What Would Buffy Do?- A Book Review

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To say that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a unique show that ended up changing my life forever would be an understatement. Much like how the Doctor from Doctor Who has two hearts, I have two great loves in my life: My Catholic faith and my obsession with fandoms, especially Buffy the Vampire Slayer. So imagine my surprise when I found out that a book like this one existed.

What Would Buffy Do: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide is a collection of essays by Jana Reiss, a Mormon writer who specializes in writing things relating to religion and spirituality. It really boggles the mind that a show like Buffy, created by well-renowned atheist Joss Whedon, would have spiritual and religious themes that would lead to a Mormon writing essays on it, among other things.

The essays in Spiritual Guide are split into three sections: Personal Spirituality, “Companions on the Journey” (Interpersonal aspects of spirituality), and “Saving the World” (broad spiritual themes).  The essays in the first section are the most accessible to understand. “Be a Hero, Even When You’d Rather Go to the Mall” looks into the theme of self-sacrifice, using the characters of Buffy, Angel, and Xander as examples. This essay ties self-sacrifice with the Buddhist concept of the bodhisattva, “beings who are more concerned with the welfare of others.”  Although it includes the prayer of St. Francis as a quote (the same prayer also used in the end of the Buffy season 6 finale “Grave”), it neglects to mention the Christian aspect of agape and altruism, especially this verse from John 15:13 “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

“Change Makes us Human” looks into how vampires were originally conceived in the show: as metaphors for the selfish tendencies we have and the obstacles we have to deal with in the process of growing up. Spike is used as an example of this inability to change. In the episode “School Hard, Angel confronts Spike, saying “Things change.” Spike replies “Not us! Not demons!” The essay goes on to show how Spike becomes one of the most dynamic characters in the show, starting with the fact that Spike was the vampire with the most humanity. He cared for Drusilla for over a century and it’s through love (his love for Dawn and Buffy) that compels Spike to get his soul. Willow, Xander, and Giles’s character arcs are also examined.  What makes Buffy unique is that how slowly the show changes and evolves and the characters (and the audience) are forced to adapt and adjust to the change.

One aspect of change that this book looks into is death, examined in the essay “Death is Our Gift.” Death is shown as  something to be feared initially in Buffy and gave rise to the running joke of Joss Whedon killing off everyone the fans love. However, the darkness that death brings is one of the themes in season six. Sarah Michelle Gellar said that she felt uncomfortable with Buffy’s story arc in season six as it didn’t feel like the character she knew and loved. Marti Noxon, one of the writers and producers, called seas on six Buffy’s “Dark Night of the Soul.” Sadly, that’s the only mention of the Dark Night of the Soul in this entire book.

There is an essay on darkness in the third section of the book entitled “Taming the Darkness Within Ourselves,” but it looks into darkness from a more thematic and psychological perspective and not a spiritual one. Given that Spiritual Guide was published in 2004 and Mother Teresa’s struggles with her interior darkness wouldn’t be published until 2007, it’s somewhat understandable why the idea of spiritual darkness wasn’t fully examined in this book. The essay on humor “The ‘Monster Sarcasm Rally,'” also neglects to examine the ties between humor and faith. Then again, humor and religion have only recently shown to go hand in hand.

This book is a wonderful read as far as examining the various themes and the complexity of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but the spiritual roots are soaking in shallow water, probably so that the book would be accessible to a general audience. I would love to see a follow-up to this book, some kind of anthology with essays from people of all denominations. On the other hand, maybe it’s a good thing that this book has me asking more questions than answers, leaving me wanting to dig deeper and continue down the path towards integrating my favorite show with my belief system.

In the last episode of Buffy, “Chosen,” the power of the Slayer is given to every girl in the world and ends with Dawn asking Buffy “What do we do now?” When I finished watching the show for the first time, I was left wanting more and eventually found a community of fellow fans who love Buffy. To my surprise, these friends are also people whom I can discuss my Catholic faith with openly. I think the Vampire Slayer Spiritual Guide serves a similar purpose. It’s not meant to give straightforward answers, but to act as a conversation piece for people like me who have both faith and fandoms in their lives. It might be a good way to introduce the show to those who wouldn’t watch something with horror and modern themes.

Tl;dr: Read this book and have a good discussion with your fellow philosophy and theology majors. And then watch Buffy. It will make you laugh, cry, and change your life forever.

Seven Quick Takes: Find The Fun Friday Edition

Amidst all the drama going on the current political sphere, I want to share some hope for humanity and also fill your news feed with some fun things that will make your October a lot more fun.

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Since October is the month of the Rosary, I want to take advantage of this time to promote Heart of Mary Women Fellowship’s Bible study on the Rosary. Each of the Mysteries comes with a free study journal. I’m also sharing a wonderful image from The Catholic Rose. I encourage everyone that no matter what your feelings are or who you plan on voting for this election, pray the Rosary for peace in this world. God knows we all need it. We may not get the results we expect when we pray, but prayer can help change us in ways we never expected.

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I had no idea that Who Wants to be a Millionaire is still going on, but I’m so glad it is because ChurchPOP shared this awesome article about a priest who competed on the show and walked away with $250,000 that will be donated to a Catholic elementary school!

It reminds me of when I was watching Sister Alicia Torres compete on Chopped. Catholic religious need to compete on shows more often.

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As someone who loves music, I highly respect Bob Dylan for his contributions to the industry. It’s no surprise to me, then, that he won the Nobel Prize for literature.  Bishop Robert Barron is a huge Bob Dylan fan. He did a podcast about Bob Dylan in August. I can’t wait to hear what Bishop Barron will say about Dylan winning the Nobel Prize. Dylan’s version of “All Along the Watchtower” is my personal favorite.

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In the mood for a good murder mystery? Wanna get into the Halloween spirit? Fan of authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, Oscar Wilde, Charlotte Bronte, HG Wells, and Emily Dickinson? Check out Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party, a  wonderful wacky murder mystery comedy that will keep you guessing! Warning: One episode includes a seance, but thankfully, there’s no overtly occult things going on here.

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If you want something more along the lines of high fantasy and/or if you’re a fan of Once Upon a Time or Grimm, check out the Rooster Teeth web series RWBY. The fourth season will premiere on October 22nd. If you haven’t watched the series yet, feel free to catch up on it here.

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Today is #NationalDessertDay according to Twitter. If you wanna treat yourself, check out this cool new brand of modern baking kits called Foodstirs, co-founded by Sarah Michelle Gellar (AKA Buffy) and Galit Laibow. It’s family friendly and they have awesome Halloween-themed treats that your kids are sure to love!

Photo courtesy of People Magazine and used for editorial purposes only.

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In case you or someone you know has food allergies like I do, Food Allergy Research and Education is launching the Teal Pumpkin Project. It promotes giving out non-food “treats” to trick-or-treaters who have food allergies. Ideas for fun non-candy treats include glow bracelets, stickers, Halloween-themed pencils or erasers, small toys. You can easily find stuff at a local dollar store or at a craft store.

As someone who has a ton of food allergies, I also recommend looking for candy or treats that are safe for any kid. It doesn’t hurt to ask the kid about his or her allergies as well. Bubblegum such as Dubble Bubble has always been safe for me as well as Charms Blow Pops and Dum-Dum lollipops. My favorite candy, however, is soft peppermint sticks.

Have a wonderful Halloween! Watch out for killer clowns and vampires!

Why Seeing Red Is The Worst Episode of Buffy: Defending Spike Part 1

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This is the first of a series of essays anonymously defending the character of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer written by my friend Scholastica and edited by me. To this day, the fandom is divided about whether Spike was better as a villain or as an anti-hero, whether Buffy and Spike really loved each other or not, and especially about what is called “the bathroom incident” or “the attempted rape scene” in the Season 6 episode Seeing Red. There are mentions of abusive relationships, sexual violence, and other uncomfortable “trigger warning phrases” throughout this series of essays. However, Scholastica and I feel that these things need to be said because we both love Buffy, the titular character, and the character of Spike. So please read these essays with an open mind. Civil discussions are welcome, but keep in mind I moderate comments here.  You have been warned.

 


One of the most controversial plot lines of Season Six of
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the torrid and abusive affair that springs up between the newly-resurrected titular hero of the series and the soulless but chipped vampire Spike.  The half-season story arc involves violent and secretive sex between the two characters, angry verbal spats, and one brutal scene in an empty alley.  All of this ugliness culminates in the horrific bathroom scene of Seeing Red, in which Spike attempts to assault Buffy.  In the aftermath of this painful scene, Spike journeys to Africa, and audiences are led to believe he is trying to remove his chip so that he can return to being the Big Bad.  Instead, the vampire undergoes strenuous trials and ends the season by regaining his soul.

Internet commentary reveals that Seeing Red is one of the most divisive episodes of the show.  Former fans of the character often find themselves unable to forgive Spike’s actions.  For the vampire’s detractors, the attempted rape is proof that his love for Buffy was never real.  “Spuffy” shippers who continue to love Spike after Seeing Red are sometimes accused of justifying or dismissing rape.  Now, I have no intention of excusing Spike’s actions in Seeing Red.  He attempts to rape Buffy and needs to undergo penance.  I believe he does. However, the episode does not change how I feel about him or his relationship with Buffy.  This essay, the first in a series that defends Spike as a character, explains why.

Before beginning, however, I would like to put forward a disclaimer:  I view Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a practicing Catholic.  I do not mention this fact because I am trying to convert anyone or dreg up controversial Church teachings, so I would politely ask that no one troll this essay or the next ones about subjects they do not address.  I realize that Joss Whedon is an atheist and that, like most shows on television in the twenty-first century, the bulk of the romantic relationships depicted on Buffy are illicit by Catholic standards.  I happen to believe that Christians should still engage with art that disagrees with their worldview, and the wonderful thing about the Slayerverse is that it brings up all sorts of fascinating moral and philosophical issues that viewers from diverse backgrounds will likely interpret differently.  I bring up my own religious background mainly because it would be impossible for me to address such topics as the nature of love and morality, free will, ensoulment, and redemption without drawing openly upon the Thomistic philosophical tradition that undergirds so much of my Catholic faith.

Ironically, these issues are much easier to explore in rockier relationships than in easy-going ones, making Spike and Buffy’s romantic entanglement a perfect avenue.  The “Spuffy” relationship exemplifies in many ways the increasingly complex moral universe of the show itself. Throughout seasons Two through Four of Buffy, all soulless vampires were claimed to be incapable of moral good.  By Season Five, this assumption no longer seems set in stone.  Moreover, as the series progresses, it portrays more and more human villains.  By the end of Season Six, even the heroes are shown making serious moral mistakes.

Set against the backdrop of this increasing moral complexity, the attempted rape in Seeing Red seems like an awkward late-series attempt to restore the paradigms set up in the early seasons of Buffy.  For the past two seasons, the writers themselves have appeared unsure how to treat the “monster” who wants to be a man for his beloved.  The bathroom scene is apparently their answer to the question of whether or not Spike can be good without the oft-mentioned soul.  Unfortunately, it does not really accomplish this task because the scene itself feels forced and unnatural.  Like many viewers, I consider the attempted rape to be borderline character assassination of Spike.  Not only do I object to the way it is presented on the show, I also believe that it does not fit with what has been slowly established about Spike’s background and personality through the past seasons.  Thus, for the rest of this essay, I will explore my manifold objections to the scene.

