All About Spike

Barb's end-of-season review-cum-letter to ME by Barb Cummings

OK--first off, not gonna talk about Tara. I'm sure Amber's a wonderful person, but Tara bores me, always has, and I knew she was dead meat the minute she grew a personality. ME always does that right before they kill someone off or write them out. So let me reassure Steve DeKnight that there's one lesbian in the world not out for his blood. I've been waiting for Evil Willow for three damn years and if it takes killing Tara to get her, ice the chick.

So, on to the stuff I am gonna talk about. Season 6 of BtVS was touted as the season of "Oh, grow up!" but the emotional development of the core Scoobies actually regressed. The Scoobs fought their inner demons this year, and unfortunately most of them lost. I really hope the consequences of those losses aren't going to be swept under the rug. Don't get me wrong, I will be overjoyed to see a lighter tone next season. I think this season was too unrelievedly dark, especially coming after the gloomfest of Season 5. BUT. Having taken the characters to dark places, the writers owe it to us to deal with that.

There were many good things about this season. "Bargaining" through "Smashed" were fantastic; even the filler was good filler. Even in the latter part of the season, there were many good and a few brilliant episodes. "Dead Things" in particular rivals "Once More, With Feeling" and "Hush" for BtVS's finest hour. The problems with the season lay not so much in individual episodes, but in the way those episodes hung together--or didn't. Unfortunately, with "Wrecked," the seasonal arc became more of a seasonal meander, and never quite recovered. I don't think that this was an inevitable result of the decision to focus on the characters' internal struggles. The problem was that in a character- driven arc, consistent characterization was sacrificed to the needs of a plot that all too often wasn't worth the sacrifice.

This was particularly egregious in the case of the Evil Willow arc. Willow has never, before this season, been portrayed as an addictive personality. Willow's flaws have lain in her insecurity, which drives her to try to control the world and the people around her so as to eliminate pain from her life, and in her desire to pursue knowledge regardless of consequences. We've watched Willow's use of magic grow more and more careless and unethical over the last several years. This year, with the resurrection spell, clearly black magic and the wrong thing to do on many levels, we seemed primed for that deadliest of villains--a hero consumed with hubris who believes that she's in the right. Willow's wiping Tara's memory not once but twice were deliciously wrong and creepy and perfectly in character. Her actions were logical extensions of the 'Willow knows best, just make the pain go away' attitude manifested in the de-lusting spell and the will-be-done spells of seasons past.

But in "Wrecked," the plotline which had been building since Willow rashly decided to re-soul Angel jumped the shark. All of a sudden it's not what Willow does with magic that's wrong, it's that magic itself is heroin. Not only does this make no sense with the way magic's been portrayed previously in the show, it makes no sense in terms of Willow's character. Willow's drug is power and control, and Rack's magic crack, which caused her to lose control, would hardly be an attractive experience for her. Unless it was physically addictive, in which case Willow should have been jonesing for that particular kind of magic, not magic in general.

Willow has never assimilated the fact that wiping Tara's mind was wrong, nor displayed any remorse for doing it. Right up to the season finale, in which Willow, insane with grief over her lover's death, tortures Tara's killer to death and then attempts to destroy the entire world to make the pain stop, Willow blames the magic. It's Willow that's the problem, not the magic, and not only does Willow fail to realize it, neither do the other characters, nor, apparently, the writers.

I can only assume that somewhere, someone got cold feet about making Willow really villainous, and introduced the addiction angle in an attempt to give the character an out for her actions. Unfortunately, this leeched most of the power from the storyline, leaving us with a limp, After School Special 'drugs are bad, kiddies!' story which completely bypasses the ethical issues of Willow's violation of Tara's mind, her resurrection of Buffy, and her torture of Warren and subsequent attempt to destroy the entire world. If next season continues the blame-the-magic trend, without addressing the fact that Willow is an insecure control freak who could just as well be trying to destroy the world with her hacking skills if she wasn't a powerful witch, I'll be extremely disappointed.

