as he leaves a trail of murdered women behind him:
                        I've never heard of this film before but would be really interested to watch it.

                        It’s the mixture of love and hate that makes Spike’s love for Buffy so exciting – and so rewarding in a masochistic way. Spike believes Buffy likes men who hurt her because Spike likes women who hurt him. Love relationships are a mirror of the inner self and it’s hard to say if Spike’s feelings about love and hate come solely from being a soulless vampire or they are predicated on William Pratt’s feelings of insecurity about love. We saw how William was naïve to believe that Cecily had feelings for him and mistook her feelings of contempt for love – feelings that probably carried on through his siring to affect the vampire, who swung between romantic fantasy and cynical reality when it suited him.
                        I don't think it is so much that Spike likes women who hurt him that he just sees heightened emotions as a passionate response. Whether hate or love, it proves someone is truly affected by another. We see this desire for passion, whether positive or negative, in his distress around Dru's break up with him, that she was so dismissive of him.
                        "She just left. She didn't even care enough to cut off my head or set me on fire. (sniffs) I mean, is that too much to ask? You know? Some little sign that she cared?"

                        Not feeling a disinterested response but feeling passion also fuels part of his 'love isn't brains' speech in Lovers Walk. As well as the idea that hurting Dru might remind her what she loves about him...
                        "You'll be in love till it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends."

                        "I want Dru back, I've just gotta be the man I was, (stands proud) the man she loved. I'm gonna do what I shoulda done in the first place: I'll find her, wherever she is, tie her up, torture her until she likes me again."

                        This sense that passion is a key feature whether for good or bad is also evident when he's talking to Buffy in the bathroom in Seeing Red and dismissing the idea that trust is a key requirement in a relationship,
                        "Great love is wild... and passionate and dangerous. It burns and consumes."

                        So Spike feels that fine line between love and hate, as both are intense passionate reactions to someone else. It shows how deeply they affect you. I think there is definitely an argument that William's insecurities about being lovable are tied into this. To seek a reassurance that you matter to someone, even if they are outwardly showing a negative response to you. It echoes what he offers Harmony in Harm's Way. Not that he cares about her, because he doesn't, but that she should see that someone hating her is significant,
                        SPIKE: Oh, come on, Harm, you matter to someone.
                        HARMONY: (looks at Spike) I do?
                        SPIKE: Yeah. Girl tried to frame you, didn't she? Must have mattered to her. Everybody's talking about it.
                        HARMONY: You're right. That girl hated me. She wanted me dead. I matter.

                        There's a hollow desire in that. To just matter enough to generate a passionate response. Harmony should never turn to Spike for love as he has rarely shown much interest in her. Sexual desire for sure, but surrounded by disinterest and irritation. There's no hope there. Fury isn't going to be turned to love. His response to Harmony is far closer to Cecily's response to his request to see him,
                        "I do see you. That's the problem. You're nothing to me, William. You're beneath me."

                        As much as the repetition of this dismissal cut him so badly when Buffy used these words as she turned from him in Fool for Love, her developing push/pull relationship with him doesn't actually mirror Cecily's total disinterest. Buffy might dislike Spike intensely for a long time, even into their sexual relationship, but their exchanges are often heated.

                        In contrast to William's fleeing and pain ridden reaction to Cecily though we see the love/hate line does blur for soulless Spike as his initial despair turns quickly to a furious response and then how it can suddenly switch again as he pauses and displays concern on seeing her crying on the back steps of her house. However much William's focus on love drives the motivations of Spike the vampire, it seems that fine line between the two opposite heightened emotions are probably more closely tied in his vampiric response. Buffy certainly spoke to Holden as if the vampiric perspective muddled these things too readily,
                        "Sex and death and love and pain—it's all the same damn thing to you."

                        But Buffy has been drawn to Spike and rejected him repeatedly. There have been both elements to some degree from her own perspective too. The difference being that she can see the inherent negativity in there and how the relationship they had wasn't healthy and was inherently limited. She couldn't love him as he was then, no matter what passion he also stirred in her. What degree she could feel for him.

