Asta 2

More thoughts on Spike and his evil ways

Over the course of the past week, there has been much debate in regards to intent and perception within the Buffyverse. Anger and resentment has alternately been lobbed at James, ME, and our fellow fans. All because James gave us his view of Spike on, what seems to me, not his best day. I'll be curious to see how much of this is broached in Tampa in a few weeks. After all, much of what he discussed dealt with circumstances prior to season 7. I'd love for someone to ask how he viewed Spike this season. I can't fathom that he sees the Spike that sacrificed himself for the world as still being evil.

I agree with James and the ME staff that Spike was evil. I don't agree that James and ME are the ones responsible for not conveying that clearly to the audience. Yes, James did play Spike with soul prior to actually regaining it. He had to, just as the writers had to create scenes that allowed James to convey Spike's humanity. In order for a character to be gripping - to hold the audiences attention - you have to care about them, or at least be intrigued by them. Would six seasons of just plain evil Spike have done that? Would he have lasted six seasons if all we saw was a demon plotting to kill Buffy and the gang?

The demon was always present exerting a certain amount of control. In season two, Spike only sided with Buffy to save his 'happy meals' and, in a misguided attempt, to win back his precious Drusilla. In season 3 we see Spike has not changed - threatening to kill Xander and menacing Willow to achieve his goal. Now, in season 4 the essence of what Spike was may have become less clear as he was forced into the role of comic relief. But underneath the quips and puns was a seething resentment and secret pack with Adam to destroy the Scoobies. Only when he realized his own unlife was in danger did he join the side of good to save his own ass.

Where things get muddled is in season 5. Yep, Spike loves Buffy, but in a very selfish way. Tara alludes to why it can't work in her Quasimodo discussion with Buffy and Willow. And chaining Buffy up, threatening her to prove his love? This always harkened back to 'Lovers Walk' for me. Spike announcing he was off to find Dru to tie her up and torture her until she loved him again. Considering how desperate Spike had become, had not Harmony interrupted or Dru gotten loose, who's to say how far Spike would have taken things with Buffy?

I know a lot of fans blame season 6 for the confusion regarding Spike. That the AR was simply thrown in there to fix the writers mistakes and prove how evil Spike still was. I've never agreed with this take. Yes, it was disturbing, but I never felt it was something that was beyond Spike. Especially when considering where Spike was emotionally in that moment combined with a history of physical abuse towards each other. James is correct, the act itself is evil and shows what Spike was still capable of doing. What hasn't been addressed, is that it is also the moment when William's humanity is brought forth. Confronted by despair, disgust, and contempt for himself, he sets out on a journey to regain his soul.

The inherent evilness of Spike was always there beneath the surface waiting for the opportunity to be released. The chip did force Spike to suppress darker aspects of his being, thus allowing pieces of his former nature to reveal itself. Eventually Spike was lulled into a belief that he could overcome his nature on his own. The AR forced him to see this was not so. And while ME has showed that souls do not always equate with good, we have seen that Spike was a good man before being turned. Regaining his soul provided Spike with the moral center that he had lost. Whereas in season 5 and 6 most of his good deeds were for Buffy's sake alone, in season 7 he did the right thing because it was the right thing.

If the writers screwed up anywhere in confusing the issue, I would say it was in 'Intervention'. An episode that managed to convey both how low Spike could go as well as what heights of greatness he could achieve. Spike was willing to accept death rather than reveal Dawn to be the key - a truly selfless act. It was then that it became more difficult to just view Spike as the Big Bad. Without 'Intervention' ME may not have had to remind viewers of what Spike was still capable of doing and why he was not to be considered the hero. On the other hand, I've always believed that ME wanted to tell a story of redemption and without 'Intervention' Spike would not have taken his first steps along that path. Up until that point we knew what Spike was but not who he was yet capable of becoming.

James has always revealed remnants of Spike's soul or his humanity or whatever you choose to call it. I don't see that as a mistake on either James part or the writers. Without that he would have been no more then the disposable villain he was originally intended to be. ME wouldn't have been provided with the epic character arc. And we wouldn't have benefited from watching such a great story unfold.
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If there was a cheering icon I would use it :)

Very skillfully and brilliantly presented, Asta.

It's so easy for some to blame the actor or the writers for how they perceive the character. And yes, there were cases where, as you said, Spike was written and performed by James where some of his inner humanity came through. But, it is canon - remember The Judge in Innocence? He verified for us that Spike and Drusilla "reeked of humanity". Spike said, "Yeah, what of it?" I think one can go back to that scene and understand that while Spike was truly evil, he was also shown as unconventional, therefore there were times that anything could happen with him and it could be explained as a part of his latent humanity.