Xander's story was in many ways the most tragic. He so feared turning into his bigoted, abusive, alcoholic father that he allowed his fear to turn him into the very thing he loathes. Unlike all the other characters on the show, Xander has no excuses, no outs. He's not a soulless demon, he's not 'addicted' to magic, he's not been ripped out of heaven. Xander purely and simply messed up. Though he redeemed himself somewhat in the final episodes by risking his life talking Willow out of her grief-induced insanity, and making an overture towards patching up his rift with Buffy, he hasn't really faced the fears which made him abandon his bride at the altar, much less taken any steps towards conquering them.

Anya, on the other hand, is one of the few characters who made some positive progress this year. Always ahead of the Scooby pack when it came to supporting herself, this year Anya has begun to question Xander's condescending attitude towards her and stand up for herself emotionally. After the wedding debacle, Anya reclaims her powers as a vengeance demon, but it's obvious her heart isn't in it any longer. Indeed, when Spike finally gives her the chance to cast the vengeful wish against Xander she's been angling for, Anya, in a remarkable demonstration of maturity in the face of hurt and anger, stops him from voicing it. Despite her return to demon status and her personal feelings about Xander, Anya helps the gang stop Willow. This is a far cry from the Anya who, in Season 3, was willing to skip out on the Apocalypse. Three snaps in triangle formation for the vengeance demon!

Spike's struggle against his inner demon has been the most literal, and the most compelling, of the story arcs this season. Unfortunately it also suffers from some characterization woes, though not of the sort which marred Willow's arc. James Marsters as Spike is, if anything, too sympathetic; the writers' attempts to show Spike as still fundamentally evil were constantly undercut by Marsters' performance, which has scads of otherwise upright and moral people rooting for a near-rapist serial killer over the supposed heroes of the piece.

Spike's good actions this season were consistently dismissed as meaningless by both the other characters and the writers because they were 'selfishly motivated,' i.e. spurred by love for Buffy rather than by a commitment to good for good's sake. While there are legitimate points to this view--the most obvious being that if Spike only does good for love of Buffy, what happens if he stops loving Buffy?--whether Spike refrains from eating someone out of love or principle, I doubt the potential Happy Meal gives a damn. And in many cases one has to split the ethical hairs pretty fine to make all of Spike's actions out to be selfish, particularly his actions over the summer when Buffy was dead, so far as he knew, for good.

But this question raises a far more serious one, not about Spike, but about the rest of the Scooby gang. The Scoobs insist Spike is a monster, and fundamentally untrustworthy. Yet they are willing to exploit his love for Buffy and Dawn, and no less his unadmitted but deep-seated desire for companionship in general, in order to use him for muscle and (in Buffy's case) for sex. They then cut him off when they no longer need him. It never seems to occur to them that this is less than admirable behavior on their part, and furthermore, is calculated to produce ever-worse behavior on Spike's part.

The highest measure of a hero is not in how she treats her friends, but in how she treats her fallen enemies. Buffy has an extremely poor track record in this regard. The greatest of heroes are those who have the vision to try and make a fallen enemy into an ally. Failing that, granting them a quick clean death, or keeping an eye on them and refraining from poking them with a stick is good. In Spike's case, the Scoobs have been all with the stick-poking, and they are just damned lucky that even as a monster, Spike's proven to be a better man than they are.

The hypocrisy in their stance might be more palatable if it were a conscious thing--Spike is evil, therefore we will use him ruthlessly and see no wrong in it--but I doubt it. The Scoobs are mainly running on selfish motivations these days themselves (Glory's other victims? Katrina's family? Who cares? They're not us) and it's difficult to justify holding Spike to a higher standard than I hold them to. Indeed, shouldn't the characters with souls automatically be held to a higher standard than those without? One of the things this season was supposed to accomplish was to demonstrate that without a soul, Spike was doomed to fall back into evil ways. Unfortunately, that didn't come off very well. It's the same problem which plagued "Disharmony," which was supposed to demonstrate the same thing: it's impossible to say for certain, in either case, whether the experiment failed because the subject was an eeeeevil vampire, or because of their human personality flaws.