 

Objection #1: The Scene is Unnecessary to Advance the Narrative

This objection is actually the least bothersome for me because I do understand the sort of hero’s journey the writers were trying to tell:  A beloved character hits rock bottom and commits the most heinous sin the show’s feminist universe can imagine.  It should be unforgivable, but the possibility of forgiveness is raised nonetheless.  Confronted with his own interior ugliness, the character goes on a quest to redeem himself.  Most of the psychological force of this narrative is blunted because the writers were also trying to trick viewers into thinking Spike was on his way to Africa to remove the chip.  Nevertheless, it would make for a good story if it were not for the other objections on my list.  The point of this objection is not that the story they were trying to tell is lacking in cathartic satisfaction.  Rather, it is that it was not the only way to spur Spike towards redemption.  The beauty of fiction is that writers have an infinite number of ways to get characters from point A to point B, and while not all stories are equally compelling, there were plenty of other options for Spike that could have served just as well.

For instance, there were a number of Spike lovers who would have preferred a soulless redemption for the vampire.  I actually have a lot of sympathy for this position.  This may surprise some readers, given that Catholics are generally pretty big on souls, but I think it makes a lot of narrative sense.  Because I plan on delving into the issue of vampire souls in more depth in my next two essays, I would prefer not to spend too much time discussing it here.  Suffice to say that I believe the soul canon in Slayerverse is sufficiently murky that a soulless redemption could have been believable.  Moreover, a good portion of Spike’s appeal is due to his ability to defy the apparent norms of vampire metaphysics, and a soulless redemption would have seemed like a natural extension of this aspect of his character.  I am not saying this is my preferred solution, but it would have been a plausible option.

The general impression I have gotten from fans who prefer soulless redemption is that a lot of their objections to Spike’s ensoulment have to do with the heavy effect it has on his character.  Whatever else the acquisition of a vampire’s soul may bring, it does seem pretty intertwined with feelings of intense guilt. While I do consider contrition a necessary component of redemption, I can also understand why advocates of soulless redemption dislike the guilt-fest.  In Season Seven, the newly-souled Spike is put through a tremendous among of physical and mental suffering, retreating in the first half of the season to a dank basement where his insanity is given full play.  He comes dangerously close to being transformed from a fun-loving punk rocker to a brooder like Angel, Buffy’s first vampire lover.  I’ll admit that I loved seeing Spike get his taste for a good fight (and his awesome coat) back in Get it Done.  With or without his soul, I prefer to see the sort of penitence that fits his personality, not Angel’s.

For me, the real advantage of a soulless redemption arc, however, is less about avoiding all the Angel-style broodiness and more about how the other characters react to the change.  For so much of Season Six, Buffy and the Scoobies justify their mistreatment of Spike by citing his presumed soullessness.  One of the unfortunate side effects of him getting his soul back is that it allows Buffy to change her opinion of him without having to confront the past cruelty she inflicted upon him.  While she does admit in one scene of Never Leave Me that his changes began before his ensoulment, she does not really dwell on his pre-soul moral growth.  Instead, whenever she addresses his detractors in Season Seven, her defense of him always begins with “It’s different now.  He has a soul.”  The soul comes across less as a requirement for morality than something all the cool kids have to have in order to please their peers.

Despite these considerations, I do have a slight preference for souled redemption because the quest to regain his soul works very nicely with the chivalric tropes I believe underline Spike’s character.  However, I still dislike using attempted rape as the catalyst for this soul quest, when there were a number of other ways to push Spike to embark upon it.  For instance, our boy could have continued to backslide into lesser crimes, much like the ones he committed in Season Five.  Such a narrative would make his decision to seek a soul the result of the realization that his good intentions were not enough without a moral compass.  Instead of reversing all the moral progress that has been made, his soul quest would be the natural culmination of the previous season’s character arc.  Alternatively, he could have sought the soul after the brutal beating Buffy gives him in Dead Things, either as an effort to understand her pain or to prove her harsh assessment of him wrong.  He could also have sought it after her rejection of him in As You Were, in order to be considered worthy of a continued relationship with the Chosen One.  He could even have sought it after the painful post-Anya scene in Entropy, when he seems so depressed that he almost welcomes death at Xander’s hands.  Any of these options would have seemed more in character with Spike in Season Six.  Regardless of what alternative one prefers, the point is that there were many ways of getting him to that cave in Africa without the bathroom scene.

Objection #2: It is only partially true that Buffy is responsible for stopping Spike

This is another relatively minor point, but one I cannot help making.  Technically, yes, the whole horrible scene ends because Buffy gives Spike a good kick that brings him up short.  Personally, I would have liked to see Spike stop himself (barring, of course, completely eliminating the scene altogether).  However, I suspect that the writers ended it the way they did in order to show a woman successfully fighting off a potential rapist, and I think that is a worthy enough message to send to female viewers that ultimately I accept the need for Buffy’s kick on those grounds.  A woman should never assume that words alone will end an assault and victims should fight back.  However, I will point out that Buffy’s kick might only have halted the attack temporarily.  She does not kill him or incapacitate him in any way.  Nor does she immediately try to escape.  If he had truly wanted to rape Buffy, the kick might only have given him a moment’s hesitation before he tried again.  In fact, I suspect that many real-life rapists might actually become more enraged by the kick.  Spike is clearly horrified.  So while her actions do (rightfully) halt the attack, I think it should be taken into consideration that the vampire is not evil enough to try again.  This does NOT remove his responsibility for the original attempt and I am not trying to argue that he should be given credit for not continuing his attack.  What I am saying is that perhaps it should give us pause that plenty of souled human males would have gone back for a second round of struggling.  I think this reveals something about his understanding of the situation and his intentions, which I will explore in a later objection.

Objection #3: The scene feels out of character for Spike at this point.

I actually think that it is out of character for him at every point in his personal evolution, but especially so by Season Six.  I am not saying that their relationship is a particularly healthy one or that Spike’s evil inclinations are fully in the rearview mirror.  What I am saying is that raping the woman he loves no longer seems like something he would try to do, if it ever had been part of him to begin with.  I found his attempted rape out of character for at least three reasons: 1) the scene does not fit with how sex has been connected to violence in their relationship up to this point 2) the scene provides no plausible motive for the attempted rape that fits either Spike’s personality or his relationship to Buffy and 3) the scene ignores the character development that has happened through the past two seasons.

My Vampiric Spirit, Confession, and Conversion

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Author note: This is a guest post written by my friend Kristin from Austin and edited by me. Kristin will be received into the Catholic Church on Holy Saturday.  Please pray for her and all others who will be coming Home.

At the time I encountered Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was fresh out of college, having laid aside my checkered Protestant past for a relativistic agnosticism layered in a pleasant self-deception.  I figured, if any action helped me out within the simple constraint of “not committing murder”, it was certainly without reproach, and I could still consider myself a “good person”.  Then, a pivotal episode in Buffy Season 7’s “Beneath You” tilted my worldview enough to make me uncomfortable—uncomfortable enough to eventually become a Catholic.

In the closing scene of the episode, Spike and Buffy are in an empty, lovely, moonlit church together, and Buffy is concerned that Spike has lost his sanity. Up until this point, the rakish ne’er-do-well vampire was forced by an implanted chip in his brain to do no harm to Buffy Summers, leading him to try and do good out of his love for the Slayer. Unfortunately, his attempts at being good were also mixed in with his complicated, tumultuous affair with Buffy throughout the latter half of Season 6, culminating in him attempting to rape Buffy in “Seeing Red.” His shock at what he was about to do led to him going on a quest to receive his soul so that he can be the man he thinks Buffy deserves. Now ensouled, Spike is uncomfortably, completely conscious and guilt-ridden over his innumerable sins. I realized that there was something true there being spoken about sin and the need for redemption.

It would take me several more years to make my way to the Catholic Church and the lesson I gained from watching “Beneath You” was a crucial reason to why I was becoming Catholic. However, I didn’t fully understand the importance of this scene until I went to my first Confession to prepare for receiving the rest of the Sacraments at Easter. For some inexplicable reason, I found myself terrified of this sacrament.

We are born vampires due to original sin.  Like vampires, we are driven into the black night of our sins and transgressions, subconsciously terrified of being burned alive by the pure light of Christ. Like vampires, we’re driven away from pain and toward hedonistic pleasure, largely propelled by the forces of fear, anger, hate, lust, and greed. We live entirely for ourselves and see others only as a source of food for us—emotional affirmation, physical pleasure, and social recognition—and we’d best eat them before we’re consumed ourselves. We drive our greedy jaws into others without a thought, a care, or a twinge of remorse, and suck them dry, all in a desire to quench our endless thirst, our neverending desire to fill the emptiness within ourselves with something.

In the midst of all this, the deep terribleness of the human heart, Christ the Slayer wants to kill our vampiric selves and ensoul us, which He does so well through the Sacraments. He calls us out of the darkness, and He watches us as we pathetically stagger out from the shadows, crouching, cringing away from the Light.

I spent my first Confession, sitting in very comfortable chair in a cheery, bright, well-lit office, feeling with every fiber of my being that I was about to go up in smoke as I rattled off my list of sins before the priest. And go up in smoke, my ego did. Like the newly ensouled Spike, I stumbled around, slowly realizing for the first time the depths of what I’ve done to Christ and Christ in others. My scarred heart, rife with manipulation, greed, carelessness, and selfishness, was laid bare before me in the harsh Light, no longer fancied up by the clever illumination of the night.

The priest gave me my penance, a single Our Father, and instructed me to meditate on the mercy of God. Not only did I meditate, I was sucker-punched by this overwhelming Divine Mercy toward me.  The emptiness inside of me was filled with the infinite waters that gushed from His Sacred Heart. It’ll be a lifelong process of torching my ego, repairing my heart, and fighting for my soul. I know that even after I am received into the Church, I’ll be in Confession again and again.  But like Spike at the end of “Beneath You,” I embrace the Cross which burns away my sins, and ask “Can we rest?”

Though the episode doesn’t answer the question, Saint Augustine does: “For You have formed us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.”

We can rest, brothers and sisters, in the arms of our Lord. As we celebrate Good Friday, let us hide ourselves in His wounds and fill ourselves with the endless fountain of His love and mercy.

Author’s note: If you want to know more about how the theme of forgiveness is seen in the Buffyverse, check out my post from last year.

The Nature of Forgiveness in Buffy

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The nature of forgiveness in Buffy-verse is complicated to say the least. Angel gets a whole spinoff dedicated to him trying to atone for his actions, but one reason I have issues with Angel is because the nature of forgiveness is very much an absent thing in Angel. Angel embraces this existentialist belief that goes along the lines of “If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do” and he never forgives himself for his past actions nor do the members of his team forgive other members for their actions easily.

In Buffy, people are judged as good or bad by whether or not they have a soul. Unfortunately, most of the members of what the fandom calls “The Scooby Gang” are forgiven for their actions without the need of penance or atonement. And yet the nature of forgiveness is a lot more prevalent in Buffy even if some characters are forgiven too easily. Of course, some fans have yet to forgive the characters because they got off too easily and it says a lot about the show that whether or not these characters deserve forgiveness is still being debated to this day.

The best example of how forgiveness applies to Buffy is shown in Seasons 6 and 7, specifically Willow’s story arc and the entire Spike/Buffy arc throughout Seasons 6 and 7.

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Willow Rosenberg started out as the shy, adorable nerdy girl but developed confidence in herself through practicing magic. However, that confidence turned into arrogance and a dependence on magic in Season 6. It got to the point that her desire for control and the high that she got from magic ruined her relationship with Tara. In “Smashed,” she hangs out with a witch named Amy who enables her addiction and makes it even worse in the following episode “Wrecked.”