James has said that just because Spike let himself get tortured for Buffy and Dawn's sake doesn't mean he was good - he would have done it for anyone he loved, but not for the good of humanity. Therein lies the difference. I think Intervention showed us that while Spike loved selfishly, the needs of the person he loved were important to him as well. As you said, it was a seed planted to show perhaps what Spike was capable of.

Cindy always mistakenly calls Seeing Red Red Things :) But I think she's got a point - Dead Things and Seeing Red are bookends to the Buffy and Spike relationship, showing both at the end of their tether; both episodes were the beginning of them coming back to themselves; in Buffy's case, she realized she didn't "come back wrong", and had to really come to terms with her behavior, which was the first step to stopping it. For Spike, the A/R was his nadir. In Entropy, when Buffy accuses him of planting the cameras, sighting his history, he says, "I never hurt you." He did just that. To Spike, the ultimate horror is betraying someone he loves. So, to fix it, he went to get a soul.

As I said, it's so easy to blame James, or the writers, when really some have to look to themselves as to why they feel the way they do. I myself loved Spike's development, but I never forgot where he started, so it made his ultimate destination that much more remarkable. It did to Buffy too. She goes from being afraid to touch him in Beneath You to resting with him the final three days he's on earth. And from what we can determine, it's not the soul itself that convinced her he could be a good man, it was the act of pursuing it. This I know because I actually watched with an open mind, not my own agenda.
This I know because I actually watched with an open mind, not my own agenda.

And right there, I think, is the glowing green key that unlocks dimensions.

I don't know what pre-SR fandom was like, because it's not until fairly recently I even knew there was such a thing as fandom, but it has really struck me that so much of the "debate" (which usually reduces to groups shouting at each other over an abyss no one has any intention of crossing) about various BtVS issues, and perhaps Spike in particular, comes from people imposing their own agendas on ME's story. When things don't turn out exactly as they want, or as they've envisioned, they proclaim the writing "crap" and the whole season a bust.

To which I say, "Nyeh." ('cause I'm all mature like that)
but it has really struck me that so much of the "debate" (which usually reduces to groups shouting at each other over an abyss no one has any intention of crossing) about various BtVS issues, and perhaps Spike in particular, comes from people imposing their own agendas on ME's story. When things don't turn out exactly as they want, or as they've envisioned, they proclaim the writing "crap" and the whole season a bust.

For someone who came late to fandom, you have a superb grasp of the situation. That's why the boards became so disheartening. Everyone 'arguing' their point and not bothering to consider anyone elses.

Anytime I read how the writing was 'crap' or Buffy was a cold hearted bitch it was because the story wasn't going as they wanted it to. People are still fussing that Buffy never apologized to Spike for the beating in DT. Frankly, I never expected an 'I'm sorry'. Spike told her to put it all on him, he wanted to ease her pain even if that meant taking her punches. And considering how well these two knew each other, I think he knew she regretted her actions. Like I've always said, actions are more important then words and did we ever see her treat him in such a manner again?
"Nyeh", is a pretty good way to describe it :)

I used to frequent one board where there were people who actually said that Joss was flat out telling the wrong story. I just scratched my head, and left.

Asta is right, for coming into online fandom rather late (lucky you), you have an excellent handle on where it went wrong, and continues to, unfortunately.
For Spike, the A/R was his nadir. In Entropy, when Buffy accuses him of planting the cameras, sighting his history, he says, "I never hurt you." He did just that. To Spike, the ultimate horror is betraying someone he loves. So, to fix it, he went to get a soul.

Glad you pointed that out Lynn. When people argue how unecessary the AR was I go back to that moment. Spike says "I never hurt you" and believes in what he says. But, look at their past. They have a history of hurting each other both physically and emotionally. Yet, he didn't view the punches and psychological manipulation (his behavior on the balcony in DT is far more disturbing to me because it was a concious and cruel effort on his part to bring her into the dark with him) as hurting her. The verbal and physical jabs often turning into passion. There was very little left Spike could do to Buffy that would be so shocking to him that would force him to make changes in his life. In this case, regain his soul.

Exactly Asta. It just shows that while Spike was exceptional for a vampire, his moral compass was still screwed up if he didn't feel all the cruel and manipulative things he'd done to Buffy weren't that wrong. It took violating one of his own rules ("I never hurt you") to get him to seek his soul.

