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.

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!

Something Blue: Top 10 Buffy Episodes #10

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On paper, “Something Blue” should have been a bad episode. It was written by Tracey Forbes, who also wrote “Beer Bad” and “Where the Wild Things Are,” two of the least-liked episodes in the whole series. The episode is about Willow using magic to get over her broken heart, only for the spell to go totally awry. But something about this episode just had me laughing out loud. You wanna know what it was? Read the recap to find out!

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Willow’s boyfriend, Oz, broke up with her and left Sunnydale in the hopes of taming his inner werewolf. Former Big Bad Spike has now become the Sitcom Annoying Neighbor when the mysterious government organization called The Initiative put a chip in his head that prevents him from hurting or biting humans. Also, Buffy has a new potential boyfriend in the form of one Riley Finn, who in my opinion is as boring as a cardboard cut-out. But I digress.

The episode starts with Willow going to Oz’s empty dorm room, sniffing out one of his shirts and missing him badly.

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Cut to a daytime shot of the UC Sunnydale campus, where Riley is found hanging a banner for the college’s lesbian alliance.

 

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Riley asks Buffy out on a date, a picnic on-campus. And Buffy is definitely all for going out. When she goes out on patrol with Willow later that night, however, she admits that while Riley is safe, there’s still something missing. Willow points out that Buffy doesn’t feel like she’s in misery the way she did with Angel. Buffy fesses that something in her associates love with pain and fighting.

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It’s clear that Buffy never heard the CS Lewis quote “To love at all is to be vulnerable.” One reason I never invested in the Buffy/Riley relationship was because they lacked serious chemistry and were never completely open and honest with each other. Besides that, Riley had major competition in the eye candy department:

 

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Spike is currently chained to Giles’s bathtub as part of Buffy interrogating him about the commandos. Spike, however, doesn’t exactly recall much. He’s fed blood via a “Kiss the Librarian” mug since the chip in his head renders him unable to bite people. Giles and Buffy want to be certain that Spike isn’t a threat to him and Spike isn’t taking the fact that he’s now been reduced to comic relief all that well.

And then Buffy teases him. And then a giggle escapes from my mouth. An then there’s a certain look in Spike’s eyes-

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But enough of that. Willow proposes using a truth spell on Spike. Buffy and Spike think that Willow’s doing alright, but Spike says that she’s hanging by a thread. The bleach blonde vampire turns out to be right. Willow goes to Oz’s room again to find it empty. She finds out from a friend that Oz has asked for his things to be shipped to wherever he moved to. Buffy tries to give advice to Willow, but it’s clear the redhead is in pain.

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The next day, Giles calls Willow to check on whether she has the ingredients for the truth spell and Spike whines about missing Passions. Buffy and Riley have their picnic and Willow arrives all mopey.

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Later that night, the Scooby Gang goes out to the Bronze as Blink 182’s “All the Small Things” plays. At first, everyone thinks that Willow’s doing okay and Willow boasts about her newfound resolve only for a small beer bottle to spill out from under her skirt. Willow asks Buffy “Isn’t there some way I can make it go away? Just ’cause I say so? Can’t I make it go poof?” Buffy gives Willow a look that says “No.” But that doesn’t stop Willow from trying anyway.

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The next morning, Giles visits Willow to check on why she forgot about doing the truth spell. The two of them have a minor argument and Willow declares “You don’t see anything!” to him.

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Later on, Giles tries doing the truth spell on his own, only for his vision to worsen. Spike takes advantage of the situation and escapes. Giles quickly calls Buffy to tell him of Spike’s escape, just as Buffy was trying to help Willow get over the fact that she seemingly failed the “Will be Done” spell. Buffy finds Spike and drags him back to Giles’s house where the two start arguing. Meanwhile, Willow mopes at Xander’s house and Xander tries to help Willow understand why Spike is necessary to have around. Which leads Willow to say: “Well fine! Why doesn’t she just go marry him?”

Back in Giles’s apartment, Giles finds Spike kneeling before Buffy. A strange feeling starts rising inside of me. As Buffy says “Yes” to Spike’s proposal, Spike stands up and they kiss for the first time. Then Buffy shows Giles her ring and says: “Giles! You’ll never believe what’s happened.”

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And in that moment, I gasp three little words:

“I SHIP IT!”

Yep, dear readers. This was the episode in which the “Spuffy” ship attacked my heart and never let it go. For the purposes of this blog, I will try to keep my squee to a minimum, but I can’t make any promises.

Willow continues moping at Xander’s, calling him a demon magnet. Meanwhile, Giles calls Willow and Spike and Buffy start planning their wedding. The kissing scenes between these two turn me into a pile of bubbly giggles and I’m still grinning as I write this. I mean LOOK AT THEM!

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Okay, okay. I’m gonna try and hold back my giggles now. Moving on!

Giles discovers that he’s gone completely blind, so Spike offers to help while Buffy goes out to get some ingredients from the local magic shop. As she wanders around town, she sees a gorgeous wedding dress on display.

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Riley comes across her and the two of them have the most hilarious conversation, in which Buffy tells Riley she’s not interested in him because she’s getting married to Spike and invites Riley to the wedding.

Xander and Anya get attacked by demons and make a run for Giles’s apartment. Buffy announces her upcoming nuptials to them and Xander goes:

"How?! What?! How?!"

“How?! What?! How?!”

Three excellent questions, Xander. But in the midst of trying to figuring out what’s going on, Xander realizes that all the weirdness goes back to Willow, who got kidnapped by a demon named D’Hoffryn. According to Anya, D’Hoffryn turns humans into vengeance demons and Hoffy, as she calls him, makes Willow an offer. As demons rampage on the Scoobies, Willow decides to turn down D’Hoffryn’s offer. She undoes the spell and Spike and Buffy go right back to hating each other again.

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Willow bakes cookies to make up for the mess that she made. Spike teases Buffy about how she wanted “Wind Beneath My Wings” to be their song. Buffy blames the spell, but I know she’s lying. In spite of the fact that Spike and Buffy were only this adorable under the influence of a spell, and Buffy quickly went running into Riley’s arms at the end of the episode, my mind was already made up. I stepped onto the Spuffy ship and never looked back.

The episode shows that you can’t use a quick fix for your problems. It also shows that Spike and Buffy have enough chemistry to set off a nuclear warhead and have the power to divide the fandom for days to come.

I realize, of course, that I am horribly, horribly biased. But give the episode a watch if you want to see the mindset of Spuffy shippers. And if you’re not a Spuffy shipper:

 

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Screencaps of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are copyright to Mutant Enemy and 20th Century Fox and are used for editorial purposes only.