                        Perhaps this element of the vampire he still is and his response to violence still differentiates how he sees things. Whilst souled Spike is now able to see that Buffy couldn't love him before, how he wasn't helping her and how she had been using him, his current self-loathing and guilt blinkers him to the potential he now has for good. Yet these changes in him are the aspects that in a much quieter way comes to deeply affect how Buffy responds to him and the potential of their dynamic. The shifts in his capacity affects how close they can become now outside of the extremes of fierce passion warring between them, through the steady build up of trust bringing in an additional, important layer. One that means they can strengthen each other instead. The intimacy they find in this season is of a totally different nature to what they had in season 6.

                        It’s a great dramatic irony that Spike chalks up Buffy’s actions to love when he was soulless and hate now that he’s souled, which shows the difference between the narcissism of the soulless vampire and the self-loathing of the souled vampire. There’s also a parallel between the past and the present as Spike looks at Buffy expectantly, waiting for her to maybe make some halting admission that she does hate him – just as he begged in the bathroom for Buffy to admit that she loved him.
                        Very much so. And perhaps his despair at himself now and current rejection at the side of himself that enjoys the fight, that still desires the violence, plays a part in why he incorrectly feels Buffy needed to use him to feed on self-hatred to be able to fight as she does. Instead it is how full of love Buffy is that enables her to fight as she does for the world and others. Her self-hatred that fed into the toxic sexual relationship they had was a self-punishment, but for feeling so badly about being back and being unable to connect to her friends, feeling separated by her power. But hatred isn't what enables her to be the Slayer. Being focussed on others and the greater good, something far from an act fuelled by hatred, is what in contrast can lead to someone sacrificing themselves.

                        Unlike Spike, Angel felt his failings weren’t as a monster, but as a human. Not just the drunken, whoring Liam, but the soulful vampire Angel as well. Angel didn’t know the details behind the Gypsy curse that restored his soul the first time – that the soul would be snatched away when he achieved a moment of true happiness. Angel had that moment of happiness with Buffy and reverted to Angelus. Willow restored Angel’s soul a second time, but those desires for Buffy remained – even though now Angel knew the terrible price that would be paid...
                        The circumstances in which the two vampires obtained their souls informs how they view them. Angel had a soul forced upon him – with no desires or expectations. But Spike sought out a soul because he wanted things to change. Spike had high expectations on gaining his soul back – but when he won the soul and it made things worse, the entire quest felt meaningless. But for Angel, the soul was a gift that he did not earn or deserve. Every benefit from Angel’s soul was an unearned blessing.
                        It is very interesting how Angel's and Spike's perspectives contrast and their backgrounds and personalities as well as their paths to becoming souled are greatly at the heart of those differences. Spike doesn't look back on William as being an inherently wicked person, but the monster in him that was created when he was sired as the barrier to being a man again. Both have to come to a point of being able to see worth in themselves and the path they could choose to walk. Angel's focus tends to be to look back on his sins and how he could ever balance such evil and the wastrel that he had always been. Whereas Spike looks forwards to what he can do. Always having been focused on how he can affect things and reach for what he wants. But he is currently hampered by a feeling that he doesn't have worth and he sees his lack of control as simply risking the worst of himself escaping and hurting more people.

                        But when Buffy fights against both souled vampires who are determined to end it all, she has to take a different tact with both because of who they are. With Angel, Buffy has to argue with him about what kind of a man he is. With Spike, Buffy has to argue with him that he’s any kind of man at all. And that struggle within takes place between the two Buffy/Spike scenes in “Never Leave Me” – where Buffy apparently comes to a decision that we never see on-screen, but informs the entire season afterwards.
                        This comparison between the two moments of deepest despair in both souled vampires and Buffy's reaction and support of them both has been really intriguing to consider.