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Incidentally, “Smashed” and “Wrecked” are also the episodes where Buffy begins her affair with Spike. To say that their relationship from this point on is a beautiful disaster of epic proportions is an understatement. But honestly, if loving them is wrong, I don’t wanna be right! The nature of the Spuffy relationship is complicated at best and outright abusive at worst, on both sides. On the one hand, you could argue that Buffy needed Spike because she’s suffered major abandonment issues, has major depression from returning from the dead, and sees Spike as the only one who understands her needs, but won’t put their relationship out in the open because of what her friends may think. On the other hand, Spike told Buffy that she “came back wrong” and told her that she belonged in the dark with him, and letting her use him because he’s “love’s bitch.”

Some interpret the relationship as a metaphor for self harm, which is most obviously seen in “Dead Things,” in which Buffy beats Spike up to a pulp and says “There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside. You can’t feel anything real.” She tells him that he doesn’t have a soul and that she can never be his girl, but what she says about being dead inside and not being able to feel anything applies more to herself. In my honest opinion, the relationship between Spike and Buffy was complicated and awful during Season 6 and I will at least say that the show goes out of its way to try and convince the audience of the wrongness of both of their actions.

The two story arcs eventually come to a head in what I feel is the most divisive episode in the entire fandom. Just thinking of this episode honestly breaks my heart into a million pieces. Like St. Thomas Aquinas, I judge evil as having a lack of good and my least favorite Buffy episodes are ranked by how little “good” they have in them. “Seeing Red” comes really close to topping the list, if not for “Empty Places” which completely lacks any good moments whatsoever.

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There are two moments in “Seeing Red” that break my heart. The one that divides the fandom is the infamous bathroom scene in which Spike attempts to rape Buffy and Buffy fights him off, telling him “Ask me why I could never love you.”

hate this scene. But it’s not for the obvious attempted rape like you would think. It’s why that scene was written and the aftermath of this scene in the fandom. Buffy had every right to fight back, choosing to not harm herself or hate herself the way she did before. Spike also immediately realized the wrongness of what he did and leaves.

The reason I bring this particular scene up is because it reminds me of Saint Maria Goretti who also fought for her life when Alessandro attempted to rape her and ended up killing her instead. Too many people pay too much attention to the fact that Maria refused to give her virginity over to Alessandro and forget that she made an effort in fighting for her life. When I attended the veneration of her relics, the priest giving the homily pointed out that Alessandro left the room after stabbing her nine times and and rendering her unconscious. Maria regained consciousness and dragged herself to the door to open the latch and scream for help. Unfortunately, Alessandro heard her opening the latch and proceeded to stab her five more times. The damage that Maria suffered from these stab wounds would be what killed her, even after surgeons tried to fix the damages.

One scene from “Seeing Red” also involves the death of an innocent woman, except the cause of death is honestly implausible and impossible by rule of simple physics. I’m talking, of course, of Tara Maclay.

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Tara Maclay should not have died the way she did. But that is a complaint for another blog post.  Tara’s death would lead to Willow’s dark side becoming unleashed.

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In the season finale “Grave,” both Buffy and Willow finally begin to start healing. In this episode, Buffy and Dawn end up falling into a large underground grave, facing off against an army of undead things. Buffy panics, but it’s not until she sees Dawn fighting that she gains the will to fight again.

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Meanwhile, Xander faces off against Willow, who is on the brink of destroying the world, driven by the dark magics she is channeling and the rage and grief she has over Tara’s death.

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This is where the power of forgiveness starts showing. Xander is able to get to Willow to stop her rampage not by fighting her, but by telling her how much he loves her, even when she’s in her Dark Willow state. The “broken crayon” speech is one of my favorite Xander moments because Willow finally comes face to face with unconditional love that she doesn’t want to receive. And yet Xander’s willingness to get hurt if it means helping Willow get back to normal leads Willow to break down and cry.

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Buffy and Willow have finally begun to heal from the hurt that’s inside of them. But the episode doesn’t end with a sigh of relief.

When I was watching these episodes for the first time, I wondered where Spike was. There were scenes that show him going through a lot of trials and battles and most of the audience, including me, assumed he was trying to get the chip out of his head. Instead…

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Spike is given his soul back. Dear God, I did NOT see that coming and I was spoiled about the fact that Spike got ensouled sometime between Seasons 6 and 7. I honestly assumed he would be cursed with it. But to go through trials in order to regain his moral compass back?! How can you not see the parallels between that and the Sacrament of Penance?!

When Spike returns in Season 7, Buffy finds him in a chapel on a cemetery, dealing with the burden of his past actions. When Buffy realizes that he has his soul, she asks him why.

He replies, “Why does a man do what he mustn’t? For her. To be hers. To be the kind of man who would nev— (looks away) to be a kind of man.”

He approaches the cross at the front of the chapel and embraces it as he says “She shall look on him with forgiveness, and everybody will forgive and love. He will be loved. So everything’s OK, right? Can—can we rest now? Buffy…can we rest?”

Spike literally embraces his cross so that he can be worthy of Buffy’s love again. I seriously can’t even.

The reason why “Seeing Red” isn’t my #1 least favorite episode is because good things surprisingly came out of it. For one thing, James Marsters decided to put in his contract that he would never do a rape scene in anything he’s in after that episode, which is majorly amazing considering he always chooses to play the bad guy. It’s still a difficult thing for him to talk about to this day. It also led to Spike seeking atonement for his actions. Eventually, Buffy forgives him in what is, in my honest opinion, my favorite Spuffy moment in the entire show: the scene from “Touched” where Buffy tells Spike to stay with her in the abandoned house and they fall asleep in each other’s arms.

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What I really hate about the scene is that a good chunk of the fandom sees what Spike did as unforgivable. Willow eventually learns to forgive herself in Season 7 and she’s still a beloved character. Xander is easily forgiven for his actions even though he never got to atone for them. Angel is easily forgiven in spite of the fact that he let the majority of the lawyers of Wolfram and Hart be murdered by Darla and Drusilla. Why is it that Spike isn’t forgiven in the eyes of his haters?

Honestly, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t hate Spike. There are things that I hate that I can’t rationalize or give a good explanation for. I’m just saying that if we can’t forgive fictional characters for their actions and believe that they have atoned for their wrongdoings, how can we forgive people who do those things in real life?

It’s very telling that the most hated villain in all of Buffy isn’t Spike or Angelus or Glory or the Mayor or the Master. The most hated villains in Buffy are Warren Mears and The First Evil. The First Evil is hated mostly because it’s all talk and no action. But Warren? Warren is a human being. He isn’t a vampire or a hell god or a human who chose to become a demon. He is the most real villain of the entire season. He should have been easily taken care of, but Buffy and the Scoobies were too drenched in depression to deal with him properly. The reason Warren gets hated is because even though he’s a human, he murders his girlfriend, accidentally kills Tara, and shoots Buffy in cold blood, all without a single ounce of remorse.

We tend to treat people who do the things Warren did in a similar way. We hate them without giving them a chance for mercy or forgiveness. And believe me, I hate certain characters on Buffy and other shows to the point that I kill them in fanfictions. But here’s the thing, I can draw the line between fiction and reality. My friend Ian Miller says “I think if you care enough about a fictional character to defend them, you should care enough about a fictional character to treat them like a real person. If you act as yourself, you’re removing that distance, and thus the motives are functionally identical to if they were real.” Whenever I kill off characters in fiction, I do so with emotional distance. 

I still feel anger towards Warren for killing Tara and for Riley and Angelus because they represent the pain that tormented me. But last night, I chose to forgive those who hurt me. And it was an amazing, wonderful experience. I may never see those who’ve hurt me nor will I ever know if they are truly sorry, but I feel like I’ve moved on past the pain and feel released from the power that my enemies have had over me. I don’t know if it’ll be safe to be in the same room with them, but I know that right now, I can think about them without feeling any hurt. So hopefully, I can learn to forgive the characters I hate as well and give them a different karmic retribution that doesn’t end with them being tortured. I also hope that those who hate Spike for whatever reasons can learn to forgive him as well.

Besides that, Spike and Buffy are now having a happy mature relationship in the Season 10 comics, so in the immortal immature words of Nelson Muntz from The Simpsons:

Screenshots are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

Once More With Feeling: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #1

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Once More With Feeling is an episode that a lot of fans consider to be their favorite and it definitely tops my list because I’m a sucker for a good musical. In fact, I got introduced to Joss Whedon through Doctor Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. I know most of the songs in this episode by heart and honestly wouldn’t change a single thing about this episode. For the most part.

WARNING: MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE! Don’t read if you haven’t started Season 6!

The episode starts with a short recap of everything that’s been going on up to this point. Spike is in love with Buffy, who only sees his feelings as obsession. Willow resurrected Buffy and Dawn has kleptomania. Xander and Anya finally announce their engagement while Willow and Tara are having problems due to Willow becoming too dependent on magic. The short recap ends with Willow deciding to use a spell to make Tara forget a fight.

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The opening is a unique one compared to every other episode. The theme song is played in an orchestral style instead of the usual rock and roll theme. The cast’s faces are shown on the moon with old Hollywood style font. I so wish Amber Benson and Anthony Stewart Head got a part in this opening but oh well.

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The episode starts with the episode title being shown on screen as the overture begins to play. Buffy wakes up as her alarm clock rings. Willow, Tara, and Dawn are seen getting ready, but Buffy stays in bed. Cut to the Magic Box later that day, where Xander and Anya are looking at a bridal magazine, Giles reminds Dawn to go do her homework, Willow and Tara are studying, and Buffy is drawing a white light surrounded by darkness in her notebook.

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The overture then leads into the opening song that Buffy sings as she goes on patrol, “Going Through the Motions.” This song is majorly clever with the words syncing with Buffy’s fighting and slaying. She saves some random guy and laments that she wants to be alive. (Reminds me of Matthew West’s “The Motions.”)

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The next morning, Buffy goes to the Magic Box after dropping off Dawn at school. Xander makes a funny doughnut joke that Anya apparently heard before. Then Buffy asks everyone if anyone burst into song last night and everyone starts realizing that they did sing in some shape or form last night. This leads into the next song “I’ve Got a Theory.”

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This is a funny song because the song is so self-aware. I mean, how many musicals sing about why they’re singing? Scrubs kind of did that with their musical episode, but this song, to quote Commentary the Musical, basically “breaks the ninth wall.” Willow thinks some kid is dreaming and everyone is “stuck inside his wacky Broadway nighmare.”

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Xander thinks it could be witches, but gets shot down by Willow and Tara. Anya thinks it could be bunnies, which is met with the sound of crickets. Then she gets this hilarious solo about why she’s afraid of bunnies. It’s hard rock bordering on metal and Anya even plays air guitar. It is awesome.

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Then when Giles and Willow sing about how they should get to work, Buffy sings that it doesn’t matter.

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It sounds motivating at first, but then you realize that Buffy is completely disconnected from this latest danger. And yet I love it because the motivation is still there. Buffy even jokes about how she died twice. The song ends with the Scoobies saying “There’s nothing we can’t face” with Anya singing “except for bunnies.” Then she wonders if they’re the only ones singing, but Buffy looks outside to a crowd singing about how the dry cleaners got the mustard out.