Three main incidents were used this season to point up Spike's essentially evil nature: his attack on Alley Woman after Buffy's rebuff in "Smashed;" the demon egg incident in "As You Were," and his attempted rape of Buffy in "Seeing Red." Of the three, only the attack on Alley Woman was completely successful in conveying the conflict between his human and demonic sides. His very human hurt, anger and wounded pride, and his chilling demonic willingness to kill an innocent bystander in order to salve that pride, were mitigated by the astonishing revelation that he had to talk himself up to the killing--something the Spike of Season Two would have been able to do without a qualm. The scene demonstrated perfectly how far Spike had come from being an ordinary vampire, and how much farther he had to go to be a man.

The demon egg incident, on the other hand, failed in its purpose due to the many plot flaws in "As You Were." It was completely impossible to take the idea of Spike as an international arms dealer seriously, and therefore the incident (indeed, the entire episode) ends up being brushed off. Had the writers taken a more believable tack--for example, having Spike harboring the eggs as a one-shot deal for cash--it would have been a far more effective demonstration that Spike was still capable of casual, indirect evil. The matter is further complicated by the fact that Spike never admits to being 'The Doctor,' so despite the circumstantial evidence, it's all too easy to construct scenarios absolving him of some or all of the blame for the eggs.

The final and most serious incident, the attempted rape, was intended to be the catalyst for Spike's quest to win his soul back. Spike finally does something so terrible that it shocks and horrifies even him; he hurts the woman he loves. The incident itself grows fairly believably out of existing circumstances: Spike has been drinking steadily for at least the last day, is devastated over Dawn's reaming him out for having hurt her sister by sleeping with Anya, and suffering emotional whiplash from Buffy's season-long hot-cold reactions to him. He attempts to apologize to Buffy, who finally admits to having feelings of some sort for him, but continues to deny that they're love. Spike presses, Buffy stonewalls, and Spike finally snaps, certain that if he can get her to respond to him physically again, she'll respond to him emotionally. What makes the scene especially scary is that having utterly lost control of himself, Spike is less angry than eerily determined in his pleas to Buffy to let herself love him. Spike's lights are on, but no one's home, and he comes off as less evil than broken. When Buffy finally kicks him off and he comes to his senses, Spike is horrified by what he's done. Consumed with guilt that it's supposedly impossible for him to feel, he returns to his crypt for a session of anguished non-soul searching, culminating in his decision to go on a soul-quest.

The problems with this scene lie not so much in the scene itself, but in the plot contrivances surrounding it. Buffy is injured, and so has trouble fighting Spike off--except that in the very next scene, Buffy fights Warren without so much as a twinge. (It's been postulated that the real reason Buffy fails to fight Spike off effectively is that she's hoping he will stop on his own--this is perfectly believable, but the problem with the disappearing injury still stands.) The scene is supposed to demonstrate the uncontrollable evil of Spike's demon nature--but Spike is in human face throughout. Spike does not try to bite Buffy and drink her blood. When Angelus killed Jenny Calendar in Season Two, the writers deliberately had him do so in vamp face to emphasize that this was the work of Angelus, not Angel. That the writers deliberately chose to have Spike attempt to rape Buffy while still in human shape argues strongly that the responsibility for the crime is, at best, shared by both the demon and human components of Spike's nature.

This scene encapsulates the problems with Spike's arc in general. This season Spike was subjected to emotional stress that would have caused many an ordinary human to snap and take an Uzi to the nearest McDonalds. He was used by the Scoobs, and used, abused, and discarded by Buffy. Spike's supposed to be torn by his inability to be either a monster or a man, but given the way things have played out this season, the writers failed to convince me that Spike can't be a man without a soul--only that he wasn't allowed to be. Instead of "It's impossible to be good without a soul," the lesson comes off more like "If you're trying to be good without a soul, and no one around you helps you and the woman you're madly in love with insists you're an evil worthless thing, then you will probably break like a twig."