                        From her point of view, Spike is no longer a monster because of the soul. He’s capable of doing great good despite the puppet strings the Big Bad has tied to him at the moment. It’s not his fault. Spike isn’t the same soulless demon who tried to rape her in her bathroom. He’s souled now and not responsible for all of his soulless actions that were out of his control, then and now. Including biting Andrew.
                        I think Buffy was already partly in this perspective just from Spike having his soul. She outright says in Him, "OK, it's just—things are different now—he has a soul" and we have the start of both Xander and Dawn questioning what this means. And this has been the tension that has surrounded them, the unknown of who souled Spike is. It is this which I think Buffy is now getting a better sense of from the conversations that she has been having with Spike and piecing together with his actions since returning to see the potential in him and that building belief in him that we see in the shift in tone now.

                        Spike knows that Buffy can relate to the feeling of being trapped in a living hell – when she’s resurrected by Willow, Spike is the only one who hears her near-suicidal thoughts. Spike’s confession in “Sleeper” that he needs Buffy to kill him because he can’t cry the soul out of him is a sign – as are the knife slashes to the chest – that Spike has a death wish of his own. A suicidal cry for help that underlies the cold rationalism of killing Spike to save others.
                        I think there is definitely some of this driving him, even if it is subconscious. The related ties between Buffy's depression on returning in S6 and Spike's despair on first being souled isn't something that I'd ever particularly considered. There is possibly even a sense going back to the love/hate and passion that would rather his story ended by Buffy's stake to solidify that she at least cared enough out of compassion or hatred to kill him. Again not yet seeing the positive path that can build through support and empowerment, believing in him instead because as yet he doesn't believe in himself.

                        I absolutely adore the ties you brought in to OMWF and Spike's assurance to Buffy that she should go on living to heal.

                        Self-hatred has overwhelmed Spike to the point where he attributes it to everyone. It’s still narcissistic in a way – Spike believes that everyone must feel about him how he feels about himself. There’s still the touch of vampire selfishness in him – that will never change. Spike will always feel he knows the score.
                        Yes, very much.

                        But “Spike the truth teller” also suffers from some severe cognitive bias. As a souled vampire, he’s putting all of his own fears on Buffy. He’s ashamed of his belief that she loved him – he’s scared that she hates him because of the way in which his perspective has changed and he can clearly see all the pain and suffering he put her through and now feels himself because he hates himself so much.
                        As great as Spike sometimes is at exposing truths, he also can be very deluded and how he currently feels about himself is significantly affecting his perception of how others do and should feel.

                        Like Angel, Spike’s identity is shattered, bisected, blurred into pieces. Soulless vampire have trouble remembering what it was like to be human. Don’t souled vampires have the same problem remembering what it was like to be soulless? And if the soulless vampire separates himself from his former human personality, then Buffy points out why wouldn’t a souled vampire do the same with his former soulless self? But Spike is determined to take all the blame for everything he’s done in the past on himself – more proof that he’s a monster not worth saving.
                        It is that sense of ties across all states that binds them whether they are human, soulless or souled. Spike will recognise William's focus on love in himself, his desire to be loved. Perhaps even the impact that the mockery William suffered had on his own focus on his image and tendency to often try to guard his feelings from those he feels will mock him. He feels the connection but also the shifts that separate him from what he was each time too. His changed states from losing his morality, becoming a demon and then regaining his morality but alongside still being a demon creates dissonance and a struggle to fully understand himself. So Buffy is very much on the money when she suggests to him he doesn't even know himself now. As he struggles with coming to terms with who he was and what he has done it is currently clouding his ability to see who he could be. So the difference between them is that Buffy feels she's seen enough now to indicate the person he can be.

                        And now she’s admitting that she did see incremental change – enough that Spike was finally driven to go get his soul.
                        It seems likely Buffy is referring back to the way he changed over the years finally leading to him seeking his soul. She comments on him fighting by her side and helping, which could well be a reference back to earlier seasons. The shooting script's additional lines certainly imply she is considering backwards like this rather than just recent events. But we don't know why they changed it and perhaps they wanted to pull the emphasis away from the past a little as Spike's change in becoming souled is what has cemented the greater possibilities before him now.