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Later on, Dawn comes in, excited about everyone singing. Willow and Tara decide to get out of the Magic Box to get some kind of volume or text in Buffy’s house while Dawn steals a necklace she spies lying on the counter. You can pretty much tell from the way that Willow and Tara are talking that they actually just want to be alone together.

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The two of them are seen walking in a park, where a couple of boys are checking Tara out. Tara jokes about suddenly wanting the boys, but Willow hopes that she doesn’t have to fight to keep Tara. Keep in mind, by the way, that Tara is under the influence of Willow’s spell on her. This leads to Tara singing her beautiful ballad “Under Your Spell.” I know that Tara’s outfit kind of looks like a Renaissance Faire number, but it looks good on her. The song is a sweet number and it would be a genuine one if you forget about the fact that Tara is actually under Willow’s spell. The two of them go back home to…well…you know.

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This is where the song loses me because the two of them are basically having sex under false pretenses. Joss Whedon even says in the commentary that this scene was basically porn. Back in the Magic Box, Xander takes note at Willow and Tara’s “get a roominess” while Dawn thinks that the whole musical extravaganza is kind of romantic and doesn’t think that anything can go wrong. Cut to a guy tap dancing so hard he spontaneously combusts.

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The next morning sees Xander and Anya enjoying a morning off of work. Anya starts singing “I’ll Never Tell” which turns into a duet with her and Xander. Their duet is sweet, but the cracks in their relationship also show. It’s also delves into their insecurities about the future. The song itself is reminiscent of Singing in the Rain’s numbers, especially when Xander and Anya collapse onto a couch laughing. Anya even tells Giles in the next scene that their song “is a retro-pastiche that’s never going to be a breakaway pop hit.”

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As Anya, Xander, and Giles talk about what’s going on with the spontaneous combustions, executive producer Marti Noxon gets a short solo in which her character tries to talk her way out of getting a parking ticket. Giles says that Buffy is looking for information from local demon haunts. Guess where she actually goes.

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Buffy asks Spike if there’s anything going on and Spike hates that she’s not coming to see him for, um, other things. At this point the two of them have a very strange friendship going on, with Spike being the only one that Buffy can talk to about being dead and hating her life because she longs for Heaven. Spike tells her to leave, knowing that he could break out into song at any minute. This, of course, leads into his awesome solo “Rest in Peace.”

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Now as you know, I have a Texas-sized crush on Spike and the actor that plays him, so even though Buffy is disgusted at the fact that she’s being serenaded, I’m slowly realizing what “Killing Me Softly (With His Song)” actually means. James Marsters, incidentally, actually has a band and some solo albums out, so he gets to show off his skills in this song. You may also realize that he’s not singing in a British accent. But who cares?!

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The only thing wrong with this song is that it’s the complete opposite of what Spike actually wants from Buffy. Yes, he’s sick of getting mixed messages from her, but you’re not helping things by singing a mixed message of your own, Spike. And come on, Buffy, he’s serenading you! Enjoy it!

"So, you're not staying then?" Not after what you sang to her, you moron!

“So, you’re not staying then?”
Not after what you sang to her, you moron!

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Back in Buffy’s house, Dawn preps to do math homework. Tara tells Dawn about a lead Willow got about some musical demon that got summoned. Dawn reminds Tara about the fight that she and Willow had the previous night and Tara genuinely forgets and decides to go to the Magic Box to look into the flower that she pinned on her shirt.

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Dawn takes the necklace she stole out of the jewelry box and wears it. She starts singing when some demons with puppet heads kidnap her. The next scene shows Michelle Tratchenberg in the Bronze, showing off her ballet skills as her attempt to escape her kidnappers is shown as a really well-choreographed ballet. Dawn slides over to the stage, where she meets the musical demon Sweet, who goes into a nice bluesy villain song, “What You Feel.”

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Hilton Battle, who plays Sweet, is a Tony Award winning actor who tap-dances through this song with a devilish charm. Only problem with this song? Sweet assumes that Dawn summoned him and wants to make her his queen. Keep in mind that Dawn is 16 years old at this point. Sweet sends his minions to get Buffy cuz he wants to see her burn.

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Over in the Magic Box, Buffy’s training with Giles. Something to note, by the way. Anthony Stewart Head has his own music albums out so this number, “Standing” is his chance to show off his singing. He did it twice in Season 4 and I love this song. But I hate that Giles had to leave because Anthony Stewart Head wanted to leave the show. I get that Giles thinks that Buffy is becoming too dependent on him, but on the other hand, Buffy needs Giles because she’s majorly depressed and can’t lose her father figure when she already lost her mother the previous year. If Anthony Stewart Head wanted to leave, they could’ve killed Giles off. It would’ve made more sense than having Giles destroy Buffy psychologically.

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Tara makes her way up to the loft in the Magic Box and finds a book that shows that the flower she wore is Lethe’s Bramble, which is used for spells for erasing memories and mind control. Tara has handled abuse from her family before, so she hates that Willow is starting to abuse her. This leads into a duet between her and Giles in which the two of them sing about leaving the ones they love in spite of how much they want to stay. It really breaks my heart but I side more with Tara wanting to leave Willow.

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Spike comes in with one of Sweet’s minions who tells Buffy about how her sister is at the Bronze and how Sweet wants to take Dawn to the underworld to be his queen and then makes a run for it. Buffy expects everyone to back her up, but Giles tells her to go alone. Spike offers to help Buffy, but Buffy refuses it.

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This leads into my personal favorite song in this episode “Walk Through the Fire.” It’s an ensemble number that I love singing along to. I relate to Buffy wanting the fire in her heart to come back. The idea of walking through the fire is reminiscent of the idea of “If you’re going through hell, keep on moving.”

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Spike broods in an alley over his love for Buffy. He hopes that Buffy dies, but decides to go help her in spite of that desire. Yeah, his love is complicated and messed up. Just go with it.

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In the Magic Box, the Scoobies wonder if staying behind was the right choice. They decide to go to Bronze to rescue Dawn and help Buffy however they can. Buffy, however, thinks that she’s alone and she doesn’t want to tell anyone the truth about what actually happened to her.

This leads into my favorite part of the song. Everyone gets a line that builds up to the final chorus.

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Buffy kicks down the door to the Bronze, where she confronts Sweet. She makes an offer: “I can’t kill you, you take me to Hellsville in her place.” Sweet tells her to sing and Buffy starts her 11 o’clock number “Something to Sing About.”

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This song is another favorite of mine because Buffy is singing about how much she wants to live, but she has nothing to live for. In the midst of this song, Buffy finally reveals to everyone that she wasn’t in a hell dimension like she thought, but in Heaven. (Being Catholic, I of course refuse to believe that Buffy was in Heaven because Heaven is a one-way trip. The show didn’t exactly handle Buffy’s resurrection all that well, but since the show’s canon implies that Buffy was in Heaven, let’s just go with it for now.)

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Buffy starts dancing frantically in the hopes of burning up, only for Spike to save her from spontaneous combustion. He tells her that she just needs to keep on living, in spite of how hard life is. Dawn tells her sister “The hardest thing in this world is to live in it” and the number comes to an end.

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Sweet decides to take Dawn and leave because she summoned him, pointing out that she’s wearing his talisman. Xander reveals that he actually summoned Sweet and the demon decides to leave because he doesn’t swing that way. Now personally, I think that Dawn actually summoned Sweet and that Xander decided to cover for her, but that’s just my headcanon. Sweet leaves with one last parting shot and then everyone goes into the closing number “Where Do We Go From Here?”

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This song is a bittersweet one because they saved the day but the problems they have are still lingering in the air. In the midst of the song, Spike and Buffy leave as the rest of the Scoobies sing of how “the curtains close on a kiss not known…”

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Spike and Buffy meet outside of the Bronze. Spike makes a shout out to the Music Man and Buffy starts singing. The two of them go into their final duet in which Buffy pleads about how she wants to feel and Spike wants Buffy to make him feel, leading into the kiss that closes out the episode, curtain closing on them and all. (If I had it my way, Buffy would’ve sang “This can’t be real, I don’t know how I feel,” but I digress.)

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What can I say about this episode that hasn’t already been said? You can tell that the cast and crew worked really hard on this episode and in the wrong hands, it could’ve been disastrous. According to what James Marsters said, Joss Whedon has many talents, but he can’t play the piano so the cast was majorly scared of creating this episode. Miraculously, though, the music and choreography and cinematography all came together beautifully. It’s a great episode to sing along to, but not one I can show to casual fans.

I tried watching this episode back in my college days after becoming a fan of Joss through Doctor Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. But when I watched this episode for the first time, I didn’t know anything about any of the characters and I honestly wasn’t ready to get emotionally invested in them. Yet. In spite of that, Buffy lingered under my radar. I knew of the show and the characters, but I never dived into the Buffyverse until I felt like I needed it.

My friend Charles shared something on his Facebook that I feel relates to this episode and Season 6 as a whole:

Life is anything but certain and there are a few things that are. God often times reveal our true purposes in life along the way, only giving us hints here and there, but never really revealing the whole thing to us all at once. There is an important reason for this, for it is not through intellectual intuition that one can learn the answers to life’s greatest mysteries…but it is through experience.

Sometimes, God hides the answers to our greatest questions, because in His Infinite Wisdom, He knows we will not recognize the answers even if it were presented to us at face-value. It is only through experience, by living-out our daily lives, that we learn the “hidden clues” that bring us to the answers that we seek. This is the true nature of wisdom, learning something new from something old – of finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. You do not need to know all the answers, just have faith that one day you will, and more importantly, that you will finally recognize them when they appear.

Season 6 of Buffy is an emotional rollercoaster. “Once More With Feeling” and “Tabula Rasa” were the calm before the storm. Buffy wasn’t going to get any answers to why she got ripped out of Heaven from Sweet or any Powers that Be. Her reasons to live were right in front of her but she didn’t recognize it because she was lost in her depression. It took her a whole season for Buffy to finally regain the will to live and Spike, being her mirror image, also seeks reason to live which culminates in him regaining his soul.

This episode encompasses Season 6 in a nutshell. The Big Bad wasn’t some demon who wanted to take over the world, but just life itself. And the answer to facing life? Just keep on living.

The Gift: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #2

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It’s not easy for me to pick which episode of Buffy will go in the #2 spot. I reserve my #1 spot for the episode I can watch multiple times and still love no matter what. The #2 spot goes to my favorite season finale. Joss Whedon is amazing at making finales and all the finales to Buffy were great. “Prophecy Girl” was the big finish to a less-than-stellar first season. “Becoming Part 2” is #3 on my list for being the first episode that got me crying over the show. The “Graduation” 2-parter in Season 3 is the most solid season finale. “Restless” is the best absurd theater ever. “Grave” was just a big sigh of relief after the roller-coaster that was Season 6 and still left me crying in the end. And “Chosen” was a contender for this spot because of one majorly awesome moment that changed my life forever.

But the reason I picked “The Gift” over the other finales is because in spite of how it ends, I felt like everyone was at their best in this particular episode. Everyone felt in-character and I actually believed in a good future for everyone if one thing didn’t happen. But  that’s stuff I’ll save for fanfiction.

MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE! IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED SEASON 5, STOP RIGHT NOW! Also, Buffy fans, you’re gonna need tissues for this one.