Had the writers truly wished to demonstrate the inevitability of a soulless creature's descent into evil, they could have done so decisively by having Buffy and the others treat Spike well--and having Spike fall to his worst nature anyway. But this would have made Spike a far less sympathetic character overall. Unwilling to have Spike prove capable of staying good without a soul, but still forced by their plans to rehabilitate him later on to keep the character sympathetic, the writers were in a bind, and forced to limp along making Spike sorta kinda evil, maybe, if you look at him sideways, except when he's not.

Despite this fairly serious problem of internal consistency, Spike's arc is far more successful in the end than Willow's. Earlier in the season, when I looked at the writers' claim of last year that they intended to grey up the Buffyverse, and then at the introduction of good or neutral demons like Lorne, Clem, and Skip, I hoped that Spike's story was going to be about how everyone, even an evil soulless vampire, has the free will to get up every morning (or evening, as the case may be) and choose to do good or evil that day. And how that choice is more important than whether or not one has the Soul-Having Seal of Approval stamped on one's forehead.

So I was rather disappointed that save for the brilliant "Dead Things," there was no attempt to get to the meat of Buffy and Spike's differing ethical worldviews, or to see to what degree Spike was capable of understanding and applying Buffy's worldview intellectually, if not on a gut level. I will always be left wondering what would have happened if, when Spike asked Buffy to explain to him why her guilt over Katrina was killing her, she'd actually tried to do so. "As You Were" may have been intended to examine the issue as well, but that episode had so many gaping plot holes and absurdities that it's difficult to discuss it without frothing at the mouth. (And I LIKE Riley. Just not when he's blocking my view of Spike.) It's not as if the potential wasn't there. The writers admitted in interviews that had Spike managed to kill Alley Woman, he'd mostly likely have felt guilty about it after. In the interview that was blown off as nothing: Hey, look, Spike would have killed her, still evil! But the implications are staggering: a soulless vampire feels guilty? About killing a random non-Buffy person?? OK, not great from Alley Woman's perspective, but if Spike's world was rocked by the fact that he felt guilt over attacking Buffy, the fact that he felt guilt over Alley Woman would have made the poor guy's head explode, and I would have loved to have seen that.

In the end, the writers resort to re-souling as a method of redeeming Spike, probably in order to avoid all those really icky moral quagmires that an unchipped soulless vampire with a commitment to do good even if he couldn't be good would produce. However, the fact that Spike chooses his soul instead of having it thrust on him--indeed, risks his life to win it back--saves the arc from a redemptionist point of view. It's not the fact that he now has a soul which redeems Spike; it's that he willingly chose to get one. While there are some legitimate worries about duplicating Angel's storyline here, that it was Spike's own choice makes a tremendous difference.

There are still problems. Spike's ordeal is tossed off in a few scenes of him fighting monsters. We know Spike's a good fighter; it would have been more revealing of character to see him faced with other types of trials. However, that would likely have tipped the writers' hands early. The writers were, in my opinion, needlessly coy in making Spike's motives in leaving Sunnydale ambiguous--I haven't bought for a minute that Spike would ever go evil again in a big permanent way, and it was obvious to me that Spike was going to come out of his experience a better man...pire. But the number of professional reviewers who are convinced that he was out to get the chip removed and kill the Scoobs, and was only tricked into the soul by Lurky at the last minute, is staggering. I confess I only became hopeful that Spike knew what he was asking for all along after seeing the episode. There was no need to keep the dialogue as vague as it was if Spike had merely been requesting de-chipping. Before that, I was pretty certain that Lurky would be responding to an unconscious wish on Spike's part in ensouling or turning him human.