Spike vs. JM vs. Good & Evil
Without 'Intervention' ME may not have had to remind viewers of what Spike was still capable of doing and why he was not to be considered the hero. On the other hand, I've always believed that ME wanted to tell a story of redemption and without 'Intervention' Spike would not have taken his first steps along that path. Up until that point we knew what Spike was but not who he was yet capable of becoming.

I guess it comes down to the question of heroism: does it lie in the person or in the act, or does it vary? Can someone be a hero if they fail to behave heroically in one or more instances? Does a single act of heroism a hero make? Do motivations count, or is it simply behavior? I think ME explored these questions over the last 3 seasons, maybe with varying degrees of success, but Spike was certainly one of the central figures in this exploration.

I agree that Intervention showed us that Spike had the potential to commit heroic deeds, for whatever reason. I think--although I'm not entirely sure--ME eventually wanted to show that without a soul, such deeds would be the exception, not the rule, even in someone with such heroic potential. Not all souls are good souls, but the soulless can't even aspire to a general bent for goodness. (Or something like that: it's still a little fuzzy in my mind.)


I'd love for someone to ask how he viewed Spike this season. I can't fathom that he sees the Spike that sacrificed himself for the world as still being evil.

I doubt he thinks Spike is still evil, post-world saveage, but I wouldn't be surprised if he says something along the lines of, "Spike never deserved Buffy." And from his perspective, I would agree with him: he has to believe that, because he played the character of Spike. His vision of the Buffyverse is not all-encompassing the way ours is, but necessarily limited to a single perspective. More so because he is a method actor.
Add to that the fact that rape is such a hugely loaded issue for JM, and he probably sees it as something entirely unforgivable.

I'm convinced that at least part of the reason he was able to play Spike's suffering remorse, his painful letting go and wonder at Buffy's acceptance so convincingly over the course of the season was because of this limited and necessarily subjective perspective. If he were able to see the show through our eyes, he may not have been able to give such a deeply felt and layered performance.

James has always revealed remnants of Spike's soul or his humanity or whatever you choose to call it. I don't see that as a mistake on either James part or the writers. Without that he would have been no more then the disposable villain he was originally intended to be. ME wouldn't have been provided with the epic character arc. And we wouldn't have benefited from watching such a great story unfold.

I agree wholeheartedly and wholesouledly.
Re: Spike vs. JM vs. Good & Evil
guess it comes down to the question of heroism

You raised a lot of interesting questions as to what constitutes heroism. I'm not sure there is a single, correct answer. And too early in the morning for me to contemplate it. :p

I'm convinced that at least part of the reason he was able to play Spike's suffering remorse, his painful letting go and wonder at Buffy's acceptance so convincingly over the course of the season was because of this limited and necessarily subjective perspective. If he were able to see the show through our eyes, he may not have been able to give such a deeply felt and layered performance.

Hmm, interesting, I didn't think about that. Looking at the show only through Spike's eyes it's east to understand James stance on Spike and his actions. Spike, with the soul, would constantly be reminded of the horrors of his past and his unworthiness of Buffy. I think Spike came to believe he would never be deserving of Buffy's love, especially since he held her in such high esteem. The most he could hope for and attain would be friendship.

Yet, when the two clasped hands I think Buffy finally felt the depth of Spike's love for her and was in awe of it. In many respects she had felt as unlovable as Spike did. Both were consumed with their faults and weakness, unable to see what the other saw in them. In the end, I think they both achieved some clarity.
Re: Spike vs. JM vs. Good & Evil
quote:
I doubt he thinks Spike is still evil, post-world saveage, but I wouldn't be surprised if he says something along the lines of, "Spike never deserved Buffy." And from his perspective, I would agree with him: he has to believe that, because he played the character of Spike. His vision of the Buffyverse is not all-encompassing the way ours is, but necessarily limited to a single perspective. More so because he is a method actor.
Add to that the fact that rape is such a hugely loaded issue for JM, and he probably sees it as something entirely unforgivable.


Excellent. I think everyone should keep this in mind when we hear James talking about Spike.
I have always had a problem with the AR scene, mainly because it seemed to be saying that it was ok for Buffy to treat Spike the way she did. My main concern is that a lot of men out there are abused by women and what kind of message is being sent to them.If you take the whole Slayer, Vampire thing out of it and bring it down to basics, it was a man being abused by a woman and when he finally snapped, he was labeled "rapist". I have often thought that the writers should have come up with a different scenario, yes it leant meaning to what was to come,it also used a very disturbing issue in what I felt was a frivolous way
Interesting take on it. I never thought of the scene as saying it was OK for Buffy to do what she did. In fact, I always felt if she had listened to him more as well as been honest with herself, it would not have come to that.