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The episode starts out with a breathtaking 38-second recap of literally everything that has happened in the last five seasons before cutting to a shot of someone running down an alleyway. Joss Whedon said that the idea for Buffy was inspired by the thought of “what if the blonde girl who always ran away from the monsters only to get killed actually kicked the monster’s ass instead?” This opening scene shows a young boy running down an alleyway from a vampire, turning the tables on that classic horror movie trope. Then Buffy comes in with a nice opening snark and proceeds to kick the vampire’s ass and stakes him without too much of a struggle. Buffy’s actually surprised that the vampire didn’t recognize her as the Slayer and starts leaving. The boy is surprised that she was able to beat that vampire, saying “You’re just a girl.”

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“That’s what I keep saying.”

I should tell you right now that the Season 5 opening credits in this episode are my favorite. The only thing missing was a credit for Amber Benson. And no, her opening credit in a particular Season 6 episode does not count!

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Buffy returns to the Magic Box.  Everyone is figuring out how to stop Glory from using Dawn, Buffy’s little sister,  a ritual that would literally unleash Hell on earth. Dawn has the power to open up the portal to Glory’s hell dimension and her blood is what opens the portal. It would take Dawn’s death to close the opening and stop Glory’s hell dimension from bleeding over into Buffy’s world.  Xander asks why the ritual has to involve blood. Spike, ever the street-smart one, says that it’s always blood because blood is life.

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Buffy does not want to deal with the concept of killing her sister to save the world, even if Dawn isn’t actually her sister. Buffy points out that Dawn is a part of her because the monks created Dawn out of her. Giles reminds Buffy that if the ritual is complete, Glory’s hell dimension will bleed into Buffy’s world and that everyone will die. But Buffy, in spite of the fact that she loves everyone, loves Dawn so much that she doesn’t want to kill her.

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Anya decides that they need to stop Glory before the ritual and Spike asks Buffy “When you say you love us all-” only for Giles and Xander to tell him to shut up. It’s a relieving moment in a majorly serious episode.

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Xander contemplates killing Ben, but since Ben and Glory share a body, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll come around. In my honest opinion, Ben was never actually human. He was just a “host body” for Glory in the same way Professor Quirrel was the host body for Voldemort. The Scoobies decide that since the ritual needs to take place at a certain allotted time, Buffy can stall for time. Anya remembers the Dagon Sphere to make Glory weak and points out that they have a troll hammer that Buffy thankfully can wield. (In my honest opinion, I wish that the hammer was Mjolinir but that’s just the Avengers fangirl in me.) When they start wondering about how to find Glory, Tara, whose mind has been damaged from Glory stealing her memories, starts crying out about the “big day.”

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Over in the bad guy’s hideout, Ben gives Dawn a dress for the ritual. Dawn snarks at him and asks for Glory to come around. And since we’re talking about the Big Bad of Season 5, allow me to use this scene to gush about how awesome Clare Kramer is as an actress for making Glory my favorite Big Bad. Glory knows exactly what she wants and doesn’t care about unleashing Hell in order to get it. She’s hilarious and a total knockout when it comes to looks. She’s basically like a Bond villain only with super strength. You’d be surprised to find out that in real life, Clare Kramer is the nicest lady there is. I actually got to meet her in Comicpalooza and told her about how much I loved the show.

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The next scene in this episode finds Buffy taking her frustrations out on a punching bag. She punches the bag off the chain in a scene that Joss will later use for Captain America in Avengers when Giles tells her that stopping Glory is a matter of waiting for the right moment to strike. Giles says that sometimes saving the world comes at the cost of doing something bad, but Buffy refuses to consider it. The two of them sit down on a couch and think things over.

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Then Buffy breaks out into a heartbreaking monologue about how the burden of saving the world is taking its toll on her. She doesn’t want to save the world if it means losing everything that she loves. She laments about how the First Slayer, a spirit guide seen in a previous episode, told her that death was her gift and says that if Dawn dies, she won’t be the Slayer anymore.

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Dawn changes into the dress that Glory picked out for the ritual and gets taken by Glory’s minions to a tall tower overlooking a construction site.

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Back in the Magic Box, Xander and Anya are down in the basement, dressing up after having sex with each other. Xander finds the Buffybot while Anya looks around the basement for the Dagon Sphere. She finds a stuffed bunny instead and freaks out, since she has major bunny phobia. Xander comforts Anya, who tells him that before, she would run away whenever an apocalypse was coming around but since she’s a human and not a vengeance demon, she actually cares for Xander and wants to help save the world. This prompts Xander to propose to her. Anya rightfully thinks that he’s proposing just because the world is gonna end and Xander won’t go through with it. Xander insists that he’s proposing because he believes that the world won’t end and he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Anya accepts on the condition that she gets the ring “if the world doesn’t end.” It’s at this point that I cry out “We could’ve had it all!” from Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Screw you Season 6!

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Buffy goes to Willow and asks her if she is ready to help. Willow is the only one, at this point, that was able to hurt Glory with the power of her magic. Willow is more focused on helping Tara and thinks that if she can reverse what Glory did and get Tara’s memories back, it could weaken Glory. Willow is at her best in Season 5, in my honest opinion. She uses her magic to help others instead of using it as a quick fix to solve her problems. I have to give Amber Benson major cred for her performance in this episode because it’s not easy to act insane.

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Buffy takes Spike to her house. It should be noted, by the way, that at this point, Buffy has disinvited Spike from her house. So when she tells Spike to come in, it’s a majorly important thing. Buffy tells Spike to protect Dawn and Spike promises “til the end of the world.”

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Buffy goes up the stairs, but stops when Spike tells her that he understands that Buffy will never love him. (He’ll be proven wrong about that later.) He understands that he’s a monster, but Buffy treats him like a man. Which is surprisingly true. It’s one of the best Spuffy moments in the whole series. And yes, I am screaming at Buffy to kiss him at this point.

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As Dawn gets tied up at the top of the tower, the Scoobies assemble at the Magic Box. Willow tells Tara to lead the way. Buffy tells everyone that the mission is to stop the ritual from happening or else she’ll kill anyone who gets near Dawn. Giles and Spike leave quoting the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, only Spike says “we band of buggered” instead of “band of brothers.”

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Tara leads the Scoobies to the construction site and there’s a small funny moment when Willow says she needs courage and Spike offers his flask. It’s at this point that I realize that Spike has officially become part of the team, however reluctant an ally he is. It totally sucks at how everyone’s gonna treat him in the next season.

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When Glory finds Tara wandering onto the site, Willow comes in and performs the spell that helps Tara regain her memories. Glory starts feeling weak and needs a brain to eat. She finds Buffy standing and snarking at her.

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Buffy throws the Dagon Sphere at Glory, who crushes it in her hands. Buffy proceeds to kick Glory’s ass even as her minions pun about this being their day of glory  and the other Scoobies proceed to fight off the minions. Willow goes to check on Tara and the two of them have a beautiful exchange.

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I will always find you.

Who knew those words would be later used between Snow White and Prince Charming in Once Upon a Time? 

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Glory starts to get the upper hand and kicks Buffy’s head off. It’s at this point that we realize that the Buffy that Glory was fighting was actually the Buffybot. Then the real Buffy appears and hammers Glory Super Smash Bros style. (Incidentally, Clare Kramer has said that ” Did everybody else know the Slayer was a robot?” is her favorite line.)

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Dawn starts screaming for Buffy, so Buffy goes up the tower, with Glory following after her. I seriously love the fight scene in the tower because it’s different from all the other major fights in the series. It’s a a close-quarters brawl that really takes advantage of the tower setting, much like Hawkeye and Black Widow’s fight in Avengers. Unfortunately, Buffy and Glory get knocked off of the tower and Buffy loses her hammer.

"And the glorified bricklayer picks up a spare." He came in like a wrecking ball.

“And the glorified bricklayer picks up a spare.”
He came in like a wrecking ball.

Thankfully, Xander comes in with a wrecking ball that pummels Glory down.

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The Scoobies are cornered by Glory’s minions. Up on the tower, Dawn sees Doc, who once helped her acquire a magic spell in a previous episode. It turns out, however, that he’s one of Glory’s minions. Spike notices that someone is up there with Dawn. Willow communicates with Spike telepathically to go to Dawn and uses her magic to push Glory’s minions aside psychically. Spike confronts the Doc and the battle is unfortunately one-sided in the Doc’s favor. This is a usage of a trope called “The Worf Effect” in which a character who would usually have the upper hand in a situation is suddenly made weak for the sake of drama. Doc takes note that Spike doesn’t even have a soul and asks why the bleach blonde vampire even cares. To which Spike replies:

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“I made a promise to a lady.”

How can you say that Spike can’t love without a soul when you have something like that?! Seriously, it just proves my theory that the “soul” is just a lack of conscience and vampires are really just humans with majorly corrupted souls. Spike is selflessly putting himself out there to protect Dawn and all out of love for Dawn as well as for Buffy. Unfortunately, the Worf Effect gives Doc the upper hand and pushes Spike off the tower.

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Buffy hammers Glory so much that she reverts back to Ben. Buffy tells Ben to get out of town or else. Then Giles comes in.

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Take a note that Giles isn’t wearing his glasses. The show points out in an episode that Giles has a habit of taking off his glasses when he doesn’t want to actually acknowledge the reality in front of him. However, he chooses to put on his glasses as he smothers Ben and kills him.

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As the Doc cuts Dawn open, Buffy pushes Doc off the tower and Dawn starts bleeding, causing the portal to open. Dear God, I wish this didn’t happen. Glory is dead. Dawn’s blood shouldn’t have caused the portal to open. But it did anyway. Everyone braces for the end of the world.

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Dawn prepares to jump off the tower, but Buffy stops her. Dawn knows that she dies if she makes that jump, but the portal will only close with her blood. It’s at this moment that Buffy realizes that her blood and Dawn’s are the same and remembers what the First Slayer told her.

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As the sun rises, Buffy realizes what she needs to do. She turns to Dawn and tells her something we don’t get to hear until the end of the episode. She gives Dawn a loving kiss and runs to make a swan dive off the tower.

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Buffy’s death is shown as a struggle, followed by a sigh of relief as the magic of the portal kills her.

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Everyone gathers around Buffy’s dead body. We see Buffy with a look of peace on her face. Spike cries genuine tears over her death as do the rest of the Scoobies and everyone watching this episode.

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The last shot of the episode is of Buffy’s tombstone.

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Throughout this final scene, we hear Buffy’s last words to Dawn:

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Dawn listen to me. Listen. I love you. I’ll always love you. But this is the work I have to do. Tell Giles I… I figured it out. And I’m okay. Give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them now — you have to take care of each other. You have to be strong. Dawn. The hardest thing in this world is to live in it. Be brave. Live. For me.

Now this is where I dive into my own personal speculations with the show.

I never thought that death was Buffy’s gift. It’s the gift of every other Slayer, yes, but the show has gone out of its way to show that Buffy lived longer than every other Slayer because she had friends, family, and a semblance of a normal life. She had things to live for and her will to live outweighed the usual Slayer death wish.

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If you asked me what I thought Buffy’s real gift was, it’s love. It’s Buffy’s love that drives her to protect the world from evil. Buffy’s motivations throughout every single season were based on some kind of love, even if she was unaware of it. It was Buffy’s desire to live and accepting her role as the Slayer that gave her the upper hand in “Prophecy Girl.” Buffy loved Angel enough to let him go in the Season 2 finale, even though it crushed her. It was Buffy’s love for Angel that motivated her into fighting Faith. Once Angel’s life was saved, Buffy’s love for the world pushed her into taking down the Mayor in Graduation, Part Two. It was the combined love of the Scoobies that helped Buffy take down the Initiative in Season 4. Even though Buffy didn’t take down the Season 6 Big Bad, Xander’s love was a major factor in helping to save the world and Spike loved Buffy so much that he sought out his soul for her. In the Season 7 finale, it was Buffy’s love for the potentials that gave her the idea to share her powers with every girl in the world.