ME has since confirmed that yes, Spike intended to get a soul all along. The soul option was the last thing I'd expected the writers to do due to the Angel issues, but I'd far rather see Spike a souled vampire than an ordinary human. The main reason that Spike getting a soul may annoy me next season has nothing to do with Spike; it's got to do with the fact that the people who scorn him for lacking one haven't done diddly-squat this season to demonstrate that having one matters. Xander's killed more people this year than Spike has in the last three, and demonstrated less emotional turmoil over the fact than Spike did over his one abortive attempt to bite someone.

Last but not least, we come to Buffy. Buffy's arc this year has been in many ways the least satisfying, because so much of it has consisted of Buffy being expressionless. Her continuing depression is a realistic reaction to everything that's happened to her over the last several years, but it is, alas, quite boring to watch. After being returned unwillingly to life, Buffy isolates herself from her friends, ignores her sister, and in an attempt to jump-start her feelings, initiates a torrid affair with Spike. She is so ashamed of herself for doing so that she keeps it a secret, and projects her own self-loathing onto Spike, using him as an object upon which to vent her rage at being alive, and her anger at her friends. Spike, who still loves her throughout all this, is reduced over the course of the season to a desperate, broken man.

We're obviously supposed to sympathize with Buffy's slow, dull crawl back to life. Unfortunately the primary emotion it's raised in me is a desire to slap her. All too often over the course of the season we're presented with what appears to be an improvement in Buffy's emotional state: she discovers she doesn't want to die, she re-connects with Dawn, she breaks off her affair with Spike because she's using him. But invariably, these mini-epiphanies prove false. Buffy has no greater zest for life after "Gone." Buffy is still avoiding Dawn after "Older and Far Away." And Buffy is still treating Spike like a thing long after "Dead Things" and "As You Were." All Buffy learns over the course of the season is how to fake being normal more efficiently.

Finally, in the season finale, Willow confronts Buffy with her own hypocrisy: Buffy's speech about life being worth living is hollow coming from someone who'd still rather be dead. Yay, Evil Willow, kick every inch of her ass! By the end of the finale, Buffy's had yet another epiphany, but despite the fact that this one is accompanied by some tears and an incredibly stiff and clunky speech to Dawn about showing her the world, it isn't particularly convincing. The final scene with Buffy and Dawn crawling out of the 'grave' they were stuck in and wandering off into the L.A. Arboretum (which has mysteriously relocated to Sunnydale) is embarrassingly corny. Buffy's cried wolf so many times this season that in order to convince me she's really changed, I'm going to have to see evidence in her actions.

Apparently the ME writers were surprised at how unsympathetic many viewers found Buffy this season, but it was inevitable: by making Buffy so completely isolated emotionally, they wrote themselves into a corner where even those viewers who remained sympathetic had to guess at what was going on inside Buffy's black box of a head and heart. In some ways, Spike's attempted rape of Buffy came off as a ploy to make Buffy more sympathetic by making her a victim, and to punish those foolish fans who persisted in believing Spike really had changed--see! Evil! We told ya! Eeeeevil! In light of it, were we supposed to consider that her abominable treatment of him all year is retroactively justified? Sorry; I don't. Buffy didn't deserve to be raped; no one does. Spike was bad and wrong to do it, and deserves every bit of misery his shiny new conscience visits upon him.

But neither did Spike deserve to be beaten nearly to death and left to fry in the sun. Buffy's continued refusal to take any responsibility for the fact that she initiated the relationship with Spike, and continued it of her own free will, several times over his protests, and on at least one occasion did something at least as bad to him as the rape without showing a flicker of remorse for it, is hardly calculated to win my respect. It originally appeared that Buffy's breakdown at the end of Dead Things meant that she understood that she had done Spike wrong. In light of the fact that she continued to treat Spike like an object afterwards, it seems more likely that the breakdown was all about Buffy's shame at having lowered herself to sleep with a thing, rather than guilt over having beaten someone who loved her within an inch of his unlife. Just as her eventual breakup with Spike was more about her shame at being the sort of person who'd use a thing to get her rocks off, rather than any concern that Spike was being harmed by the relationship.

