Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An Analysis of Spike and Buffy's Relationship

I found this post that I wrote last year for the Buffy week I was putting together and I think it is a good representation of where I'd like this blog to go. I've always posted about all things that I love and I'd like to do that more. Look for posts on books, writing, television shows, Etsy finds, papercrafting and more coming soon! 

Warning!: This post will make you want to watch the show again if you haven't seen it in a while!

Spike and Buffy
As with all fandoms, the age old question is who the lead character should end up with. During Buffy's seven seasons on television we've been there with her through the many heartaches and triumphs as she tackles what it truly means to be a slayer. Some of her highest highs and lowest lows have been because of the men she's let into her life so today, we are going to talk about the final of the three men Buffy fell in love with.

That's right, we're chatting about Sunnydale's resident bad boy Spike (portrayed by the wonderful James Marsters)! So settle back, grab a turtle neck and let's get started.

Spike and Buffy: The Beginning
When we are first introduced to Spike, he rolls into town as the brand new Big Bad with the psychotic and psychic vampiress Drusilla on his arm in Season 2. He's determined to kill the new Slayer and is pretty sure of himself since he's killed two before Buffy. This tongue-in-cheek dynamic that they establish in Season 2 carries throughout the entire series and keeps Buffy and Spike, as well as the audience, guessing until the very end. Setting up Buffy and Spike as enemies in the beginning might be one of the best things that could have happened for two very strong reasons.

The first is that it caused a lot of tension between them since they are enemies. When Spike first comes on screen, it's hard to ignore the chemistry he has with Buffy. Now, I'm not exactly convinced that it was sexual chemistry but I thought that these two played off each other well. It sets up a basis of hate that stretches through the seasons and eventually turns into something much more powerful. It gives them passion.

The second thing is, and this is probably the most important thing about their relationship, they see each other at their worst. As enemies, they don't try to impress each other. There is no "best behavior" with these two. Spike wants to kill Buffy, Buffy wants to kill Spike, and there isn't anything more to it. Most couples don't see the worst of each other until it's too late to fix it but Buffy and Spike start out this way. True that it does get a little bit worse in Season 6 but for the most part, they know each other's darkest sides and can start loving each other knowing all of the other person.

From Enemies to Reluctant Allies
By the end of Season 2, Spike and Buffy establish what will become their relationship for most of the following seasons which is an uneasy alliance. After Spike comes back to Sunnydale and gets a chip implanted into his head, he realizes that the only way he can get his fill of violence is by teaming up with the Scoobies to fight his own kind. During this phase, Spike goes through depressions and bouts of general lack of caring for the safety of everyone including himself.

But as he continues to be there through the triumphs and trials of the Scooby Gang, he realizes one night that the reason he hangs around all the time is because he craves that witty banter between him and Buffy and that he misses that head of blonde hair when it isn't around. To his utter horror and later Buffy's revulsion, he has developed a crush on her.

It is Spike's lack of caring that makes the moment he starts to care so much more poignant. Buffy and Spike's relationship up to this point has always been effortless because they truly didn't care about each other at all. When he suddenly realizes that he has somehow developed feelings for her, everything becomes different. Gone are the days of bad behavior because he realizes that if he is ever going to truly have Buffy he is going to have to become better. However, he also knows that he doesn't have it in him to be good which causes an inward struggle.

Awkwardness to Friendship
Thus we enter into my second favorite stage of Buffy and Spike's relationship. Here we spend most of our time chain smoking with Spike outside Buffy's house underneath a large oak tree just to catch a glimpse of her. When they do finally meet, Spike tries to dispute all the things her likes about her by engaging in their witty yet he can't bring himself to actually mean it. This is where we start to see Spike's humor come out in his actions too. Like when he wakes up Buffy and she tries to put on clothes while he peeks or when he snoops around her room.

He also starts taking interest in the things that Buffy is interested in, namely fighting evil and protecting her friends, and really starts to help the Scooby Gang. It doesn't mean he's necessarily nice to all of them all the time but he does start to try and care for them the way Buffy does. 