                        Despite Buffy's line to Dawn that Spike knew how wrong the attempted rape was and that's why he went away, we know that he was actually quite confused about his own response.
                        "SPIKE: (shakily) What have I done?
                        Beat. Spike frowns, looks bemused.
                        SPIKE: Why *didn't* I do it? (looks up at the ceiling, sighs) What has she done to me?"

                        He did choose which direction to turn to change things, to become more of a man than monster and felt that getting a soul was the way to do this. But there was still such a helping of self-interest in his desire to get his soul that I can't see it as being, 'not for himself, but for love of someone else' as you suggest. Not in a way that is as selfless as that might seem. Deciding to become souled to be more acceptable to Buffy after he'd just tried to rape her is arguably not putting what she might want front and centre. So whilst I do think that the shifts and choices Spike made when soulless are playing a part in what Buffy is saying, I tend to see her feeling that he's changed as she expresses here as being greatly about who he is now souled. I don't believe she would be responding the same to him if he wasn't. It is built on from who he was before for sure, the journey to making that choice. But ultimately to what it has led him to now. The separation matters even as there's that sense of some consistency in his personality that fuels his choices that she can see and which meant he choose to go for his soul. Still it is the soul which allows her real belief in his potential for good now.

                        It’s not just physical risk that Buffy is thinking about. Spike has made himself vulnerable by getting a soul, both mentally and emotionally. The shock of coming to terms with his past, the shame in confronting those he’s wrongs, the fears that he can never make amends for what he’s done. Spike willingly took on this burden. He may not have understood the true ramifications of what would happen, but he knew enough from his knowledge of Angel to know it wouldn’t be moonbeams and pennywhistles.
                        See I take his reference to moonbeams and pennywhistles as partly self-mockery for thinking becoming souled would be a magical solution. He has always wanted to see himself as being so different from Angel I don't think he really believed he'd respond like Angel did. If he did expect to struggle with facing his past and feeling bad for what he'd done, it was a very superficial idea of what that would be like. This is why in Beneath You he refers to Angel and clearly not having understood what it would be like because he now believes that Angel must be containing a lot of the ongoing pain of being souled,
                        "Angel—he should've warned me. He makes a good show of forgetting, but it's here, in me, all the time. (walks around toward her from behind) The spark. I wanted to give you what you deserve, and I got it. They put the spark in me and now all it does is burn."

                        Even without much understanding of what would happen though, there is still that desire for change to reach for something that he couldn't have. A willingness to put himself on the line that will feed into his development into being a champion now. It is this that Buffy can see and the fact that Spike is struggling so much with his past and what he's done, that he fears the monstrous side of himself, all draws the potential of the man within forwards for her I think. He did risk everything, even if it was greatly selfishly driven. Buffy sees the consistent commitment that has been evident in him soulless and souled and with the determination to reach for change now coupled with morality, that he can be a better man. That he already is as she'll tell him.

                        This is pivotal in the relationship between Buffy and Spike.
                        Yes, I very much agree. And the timing of it was very fortuitous with what he's going to face next. Her belief in him offers to strengthen him and support him, despite him having just emphasised how much of a monster he still fears he is. The impact of this on him is huge.

                        Sorry it is taking me so long to respond. I'm very much enjoying reading through all your thoughts and will return with responses to the final parts hopefully in the next couple of days.

                        Just to update on BotN. I haven't been able to find out what problems ghoststar is having in posting as yet. I know they said the review was written and they were trying to post it, so I will send another message to try to get to the bottom of what is preventing this. As another week has passed I think it is going to be necessary to move the dates and I'll contact Clavus as well about the timing for Showtime. I'm hoping that we'll still be able to fit both of those in before Christmas.


                        • I imagine my next post will be on the final parts of the NLM review, so again I'm just placing a holding post to avoid some overlapping in the thread itself.