Like you said, it is a disturbing issue. Considering the often violent nature of their relationship and that we are talking about a demon and Slayer, the situation is not as clear cut as in real life. I think it would have been easier on both the writers and the fans if ME had chosen an alternative path to get their point across. But, given Spike and Buffy's past, I can't come up with another scenerio that would have been shocking enough to Spike to force him to get his soul back.

Then again, wether or not he needed to get his soul is a whole other debate. :p
Both Buffy and Spike were so lost in season six, it's no wonder neither was able to help each other. It's ironic that their bad behavior was a catalyst for the lovely relationship that they had in season seven.

In CWDP we do get some insight into what Buffy was feeling in season six. She tells Holden she knew Spike loved her and cared in his own soulless way, but she didn't want to be loved, she wanted to be punished. The strong, confident slayer feeling inferior because she feels she's a superior being. Diabolical, as Holden says :) There were two uncredited writers in CWDP - Marti Noxon wrote the Willow/Cassie scenes, and Joss wrote the Buffy/Holden scenes. I think it's important to note Joss handling this part - he really wants to get across Buffy's feelings of self-loathing. Not to excuse her behavior, but to explain it. I think it's fair to say her behavior that year was an anomaly - not before or after do we see Buffy engage in such behavior - because neither before nor after was she so emotionally damaged.

As I said, Spike was really in no position to help her the way she needed. He indulged her in all her bad behavior because he wanted to be with her so badly, he wanted to believe she felt the same. It was a delusion that led him to be unable to let go when she started pulling away.

Why did he need his soul, you ask? :) One very important reason (aside from it being another stage in his redemption)is so he could understand finally what drove her to behave as she did - "I get it now", he says in Never Leave Me. It was heartening to see he still loved her, and that his love finally became totally unselfish - he could love with without the burning need to possess her, and therefore it was more satisfying. They were really able to help each other heal. And the result was the beautiful and satisfying ending.
Also, when dealing with Spike and Buffy, I think it's all right to look at it from the perspective that as you said, they are unique because of who and what they are, and do not have to necessarily adher to the strictly realistic ways of resolving their conflict. One has to be able to suspend their belief that this is a work of fiction, and it is not advocating their resolution for anyone but these characters.
As I said, Spike was really in no position to help her the way she needed. He indulged her in all her bad behavior because he wanted to be with her so badly, he wanted to believe she felt the same. It was a delusion that led him to be unable to let go when she started pulling away.

Very well put Lynn. Take away the 'delusion' created by the sexual relationship and perhaps Spike could have helped her cope. We see him just being there for her, talking about her problems with her, pre OMWF and in the latter part of season 7. If she hadn't used him as an escape and he, in turn, had not allowed himself to be used, things would have been considerably different. But, in the end, as friends, they were finally able to help each other.
While I'm sure it was frustrating for Spike to keep silent, in hindsight I'm sure he wishes he could have been able to, for both their sakes, just as Buffy wishes she could have been able to accept the idea of his love, if not reciprocating. I think at that point Spike just wanted her to believe that his love was true. I agree with James that Spike never really expected her to love him back. It was that pesky Sweet that brought it all out in the open :)

I remember Joss talking about their relationship in the summer between seasons six and seven - he said their relationship in season seven would be the polar opposite from season six. That gave me hope that they would at least make peace with each other, and Joss came through.
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I'm not always very good at putting my thoughts on paper, I just feel that part of the appeal of Buffy has always been how they used real life problems and transposed them to the Buffy universe, usually with great sucess. This particular episode just left a bad taste in my mouth, and also had me wondering weather they were in it for the shock factor and to grab the ratings. I just couldn't get past the fact that Buffy had been using and abusing Spike with impunity for a lot of the season and never appeared to have to answer for her actions. I just think the writers made a bad mistake with this one, I felt I should have been up in arms at what Spike did to Buffy but all I could think was, well she should have seen that coming, how much abuse can you dish out to a person before they snap and retaliate. The fact that I wasn't screaming rape, left me feeling uncomfortable with myself.
Day, your feelings are perfectly understandable. I agree, it is very strange to be defending and rationalizing Spike's actions and finding rasons for it. I always considered rape to be very clear cut, but within the context of the show it wasn't and that, too, made me uncomforatble.