Buffy finally takes notice of all his attention and realizes that Spike is putting in all the extra effort for her. At first, she's horrified by the idea. She's had her fill of vampires and Spike is the worst sort. But she gets her first hint that his feelings might be legitimate when he is captured by Glory and tortured to give up the location of the key she is looking for who is actually Buffy's little sister Dawn. Spike refuses, willing to die to keep this information safe. It's in this moment that they go from the awkward phase to building an actual friendship. Buffy doesn't feel the same about Spike as he does about her but she realizes that his feelings are genuine and begins to trust him with Dawn and their duties. Their friendship becomes so strong that Buffy entrusts Spike with Dawn's life at the end of Season 5 and Spike carries on guarding Dawn even after Buffy is gone in memory of that promise. When Buffy comes back, she only tells Spike about being in heaven and in Once More With Feeling, he is the one that begs her to let him help her.

Their friendship phase is just as essential to their relationship as their hate phase. It's here that we get a sense of what they might be like together. They begin to rely on each other more, Buffy willing to save Spike in a fight and Spike proving that he can handle keeping the things Buffy finds important safe. However, we find out that even though Spike wants to be good, he really can't be that way totally. After all, he has a demon in him and he still doesn't have a soul. Though his feelings for Buffy are true and Buffy can rely on him, we learn soon that she can't trust him.

Buffy and Spike: Let's Get Physical
Buffy comes back broken and this is were we truly see that even though Spike can be relied on, he can't be trusted. Instead of wanting to make Buffy better, he wants to pull her into darkness and force her to embrace her dark side. He sees this as the only way they can be together and in a lot of ways, that's true. Spike tried to be good and that didn't really stick so being bad is a better route.

Buffy proves that she can embrace her dark side, initiating in an often physically violent relationship wtih Spike. For them, pain is pleasure. Spike enjoys the pain, that Buffy can hold her own against him, and Buffy throws all of her self loathing into their relationship. She takes out all of her anguish on Spike and hates herself afterwards. Though they enjoy a physical connection, like with Riley before Spike, Buffy can't let herself be open with Spike because she knows she can't trust him.

During this time, we really see how horrible these two can truly be. Buffy goes dark with her hatred of being alive and treats Spike like crap. Spike takes the abuse because it's all a big game to him. Whatever actual feelings he has for her are pushed aside so they can enjoy their physical relationship but it leaves neither of them feeling that satisfied in the end.

Seeing Red.
When she finally commits to living again, she decides to end her relationship with Spike, leading to one of the most intense episodes I've ever seen on television: Seeing Red. A Buffy and Spike relationship analysis can't exist without a discussion on that episode and I could probably do an entire post on the horrific nature of that bathroom scene.

In case you need a refresher, this is where Spike drops by Buffy's house to beg her to continue sleeping with him. He becomes desperate when she says no, tormented by the fact that he feels so much for her and wants her to "feel it too". He believes that the only way to do this is to force himself on her. Buffy is able to fight him off long enough for him come to his senses but it feels like there is no going back from there.

Seeing a character like Buffy who has always been portrayed as strong and good and with the ability to take care of herself almost get sexually assaulted by a character that we were supposed to think of as a possible leading man or love interest is enough to make you sick. After watching, I wasn't sure I could ever go back to wanting them together because of the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as Buffy sits there on her bathroom floor in her dis-shoveled robe and cries.

This is rock bottom for their relationship. After this, their relationship doesn't even exist. All of the secret kisses and touching hands and witty banter and beating the crap out of each other just doesn't matter because you've just witnessed something so horrific. The only thing that is left, the only question that comes to mind is: Is redemption even possible? Well, maybe you ask "why?" as well.*

Spike leaves that same night to find a way to get his soul back. After going through some grueling trials that were never supposed to be won, he earns his soul and with it all the awful things he did as a vampire drive him insane. When Buffy finally finds him in the basement of the new Sunnydale High, he has been with The First Evil and his own sins for a very long time. There is this very poignant scene where Buffy follows Spike to a church and through his half ramblings we learn just how mad he has become. He wants to make everything better, the fact that he can't makes him crazy, and her ends up hugging a cross while his flesh sizzles. During his ramblings, Buffy learns that he reclaimed his soul for her and that Spike would rather die than put people in danger now.

The moment that Buffy learns that Spike now has a soul, everything changes. She still doesn't forgive him for what he did to her but she realizes that he is feeling the full affect of that night in her bathroom along with hundreds of years of other bad things. I think it says a lot about him that he could feel so much remorse as a soulless vampire that he would go  get his soul back. I think he partly just felt crazy that she wouldn't love him without it but he knew the gaining a soul would mean facing down years of awful things and he did it anyway.