According to Jane Espenson's recent interview, Buffy does live with her own recriminations--but if those recriminations never make it to the screen in any recognizable form, how the heck are we supposed to know they're there? If Buffy, who has a soul and ought to know better, is not to be held accountable for her actions, then how can we hold Spike accountable for his? The wrong actions of one character don't cancel out or negate the wrong actions of another. Two wrongs remain two wrongs. Both characters did evil things; both characters are responsible for the evil they did.

The writers should not have to explain the characters' motives; the characters' motives should speak for themselves. I started out this season with the assumption that, like Spike, I knew what kind of girl Buffy was, that for all her flaws, and they are many, she was essentially a caring person. By the middle of the season I was reluctantly convinced that I was completely wrong, and that the only thing Buffy felt for Spike was lust, loathing, and some kind of possessiveness which demanded he remain her devoted worshiper but denied him even the most basic respect in return. I'm willing to take the word of the writers that this was not what they intended, but the sad fact is, this is how it came off to a large portion of the audience--even those who are not Spike fans in particular. And that is not good.

This season Mutant Enemy made me hate a character I'd previously liked a lot. Even after she acknowledged that she was using Spike, Buffy kept on doing it, and by her silence encouraged her friends to do likewise. Because it was easy for her. Because she was afraid of what they'd say. This season Buffy became the worst kind of moral coward. Buffy and Willow are in much the same boat: until they realize how and why they've behaved badly, there's no point in my forgiving them; they'll continue to make the same mistakes. And I can't let myself believe that they have realized anything until I see concrete evidence of it in their actions.

I mentioned being a big ol' lesbo above because A) I'm tired of everyone assuming that all ravening Spike fans are so ravening because James Marsters is so hot (not that he isn't; I'm gay, not blind) and B) it segues cleverly into my next point. One of the biggest problems I've had with this season is that I was obviously watching a different show than the one Mutant Enemy was writing--or at least, a different one than Mutant Enemy was giving interviews about. I now know exactly what it was like for my spiritual forebearers, trying to extract some sort of positive message from books and movies designed to reinforce the prejudices of the straight majority, scrabbling through the subtext for something to validate us. I speak, of course, of the trials of supporting BtVS's real queer relationship: Buffy and Spike.

I don't believe for a minute that ME was so incompetent as not to realize that they were writing Buffy and Spike as Big Time Romance in the first part of the season. Yet in all the interviews they were all "Tsk tsk, bad choices, it's all about the sex, Spike's untrustworthy, blah blah evilsoullessthingcakes." Isn't it a little disingenuous to scold the fans for buying what you were selling? The most I can believe is that the Big Romance hints were supposed to be buried a lot deeper than they were, and the red-hot Marsters/Gellar chemistry unearthed 'em to too great a degree too soon. While it soon became obvious that Marti Noxon, et. al. were correct in calling Buffy and Spike's relationship an unhealthy one, the reasons why it was unhealthy were patently not the reasons that ME would have us think it was.

We were endlessly told that Spike was bad for Buffy, that their being together was immoral and a perversion of nature. And no matter how many times we heard this, what we saw on the screen contradicted it. For every oooh-look-he's-eeevil moment we got, there were always extenuating circumstances or counterbalancing oooh-isn't-he-sweet moments--if the original moments were really evidence of eeeevil to begin with. Example: In "Doublemeat Palace," Spike tries to convince Buffy to leave her job. Evil, right? Well, except that Spike rightly points out that the job is killing her by inches and she could do way better. And a couple of episodes later Buffy walks out mid-shift in a hot second when Riley wants her to.