Buffy can’t ever be a normal girl but she can’t be a killing machine, either. It’s when Buffy embraces being a Slayer and being a normal girl that she is at her best. It’s Buffy’s love for Dawn that drives her to sacrifice herself, even if it has majorly bad consequences in the next season.

So yeah. As much as I’d love to fanfic the heck out of this episode and make it so that Buffy doesn’t have to die in the end, I still love “The Gift.” It shows everybody at their best and, in spite of Buffy’s death, still left me feeling hopeful.

Because Buffy was right. Life is hard. Just living day to day can be the hardest thing to do because we live in a broken world. And yet, through grace, we are given the gift to find the beauty within this broken world. Through grace, we are given the courage to try and make the world a better place.

Joshua 1:9 says “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed.”

Be brave. Live.

Screenshots are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.

Becoming, Part 2: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #3

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I just think…that when it’s all over, it just comes back in flashes, you know? It’s like a kaleidoscope of memories. It just all comes back. But Becoming Part Two? It was the first time that Buffy ripped my heart out and crushed it in front of me. I think part of me know the second I watched this show that this would happen. It’s not really anything the characters said or anything they did. It was the feeling that came along with it. And the crazy thing is, I don’t know if I’m ever gonna feel that way again with any other show. But I don’t know if I should. I knew this show was going to break my heart into a million pieces and leave me begging for more, but I just thought “How can Joss Whedon break my heart when my heart has been broken in real life already?” Maybe he knew that when he started writing and directing this. All I knew was that I was never the same after this episode. I think that the worst part of watching this episode wasn’t Buffy losing Angel. It was when Buffy lost herself.

MAJOR SPOILERS ENSUE! Don’t read if you haven’t watched Buffy at all. Also: Bangel shippers, leave while you can. I’m not gonna be nice to Angel in this post.

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Becoming Part 2 picks up where the previous one left off, with the police catching Buffy next to her friend Kendra’s dead body. The police assume, from Principal Snyder’s testimony, that Buffy killed Kendra and proceed to arrest her. Thankfully, Buffy makes her escape, but now she’s become a fugitive.

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She appears in the hospital dressed like a conspicuous hobo and finds Xander. Willow is lying in a coma after Drusilla and her minions attacked the Scoobies and killed Kendra in the previous episode. Cordelia comes in and her genuine compassion is one of the few glimpses we get to the “real Cordelia” that will appear in the Buffy spinoff Angel.

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Speaking of the brooding blockhead, the next scene shows Angelus continuing to torture Giles for information as to how to open the statue of Acathla, an apocalypse demon.

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Although the show and the spinoff Angel has gone to great lengths to establish Angel and Angelus as separate entities, I never bought that for a second. (Neither did other fans.) The “soul” in Buffy is supposed to be a moral conscience, since vampires represent the unwillingness to change and become an adult. However, in the previous episode, we see that Liam, the human that Angel was before he became a vampire, is a careless womanizing slacker. When he gets sired by Darla, the nature of the vampire emphasized Liam’s lack of empathy for his family and turned Liam into a sociopathic serial killer.

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When Angelus gets cursed by the gypsies, he spends centuries wallowing in guilt and doesn’t make a lot of effort into saving anyone until some guy named Whistler comes along and shows him the Slayer who happens to be a very attractive young blonde Buffy, a popular girl at Hemery High School, sitting on the steps sucking on a lollipop.

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And what makes Angel lose his soul again? Sleeping with Buffy when she’s a 17-year-old virgin. Over a century of having a moral conscience and it’s having sex that makes him lose his soul. If you’re starting to hear alarms in your head that blare out: LOLITA COMPLEX! LOLITA COMPLEX! CREEPY STALKER IS CREEPY! Then congratulations, you just learned one of the many reasons I don’t ship Bangel!

Back to the episode.

Over in Buffy’s house, Joyce gets informed by the cops about how Buffy is wanted for murder. Buffy goes over to Giles’s apartment only to find a stranger there instead.

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Meet Whistler, Angel’s former “wingman” so to speak. It’s never exactly established who or what Whistler is. He says he’s an agent of the “Powers that Be,” a pantheon of “higher beings” that play a larger role in Angel than they do in Buffy. Whistler asks Buffy what she’s prepared to lose and warns her that “In the end, you’re always by yourself. You’re all you got — That’s the point.” Buffy rightfully storms out, frustrated, only to run into a police officer out on the streets. The cop starts approaching Buffy, but gets knocked out by a very familiar face.

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HELLO HOTTIE!

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So I bet y’all are wondering why the heck Spike is talking to Buffy when, at this point, they’re mortal enemies. Spike wants to help Buffy take down Angel and tells her that Angel has Giles hostage as proof. When Buffy asks her why Spike wants to save the world, Spike launches into a monologue that established the kind of villain he is. Most of the time, vampires talk about destroying the world, but it’s just a lot of hot air. Angelus, however, is the kind of vampire that actually wants to destroy the world without realizing that it would come at the cost of destroying a vampire’s only food source: humans. Spike also likes the world that we live in and on top of all that, he wants Dru to stop cheating on him with Angel, to which Buffy replies:

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The whole earth may be sucked into Hell, and you want my help ’cause your girlfriend’s a big ho? Well, let me take this opportunity to *not* care.

It’s kind of funny that Buffy is unsympathetic to Dru sleeping with Angel because, Angel essentially dumped Buffy for Dru after losing his soul. You’d think that Buffy would empathize with losing your ex to someone else. But again, Buffy is still under the belief that vampires are incapable of love. Oh well. That’s stuff I’ll save for when I’m writing fanfiction.

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Buffy and Spike make their reluctant alliance. Spike looks to the unconscious cop with the intent on killing him, but Buffy stops him. Oh Spike. Buffy already has you whipped and you’re not even in love with her yet.

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In the hospital, Cordelia leaves to get coffee while Xander makes a heartfelt plea to Willow, saying that he loves her. I really hate that they never actually played around with the Xander/Willow relationship and only used it as a pseudo-romantic conflict in Season 3. Either give these two a “just friends” level of closure or actually have them hook up and break up later. It’s not that hard.

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Willow starts waking up, thinking that the “I love you” she heard came from Oz. Thankfully, Oz comes in the room. Xander leaves as Willow and Oz have an adorable moment together. I seriously loved the Willow/Oz ship in all its adorableness. But you can never make me choose whether I love Oz or Tara more with Willow. Both relationships are important to Willow’s character arc.

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While Angelus continues to torture Giles, Spike and Buffy make their way over to Buffy’s house. Joyce asks Buffy who Spike is and the two of them lie about being in a band together. As they head towards the front door, a vampire attacks. It’s just awesome to see how easily Buffy and Spike work together when taking out the vamp and I’m so glad that Buffy ends up finally letting the secret of her Slaying life out to her mother. When I first watched this episode, I seriously liked the way that Spike and Buffy fought together and wanted more. What was this feeling, so sudden and new? (From a distance you can hear the sound of Spuffy fans saying “I ship it.”)

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Inside Buffy’s house, Buffy talks to Willow and Xander on the phone while Joyce and Spike make awkward (yet hilarious) conversation in Buffy’s living room. After the phone call ends, Buffy and Spike work out their deal in the living room while Joyce is still trying to process the fact that Buffy is a Slayer.

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Spike heads back to Angelus’s mansion while Joyce and Buffy argue over Buffy being a Slayer. Joyce is having a hard time accepting it and I’ll admit, it’s really bad timing for Joyce to find out that vampires exist and that Buffy is not a delinquent but a superhero, but the role of the Slayer is a metaphor for adulthood. Some parents out there do refuse to accept the reality that their children are growing up or only want their children to grow up on their terms. It makes Buffy’s monologue about how she wishes she could just be a normal teenage girl all the more heartbreaking.

Do-do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or... God, even studying! But I have to save the world... again.

Do you think I chose to be like this? Do you have any idea how lonely it is, how dangerous? I would *love* to be upstairs watching TV or gossiping about boys or… God, even studying! But I have to save the world… again.

Joyce thinks that Buffy is going crazy, but Buffy assures Joyce that everything is fine and starts to leave. Then Joyce gives Buffy an ultimatum: “You walk out of this house, don’t even think about coming back!” Joyce obviously didn’t mean it. Most parents don’t actually kick their kids out of the house when their kid decides on growing up, but Buffy takes it seriously and leaves.

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It really, really sucks that Joyce lacks empathy for what Buffy is going through because I honestly feel that it’s out of Joyce’s character, or at least the way I perceive Joyce’s character. But this show goes out of its way to establish that the life of a Slayer is supposed to be a lonely one. And yeah, growing up sucks. But in spite of what the show says, we never have to deal with growing up alone. And Buffy isn’t alone.

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In the hospital, Willow decides that in spite of the fact that she got knocked out, she wants to try the ensouling curse on Angelus that she attempted in the previous episode. It’s established that the curse is powerful magic and Willow is not at 100%, but regardless Willow is resolved to do it because they could stop Angel from awakening Acathla. Oz and Cordy go to the library to get materials and Willow asks Xander to tell Buffy about what’s going on.

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Over in Angelus’s mansion, Giles does his best to keep calm even as Angelus continues to torture him. Spike comes in, keeping up the appearance that he’s still in a wheelchair from getting crushed by an organ several episodes ago, and asks Drusilla to try and get into Giles’s head.

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Buffy returns to the library to grab the sword that Kendra gave to her. Snyder comes in and expels Buffy from school. Buffy leaves with a snark and Snyder makes a call to future Big Bad Mayor Wilkins.

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Back in Angelus’s mansion, Dru uses her psychic powers to get inside Giles’s head and hypnotizes Giles into seeing her as his deceased lover, Jenny Calendar. Giles gets caught up in the enthrallment and reveals that Angel’s blood is the key to unlocking Acathla. Of course, Drusilla gets caught up in the moment as well and it’s not until she breaks character that her spell over Giles gets broken and Giles realizes that he’s been tricked.

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Buffy goes back to Giles’s apartment and asks Whistler about how to stop Angelus. Whistler tells her that Angelus’s blood doesn’t just open Acathla’s portal into hell, but also closes it. Buffy will need to kill Angel in order to either prevent Acathla from literally unleashing hell on earth or send Angel to hell and close up the portal to Acathla’s hell dimension. Buffy is resolved to do whatever it takes, thinking that she’s got nothing left to lose.

As she leaves, Whistler says:

Wrong, kid. You got one thing.

Wrong, kid. You got one more thing.

Buffy heads off to Angelus’s mansion and runs into Xander, who’s there to back her up. She tells Xander to get Giles out and get to safety. Then Xander tells Buffy about what Willow told him to say only to backtrack. When Buffy asks Xander about what Willow says, Xander lies and says:

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“Kick his ass.”

Now this scene is the first of many “base breakers.” The fandom is still divided over this scene even though it’s been almost a decade after the episode aired. Some people think that Xander lying to Buffy was justified. On the other hand, Ian AKA Passion of the Nerd points out that “Buffy trusts Xander and always expects the truth from him, especially given information that might affect her tactics in battle and Xander decides that he knows better than either of them. Nobody knew how the battle would play out and Xander’s decision actually limited Buffy’s options. Whatever his motivations for that decision, that is very simply wrong. He cannot elect himself commander.”