As Spike starts to integrate back into the group and readjust to life with a soul, he begins to prove that he is worth a second look. Eventually, he gets kidnapped by The First and refuses to cooperate even though it tortures him relentlessly. All the time he is there he believes that Buffy will come and get him due to the bond they began to develop before he was captured. When Buffy does come to get him, this strengthens their relationship and his faith in Buffy.

That strength is what finally redeemed his character in my eyes. After suffering endlessly for most of the season, Spike finally gets his groove back, finding a balance between kicking bad guy butt, being his old self and dealing with having a soul again. During a trip out of town for info, Buffy is ousted as leader of all the potential slayers and not even Willow, Xander, Dawn or Giles will back her up. She leaves them and Spike comes back looking for her. He finds out what happens, tells everyone off and goes to find Buffy. When they find each other, he gives the best damn speeches I've ever heard on television:
I've been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine, and done things I'd prefer you didn't. I don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker; I follow my blood, which doesn't exactly rush in the direction of my brain. So I make a lot of mistakes. A lot of wrong bloody calls. A hundred plus years, and there's only one thing I've ever been sure of. You. Hey, look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it's not because I want you, or because I can't have you - it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try... I've seen your kindness, and your strength, I've seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman. You're the one, Buffy. - Spike

It's sad that, in my opinion, we only get two nights of one of the most real and intense and lovely relationships that has ever been on television. Spike and Buffy just hold each other that first night. But it's what comes after that I think is the true testament of their relationship. Spike confronts Buffy about a conversation she has with Angel and gets her to talk. He tells her that spending that one night with her was the best night of his existence and she opens up to him. Buffy's never been able to talk to her boyfriends. That's one of the main reasons Riley left. I think it is that moment of honesty which tells us the most about these two together. They had the stuff to make it because Buffy was finally ready to let someone in and Spike knew her well enough to know that. 

The Final Picture
The truth about these two is that they have seen every side of each other. They've known each other long enough to carve out a meaningful relationship and have each sacrificed to be with each other. Spike is one of those characters that is hard to forget because he completely transformed himself over and over to become what Buffy needed. He's British, rock-n-roll, bad to the bone and sexy as hell but he's also loyal and kind and sweet and attentive. Spike understands Buffy's strength and instead of being intimidated by it, he respects her more for it. He is her match because in the end, he doesn't try to be.

Spike is not always the best thing for Buffy. In fact, sometimes he is actually the very worst for her because he sought to pull her into darkness. But by season 7, he has literally walked through fire and battled physical and mental demons to prove that he can become a better man. He ripped down every wall to be someone that Buffy deserves by earning his soul and he proved his enduring loyalty to her by sticking by her side when no one else would back her and by walking into that hell pit to die in the last episode.

I haven't gotten to Spike in the Buffy comics but I'm impatiently waiting for him to show his face and really hoping that they'll get another chance now that they aren't looking at certain death. I'm not looking for forever (though if they did end up forever in the long run, I wouldn't complain). I'm just looking for a chance for them to try. Now that they have both suffered and grown and changed for the better, I'd love for them to get a real shot.

Because I can, here is a picture of me meeting James Marsters who was just a super cool guy in person:

And here the Spike and Buffy shadowbox my hubby and I made entirely out of paper:
Our Etsy Shop
What do you guys think about Spike and Buffy? I'd love to know in the comments below.

*In case this is a question you asked, I did do some research about this episode after I watched it. First of all, if you were horrified (and you had every right to be) know that both actors were too. James Marster even wrote in his contract that he would never do another scene like that again. Secondly, the background for the episode was that it was a concept that a woman came up with. She took one of the most embarrassing things that ever happened to her and purposed it for this episode. Basically, she tried to convince her boyfriend at the time to not leave her by trying to sleep with him one last time so he would see that he really loved her. However, reversing the roles and having a man try to do that to a woman just didn't work on screen.

1 comment:

  1. It has been a very long time since I've watched Buffy (I own the DVD sets except for one season - which reminds me... I must buy that to complete the collection). I adored SPIKE. And I completely enjoyed reading your post about Buffy and Spike. ;) I think I'm going to have to start watching the series from the beginning again.


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