His lack of moral compass, his raging inferiority complex, and the desperate desire to get Buffy to, just once, choose him over her friends, led Spike to make the huge tactical error of trying to convince Buffy she was a creature of darkness like him. Not bright, Spikey. Despite this, ultimately it was not Spike who was bad for Buffy. It was Buffy who was bad for Buffy, and Buffy who was bad for Spike. Yeah, Spike's evil (or was), and that's not something Buffy should have ignored or glossed over--but Buffy's self-loathing and fear of what people would think of her for having sex with Spike hurt her, and hurt the relationship, and most of all hurt Spike, far, far more than Spike's evil nature. Would it have killed Mutant Enemy to admit some of this in mid-season interviews, instead of trying to convince us Spike hadn't changed at all and any badness was All His Fault?

That was what fueled half my ire at the show this season--not what was happening on-screen, but the insistence in interviews that I wasn't seeing what I was sure I saw, and anyone who thought they saw any good in Spike or in Spike and Buffy together was merely deluded by the glory of James Marsters's cheekbones. Mutant Enemy can insist it was all supposed to be about Buffy's bad choices till they're blue in the face, and I'll happily agree that Buffy's choice to keep the relationship secret and treat Spike like a thing was an incredibly bad one that almost led to their mutual destruction. I've been in the closet, kiddies; I know whereof I speak. Living in the closet kills.

In this case, it's killed my desire to see the two of them together again, unless Buffy makes some changes. (Spike, bless his--still can't believe I'm saying this--soul, is already in the process of making his.) And I've wanted them together so bad I could taste it, ever since Spike told Buffy he could be good too in "Crush." (Yes, Mr. Fury, it was your episode that enrolled me firmly in the ranks of Serial Killer Lovers Anonymous and sold me on Buffy N Spike 4 Eva! So Spike's a little bit evil--he wanted to talk about the relationship! Snap him up, chica!) At this point I hope they don't get back together until the Buffster can admit she hurt Spike as much as he's hurt her--and do something about it, just as Spike did. Forget love; at this point I just want to see Buffy give Spike some respect. Preferably before she finds out about the whole soul thing.

Getting the characters back together in any sense will be dicey. In Spike's case, the writers have thoroughly smudged the line between man and demon. Unless they choose to completely change Spike's personality next year, the writers simply will not be able to use the easy out they used with Angel/Angelus, claiming that the re-souled Spike is not responsible for what the unsouled Spike did. Personally I don't believe the two-separate-people dodge for a minute, and would love to see Buffy confronted head-on with the fact that having a soul doesn't change Spike all that much. He loves her with or without a soul, when Angel couldn't. When confronted by a magical barrier to their relationship, Angel bailed; Spike smashed it.

It's never been my burning desire to see Buffy land an ordinary significant other and settle down to a thrilling life of watching TV and going to the mall. If I wanted to watch that, I've got a front row seat for my own life. I have to wonder if Mutant Enemy realizes how silly it sounds to say in interviews that Spike's no good for Buffy because he can't go to the mall and watch TV with her. Since when? Spike is so effing domesticated it's pathetic--he watches the Great Pumpkin, for crying out loud. Unless Buffy's somehow stripped of her Slayer abilities permanently, she will never have a normal life--and possibly that's the way the show will ultimately end, with Buffy retiring as a Slayer and Spike shanshu'ing. But someday I kinda hope Buffy'll realize that a normal life is not the be-all and end-all of existence, and weird love is sometimes the best love of all.

Joss is always talking about giving people what they need, not what they want. But that (and I mean this in the nicest way) is bull. A writer who gives the audience only what they think the audience wants is a hack. A writer who gives the audience only what they think the audience needs is a preacher. A writer who writes what they need and hopes it strikes a chord in the audience is an artist. To succeed in a commercial medium, you've got to be a little bit of all three. If you don't give us a little of what we want, the show tanks and you lose your jobs. If you don't give yourselves a little of what you need, you'll hate yourselves in the morning. And if we don't get a little of what we need out of what you write, we won't be obsessing over the show the way we do. Balance, guys. It's all in the balance.


Barb Cummings

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