What do I think? All I can say about it is: NO! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! Xander should not have lied to Buffy because this lie will have major consequences into the ending of this episode and will come again into play in Season 7. And it majorly sucks that Xander was never called out on that lie at all in this series.

Moving on.

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Angeuls’s ritual with Acathla is interspersed with scenes of Willow, Cordelia and Oz preparing the ritual of the ensouling curse. Buffy makes her entrance and starts fighting Angelus. Spike gets a couple blows at Angelus as well and then proceeds to fight Drusilla. Xander rescues Giles and the two make their way out after a comically relieved exchange. Angelus gets the sword out of Acathla and Dru is enjoying the chaos that will ensue only for Spike to knock her out by smothering her.

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Angelus and Buffy have an epic swordfight as Willow continues the ensouling ritual. The swordfight leads out to a courtyard where Angelus corners Buffy. Spike has Dru over his shoulder, sees Angelus cornering Buffy, thinks Angelus is gonna kill her, and decides to leave. If I had it my way, Spike would’ve at least tried to stop Angelus for the sake of wanting to be the one to kill Buffy, but that’s something I’ll save for a fanfiction.

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Angelus points his sword close to Buffy’s neck, flashing a Bond villain smile at her. “Now that’s everything, huh? No weapons… No friends… No hope. Take all that away… and what’s left?”

Me.

Me.

She shoves the sword back at Angelus’s face, gets up on her feet, and kicks him in the chest in a moment that makes you go: “YES! KICK HIS ASS!”

 

The sword fight continues as Spike leaves Sunnydale with Dru and Willow finds herself overcome with the power of the ritual, speaking in tongues as she channels the gypsies who created the curse.

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Buffy finally corners Angelus at Acathala’s statue and just as she’s about to take a swing to kill him…

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Nope. Nope! NOPE! THIS IS NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN! WHY DID ANGEL HAVE TO GET HIS SOUL BACK NOW?!

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Buffy is shocked to see Angel re-ensouled. The two of them comfort each other and Buffy hugs Angel. However, as Doctor Who has established, “Never trust a hug. It’s just a way to hide your face.” In the hug, Buffy sees Acathla’s mouth open. Angel asks Buffy what’s going on as tears are streaming down her face. She tells Angel to close his eyes and the most tear-jerking music plays as Buffy and Angel share one last kiss before Buffy skewers Angel with a sword and sends him to hell.

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As the portal to hell closes and Angel gets sucked into Acathla’s hell dimension, Buffy breaks down in tears as another tear-jerking song plays. Buffy packs up, leaves a note to her mom, and gives one last look at her friends and high school before going off on a bus out of Sunnydale.

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It is in this moment that I felt like Joss Whedon ripped my heart out of my chest and crushed it in front of me. It took a whole month for me to get the nerve to get back to Buffy and watch Season 3. Partially because November was around the corner by the time I finished Season 2 and I needed to set aside that month for National Novel Writing Month and partially because I didn’t know how much more I could handle.

There’s a certain song that comes to mind when I think of this episode and the show in general. I’m just gonna leave you with this song and let you wallow in feels again:

 

Fool For Love: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #4

 

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I. Love. This. Episode. It’s my favorite episode of Season 5 (my fave season) even though it doesn’t involve the Big Bad, because it shows Spike’s backstory, establishes a majorly important theme, and captures the nature of Spike and Buffy’s relationship. If you ever wonder why the heck I ship Spuffy, this is one of the episodes I would show you.

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The episode starts out with  Buffy fighting a really badly dressed 80s vampire. Buffy does her usual snarking but right before she gets to staking, the vampire ends up staking her in the gut instead. Buffy punches the vampire in the face and removes the stake from her gut as she runs. 80s vamp catches up to her and you’d think Buffy is on the ropes, but Riley ends up saving her.

 

 

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Again, apologies to Marc Blucas, but you can pretty much replace this scene with any other character and it would’ve been the exact same thing. Buffy isn’t usually the damsel in distress but given that she had to deal with a major stab wound, you can allow Buffy to be vulnerable for a bit. I am gonna do my best to be nice to Riley, but I’m not gonna make any promises.

 

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Riley patches up Buffy back in her bedroom. Riley asks Buffy if there’s something special about the vampire who got her, but Buffy says it was just a regular vampire. Dawn and Joyce come in and Dawn covers up for Buffy. Buffy shows the wound to her sister and makes her promise not to tell. Riley decides to take over for patrol. Buffy accepts under the condition that he takes the rest of the Scoobies with him.

 

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I won’t go into detail on the scenes with Riley’s patrol because honestly, this is not what the episode is about. The scenes where Riley goes after the 80s vamp and his friends establishes how Riley’s “demon hunting” style is different from Buffy’s. Riley was trained in the military, so he uses guerrilla tactics and some major overkill. Buffy  in contrast, has a more improvised style. Yes, she does research but she usually thinks on her feet.

 

 

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Said “thinking on the go” applies to the next two scenes. After pouring over tons of Watcher Diaries with Giles, Buffy laments that the Slayers’ final battles were never recorded. Giles says it’s because the Watchers found themselves unable to detach from the pain of losing a slayer. Pop quiz: Who in this show has killed two Slayers and lived to tell the tale?

 

 

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Right on cue.

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Buffy and Spike go out to the Bronze to talk about the two Slayers that Spike killed in exchange for cash. He tells Buffy that it’s not about the moves and demands that she order a plate of buffalo wings. I know Spike is coming off as a jerk in this scene, but, well, Buffy is acting equally jerkish to him. And as sad as it is to say, Buffy is not gonna get any easy answers from Spike. Spike brags to Buffy that he was always bad. We’re about to find out, however, that Spike is lying.

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The flashback shows a very adorable William Pratt working on a poem. He sees a beautiful woman named Cecily walk into your typical Victorian England party and goes to talk to her. He finds her with some of his “friends,” ask him about some strange disappearances happening in London. He tells them that he prefers to think of things of beauty, referring to his poem. The upper crust frenemy reads the poem out loud and, well, it’s bad: “My heart expands, ’tis grown a bulge in it, inspired by your beauty, effulgent.”

 

 

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It might just be my long experience with my own bad writing, but it wasn’t actually bad. Regardless, everyone starts laughing at William’s couplet, so he takes his poem and follows Cecily to a sitting room. Before he leaves, though, we find out that William was called “William the Bloody” because of his bloody awful poetry and not because he was already some kind of pugilist or serial killer. The upper crust bully who read the poem says that he’d rather have a railroad spike through his head than listen to that awful stuff. He’s gonna regret those words.

 

 

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William goes to Cecily inside a sitting room. Cecily asks if the poems are about her and is aghast to find out that they are. William professes his love to her only to get shot down. She says “You’re nothing to me, William. You’re beneath me.”

 

 

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William leaves the party sobbing, tearing up his poem as he walks. He crashes into a trio of very well-dressed aristocrats. (Spoilers: The aristocrats are Drusilla, Angelus, and Darla.) He ends up inside of a barn where Drusilla ends up finding him. William mistakes Drusilla for a pickpocket, but that’s not what she has in mind. William is intrigued by her, but, well, Drusilla has a way with getting what she wants. And, well, you know what happens after she starts biting his neck.

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Spike explains the allure of becoming a vampire over a game of pool. My personal theory about vampires in the Buffyverse (and in general) is that vampires are human souls corrupted to varying degrees by the demon that takes over their bodies. And not all vampires are the same.

 

 

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This is clearly shown when Spike joins Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla. Angelus and Darla aren’t exactly keen on Spike because “William the Bloody” (which has now taken on a more sinister tone) likes starting riots for the sake of, well, having a riot. Angelus, for those who don’t know, is a lot like a stylized serial killer. He likes playing mind games and putting a lot of thought and effort into the way that he kills people. Spike, on the other hand, is a rough-and-tumble kind of vampire. And yeah, David Boreaneaz’s Irish accent sucks. (Apologies to the David Boreaneaz fangirls.)  The two vampires start fighting and when Angelus starts realizing that Spike has a point on the appeal of the rough-and-tumble fighting style, he tells Spike that he’ll probably end up killed by an angry mob or the Slayer. Now usually, vampires go running from the Slayer. Spike is a unique vampire because he actively seeks out Slayers. The first lesson that Spike tells Buffy is that she always needs her weapon at the ready. He then starts telling the story of his battle with the Chinese Slayer.

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Way back in the days of the Boxer Rebellion in China, Spike fought a Slayer named Xin Rong whose swordfighting skills gave Spike the scar on his eyebrow. The fight scene is amazing, like something out of, well, a really good action movie. But ultimately, Spike gets the upper hand and kills her. Drusilla comes in very turned on by the fact that Spike killed a Slayer. Spike tells Dru that the blood of the Slayer is a powerful aphrodisiac and shares the blood with her. Then, well, you can guess what happened after that. Even if they are vampires, they are also very much in love.

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The two of them meet with Darla and Angelus out in a town square and Drusilla announces Spike’s latest victory. You might notice that Angelus is a bit odd in this scene. Let’s just say he’s not himself right now.

 

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The shot of the Whirlwind doing a slow walk through the town is nothing short of epic, especially for fans who’ve wanted to see Darla, Angelus, Drusilla, and Spike all together. And Spike says that the night he killed the Chinese Slayer for the first time was the best night of his life. Buffy is disgusted that Spike and Dru got off on the kill, only for Spike to snark back “And you haven’t?” Incidentally, another Slayer would say something about how slaying gets a girl “hungry and horny” but I digress.

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Spike tells Buffy that the one thing all vampires hope for is one good day and that Buffy is starting to think that she’s invincible. Buffy says that she can handle herself. Spike points out the wound in Buffy’s gut and they take things outside.

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Buffy starts sparring with Spike and Spike tells Buffy Lesson Number Two: Ask the right questions. It’s not “Why did he win?” It’s “Why did they lose?”

 

 

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Cut to the 1970s where a very cliche disco track plays over 1970s Spike’s battle with the New York Slayer, Nikki Wood. The flashback is interspersed with Spike and Buffy’s sparring in the alleyway. Spike explains that Nikki was more cunning and resourceful, similar to Buffy.

spike vs nikki

 

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“I could’ve danced all night with that one.”

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“You think we’re dancing?”

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“That’s all we’ve ever done.”

 

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Spike points out that the only thing about the dance of the Slayer is that the Slayer dances with death and it never stops. He knows that sooner or later death will catch up to Buffy. Every Slayer eventually has a death wish. What makes Buffy different, the reason she’s lived longer than most Slayers, is that she has ties to the world.

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Spike makes one more intimidating glare to Buffy, boasting to her that when she gets that death wish, he’ll be there to grant it.

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You can tell by Buffy’s face that Spike really got under her skin this time. And, well, even if Spike wasn’t a potential love interest, I would’ve been okay if Buffy died by Spike’s hands because he is a worthy opponent.

But…

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DAMMIT BUFFY HE WANTS TO KISS YOU! KISS HIM, YOU IDIOT!

Okay, I am gonna save the feels for later. Calm down.

 

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Buffy shoves Spike away and tells him that he’ll never get to her and says

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“You’re beneath me.”

Now, I’m not sure if Buffy knew how much hurt those words had on Spike. The episode never shows how exactly Spike told his origin story to Buffy. But she knew that they would hurt. I don’t blame Buffy for wanting to have the last word because, let’s be honest, Spike scared her. But I end up feeling sorry for Spike at the end of this scene instead of siding with Buffy and usually I am on Buffy’s side.

 

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Spike gets a shotgun at his crypt and plans on killing Buffy once and for all, but Harmony (Spike’s really lame “girlfriend”) points out that he won’t be able to kill Buffy because of the chip in his head that prevents him from really killing people. And she yells that even before Spike got the chip, he was never able to kill Buffy even though he had plenty of chances.

 

 

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Cut to a flashback with Drusilla, who still sees Buffy in Spike’s life. She’s cheating on him with a demon with antlers because she still sees Spike as covered with the Slayer. This flashback, by the way, takes place in Rio, where Spike and Dru went to after Season 2. The aftermath of this argument would lead to Spike appearing in Season 3’s “Lovers Walk.”

 

 

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The episode ends in Buffy’s house, where Joyce is packing for an overnight stay at the hospital. Joyce explains that she’s getting a CAT scan for whatever she has in her head. Buffy heads out to the back porch, burdened with the knowledge that something is wrong with her mother and that there’s nothing she can do about it. She starts crying as Spike slowly walks towards her, gun in hand. He starts arming himself when Buffy looks up at him with tear-filled eyes.

 

 

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Instead of killing her, he asks Buffy “What’s wrong?” She replies that doesn’t want to talk about it, so Spike goes to sit next to her, setting his gun aside to comfort her.

 

 

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Even though the two of them never exchange words, this final scene captures the nature of the Spike and Buffy relationship. In spite of Buffy not wanting to open up to Spike, Spike will always be there anyway because, unlike all the other vampires in the show, Spike has some levels of empathy.

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In several interviews, James Marsters has confessed that in spite of what Joss laid out about vampires being soulless, he always played Spike as having a soul. Spike having at least an echo of a human soul is clear in this episode. As I said before, I always interpreted the nature of the “soul” in vampires to be like souls of humans in a completely fallen state. The nature of the vampire brings out a person’s dark side and the human soul is still part of the vampire, but in a corrupt form. Humans, after all, are capable of horrific deeds in spite of the fact that we are created with souls.

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Buffy and Spike’s “relationship” from Seasons 2-7 takes on different natures. I’ll explain more as to how in another post. In Season 5, Spike is in love with Buffy, and yes, in spite of his idiotic actions in later episodes, I do think he’s in love and not just obsessing. He just acted in a very misguided manner because in my honest opinion, vampires don’t exactly lack souls as they do a moral conscience. The only reason he acts so rude to Buffy is because she’s acting rude to him. And yes, there is still a part of Spike that wants to kill her. But Spike fights against that nature more and more as the series progresses.

 

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I know I’m probably sounding like a blind fangirl here. I understand that some people see Spike as an evil being whose actions in Seasons 4-5 are like a criminal in a straitjacket, being forced to do good against his will. And well, a certain episode in Season 6 doesn’t help things. But when you look at the scene at the end of the episode, you can see that Spike hates seeing Buffy crying. And I think it’s because there’s still a part of William in Spike that empathized with Buffy’s sadness.

 

 

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It says a lot about James Marsters’s performance that Spike was able to capture the hearts of at least half the fandom. Spike wasn’t supposed to be sympathetic and yet he changes way more than Angel does. And Angel was given his own show. Five whole seasons of Angel and the brooding blockhead is still a brooding blockhead. By Season 5 of Buffy, Spike became complex and layered. It’s really no wonder why I have a Texas-sized crush on him.

 

 

 

So if you’re a Spike fan like me, check out this episode. It’s actually a good standalone compared to the rest of Season 5. It shows the stakes that Buffy has to deal with and, as I said before, shows the complicated nature of the Spike/Buffy relationship.

Screencaps are copyright to 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy and are used for editorial purposes only.

 

School Hard: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #8

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If someone were to ask me what episode I would show to someone who’s never seen Buffy before, I would show them two episodes: “Prophecy Girl” and “School Hard.” Prophecy Girl is the Season 1 finale and it introduces the world that Buffy takes place in and all the characters really well. However, the reason I choose “School Hard” for this blog post is because this episode establishes the theme of the season, establishes the main cast, and introduces two characters who will be a staple of the show for years to come.

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The episode starts out with Buffy in the Principal’s office with a delinquent named Sheila. Principal Snyder wants the two of them to work together to decorate and make refreshments for Parent-Teacher Night. Buffy meets up with Xander and Willow and Xander tells Buffy to not worry so much. “As long as nothing really bad comes along between now and then, you’ll be fine,” he says.

 

Buffy and Willow are quick to point out that now something bad is gonna happen in an almost self-aware sense. Xander thinks this time may be different. He’s totally wrong, of course, because in the next scene we see a black car running over the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign and an intimidating, black leather duster wearing, punk-rock vampire steps out, lighting up a cigarette.

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Ladies and gentlemen, meet the vampire that stole my heart.

In the previous season, there was a minor villain called the Anointed One who is scene in his lair with his cronies. They all plot on killing the Slayer on something called “the Night of Saint Vigeous” and one of them says it’ll be the greatest thing since the crucifixion, bragging that he was there. Spike, of course, is not amused. Neither am I, for obvious reasons.

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When Spike walks in the room with the other baddies, the attention is all on him. Mostly because all the other vampires in the room are about as interesting as the back of a cereal box. Spike starts bragging (he likes to brag) about the Slayers he’s killed when a haunting music box type melody takes over the room. Spike turns around and we get to see his human visage for the first time as his lover, Drusilla, walks in the room.

 

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Like Spike, Drusilla is a vampire that you can’t help but be drawn to. She reminds me of those creepy ladies in horror movies that talk nonsense and walk like ballerinas. There’s a certain fragility to Drusilla and the love and affection the two of them have for each other feels genuine even when you take into account that vampires supposedly “can’t love.” When Drusilla asks Spike to kill the Slayer, Spike tells her “I’ll chop her into messes.” Shakespeare buffs might recognize this line from the play Othello in which the titular character says this line in reference to the woman he loves. However, Spike is saying this line in reference to Buffy.

 

In the next scene, Buffy has a short conversation with her mother regarding Parent-Teacher Night in which Joyce wants to believe in the best for Buffy but worries about her being irresponsible, since she’s totally unaware of Buffy’s life as an unofficial superhero. Our favorite Slayer laments about the responsibilities she has to deal with as she paints the banner for Parent-Teacher night.

 

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My internet friend Ian AKA Passion of the Nerd points out that there’s an interesting parallel between Spike and Buffy, when Dru cuts Spike’s cheek and Buffy shows up in the next scene with a line of paint on her cheek in that same area. Trust me when I say this will be the first of many parallels between Buffy and Spike. But to go any further would make this a mile-long Spuffy post. Moving on!

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Giles and another teacher, Jenny Calendar, come in to warn Buffy about the Night of St. Vigeous which is supposedly a night when vampires (after three days of fasting and rituals) are at their strongest. I’m honestly not gonna go into much detail beyond that because the show never actually showed the Night of St. Vigeous happening. It’s honestly just a MacGuffin that goes nowhere.

Later that night, Buffy tries studying at The Bronze to no avail because she’s pining for Angel. She goes off to the dance floor with Willow and Xander and a very telling song plays as Spike watches Buffy dance.

 

Spike does a stage whisper about calling the police about someone getting bitten outside, which prompts Buffy and company to make for the alley. Buffy beats up the vamp and stakes him easily (with a bit of Xander’s help) and Spike walks in, applauding her.

 

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“Who are you?”

 

"You'll find out Saturday."

“You’ll find out Saturday.”

 

"What happens Saturday?"

“What happens Saturday?”

 

"I'll kill you."

“I’ll kill you.”

Spike goes off to another nightclub to catch Shiela while the Scoobies convene in the Sunnydale High School Library to research on Spike. Angel comes in to warn everyone about Spike, but leaves before giving any actual useful information. Meanwhile, Spike returns to Drusilla with Sheila in tow and a bit of backstory gets revealed. Dru was attacked by a mob in Prague which left her in a weakened state, prompting Spike to take her to the Hellmouth and help her recover. Spike goes off to perform the rituals with the Anointed One and tells Drusilla to feed, shoving Sheila at her.

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The next day, the Scoobies prepare for battling the vamps while Buffy preps for Parent-Teacher Night. Cordelia, Buffy’s high school rival, shows up in the scene as sort of a “frenemy.” Joyce inevitably meets with Principal Snyder and it’s clear that Buffy will be on a one-way trip to Grounded-ville. Of course, just as things are about to go south for Buffy, Spike and his cronies break into the school. Why? He was bored and has major impatience issues.

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Now the reason the episode is called “School Hard” is that the ensuing moments are reminiscent of the movie Die Hard, in which a bunch of people get trapped in a building while the hero saves them from terrorists by sneaking on the enemy through air vents. Buffy takes initiative and hides the adults and teachers in a classroom. Giles and computer teacher Jenny Calendar hide off in the library, Xander goes off to get Angel’s help, and Willow and Cordelia hide in the janitor’s closet, which they still end up staying in by the end of the episode.

 

When Angel gets Xander’s help, Angel tries to use Xander as bait. Spike recognizes Angel as his “sire” and calls Angel “Angelus,” which was his old vampire name. In the Buffyverse, a sire is the vampire who creates another vampire, their Childe. It’s later established that Drusilla was the one who created Spike but that Angel was Spike’s mentor in all things evil.

 

Spike takes down a vamp and fights off a newly vamped Sheila while getting her mother and all the other adults out. Spike’s minions give chase to Angel and Xander, but Spike stays behind when he smells Buffy’s blood.

 

The scene in the hallway between these two is majorly important and I’m not just saying that because I’m a Spuffy shipper. The banter between Buffy and Spike is laced with innuendo, establishing that the theme for this season is about relationships, sex and the consequences thereof. Fellow Spuffy shippers, take this bit of dialogue as a word of warning. The Spuffy ship ain’t all puppies and rainbows, but by God it is beautiful:

 

"I'll make it quick. Won't hurt a bit."

“I’ll make it quick. It won’t hurt a bit.”

 

"No, Spike. It's gonna hurt a lot."

“No, Spike. It’s gonna hurt a lot.”

But enough swooning. Time for a fight scene! Spike and Buffy spar out in the hallway while Angel and Xander fight Spike’s minions outside. But just as Spike was about to get the upper hand on Buffy, Joyce hits him on the back of the head with an axe and says “You get the hell away from my daughter,” prompting Spike decides to make a run for it.

 

Snyder and the police talk about what the “cover story” of the attack on the school will be while Joyce and Buffy have a heartwarming moment in which Joyce realizes that Buffy is capable of taking responsibility when the moment calls for it.

 

The episode ends with Spike pretending to ask the Anointed One for mercy, but we all know that Spike isn’t one for apologizing when he doesn’t actually feel sorry. He throws the Anointed One into a cage and lifts the child vampire into the sunlight, establishing that he’s the new Big Bad in town. I seriously love his bravado!

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If you’re not familiar or a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I highly recommend you watch this episode. If there was one thing about this episode that I wish could’ve gone differently, it would’ve been that Joyce would’ve found out about the vampires and decided to accept Buffy’s life as the Slayer. But overall, I love what this episode had. For old school fans, it’s a major nostalgia trip because you get to see the characters in the earlier days and think of how things could’ve played out differently and for newcomers, it’s a good way of learning who everyone is and what exactly Buffy is about. So yeah, go watch it!