Joss said Spike’s return would be long and complicated. He wasn’t kidding.
To begin with, how was the Amulet retrieved and who sent it to Angel? Does someone or something want Spike in LA and attached to Angel? Angel speculates since the Amulet was given to him, he was supposed to wear it. He could be he in Spike’s present state or dead. But it makes no sense for W&H to have given him the firm if they intended for him to be killed in Sunnydale. So, did someone know that Spike would end up being the Amulets recipient? And part of the plan was to bring him back? But for what purpose? Throughout the ep I got the impression that we’d be wondering all season long if W&H is behind Spike’s resurrection or The Powers That Be or maybe some third party (which interestingly Wes brings up).
Spike’s return - it’s a painful one - confused, pissed off, and fearful, he really believed he was finally at rest. Throughout the episode I get the sense that he was OK with it too. His life was complete...or so he thought.
Upon Angel bringing up Buffy’s name, Spike immediately looks at him with an expression of deep concern “Is she OK?... Where is She?” Spike wants to see her, wants to talk to her. Angel shoots down the possiblility immediately. Spike tells him he can’t keep her from him to which Angel replies she’s not his to keep or Spike’s.
S: “You got no idea what we had”
A: “You never had her”
S: “Says You”
Not only did I enjoy this scene because it was very pro Spuffy it enforced that, on some level at least, Spike did believe Buffy, if not loved him, cared for him deeply. It also nicely set up the tone of the Spike/Angel relationship.
It's also apparent that Angel was very vague with the others as to what happened in Sunnydale. He neglects to mention how close Spike really was to Buffy. He conveniently left out information as to Spike’s role in saving the world as well as, oh, he has a soul ‘ “It didn’t seem worth mentioning”. Gunn's reply “Seems to be a lot of that” I found interesting. It's a long way from the guy who despised vamps to seemingly taking Spike’s side. I could say the same for the rest of the gang who seem a bit displeased with Angel’s willingness to discount and dismiss Spike’s contributions. This return to the petty and jealous Angel of seasons past should not only adds to the shades of grey, but provides some great comic moments too.
Speaking of grey...Spike almost immediately questions Angel's judgment in joining W&H to fight evil. "You made some devil’s bargain to take over this company. Thought you’d use it to fight the evil from inside the belly of the beast. Trouble is you are too busy to see you and yours are getting digested." Spike seems to be filling in one respect a role he filled on Buffy - truth teller. As much as Angel would like to think he is in control, he certainly is not.
I knew the spoilers regarding GhostSpike some time ago. I’m glad to see this isn’t exactly the case. I believed ME wouldn’t leave him in his state, but I didn’t expect them to so quickly lay the groundwork for bringing him back to corporeal form. (btw, love the ‘so you think I’m hot’ comment, but could have done without the graphic description of his death…ewwww)
In the quest to become corporeal again, I see the groundwork being laid for Fred to be Spike’s friend/ally (though, I didn’t see anything to indicate anything more than a close friendship and, yes, I’m including Spike’s flirtatious remarks :p). Fred seems quick to believe Spike is back for a reason, a higher purpose, something he is destined for and perhaps even sent by TPTB. In other words, she doesn’t automatically assume the worst.
On a side note, while Lorne continues to provide some much appreciated humor - he envisions ‘The Vampire Slayer Both Men Loved, Both Men Lost’ with Depp and Bloom starring :) - Lorne could have (again) been MIA from this ep and it would have made no difference. ME needs to find a reason for keeping him around or bump him from being a regular. With Angel and Spike snarking at each other, his humorous interjections become less necessary.
Amidst the pissing contest throughout the ep, both men seem to be envious of what the other has achieved. Spike can’t seem to fathom why he is in his present state nor why Angel seems to be so prosperous. Spike sacrificed himself for ‘love, honor, and all the right things’ (yes, Buffy played in an equal role in why he did what he did) and he’s trapped between worlds with nothing. Angel didn’t sacrifice himself to save the world and seems to have it all. Yet, Angel is equally angry that Spike chose to get his soul back and only spent three weeks in a basement suffering not a hundred years in torment over it all. Interestingly, Angel emphasizes “You asked for a soul, I didn’t” and seems rather angry about this fact. Not exactly the attitude of a champion if you ask me.
As much as Spike is the "wise-cracking ghost sidekick" (nice wink to the fans who fear that's all he'll be), he has several poignent moments. His "being useless, being nothing, can't live like this" remark harkens back to early season 4 of Buffy and specifically reminded me of his botched suicide attempt. Before, he was robbed of being a vampire - his reason for being, now it seems more about being robbed of his humanity. Spike has grown dependent on being needed and fighting the good fight. Without that ability/duty, what is his place in the world?
The last scene is heartbreaking. Let me start by saying I think Spike is making the wrong assumption. He comments to Fred that he feels the ground disappearing below his feet - of falling into the abyss. “I know what’s down there and it’s trying to take me and it’s not where heroes go”. There’s the kicker. Spike believed he had died a hero. Now back, he believes he failed and Hell is waiting to claim him. “I’m terrified. Help me.”
I don’t know why Spike is in his present state, but I don’t believe he’s bound for eternal damnation. Right now, he thinks his only hope (or temporary reprieve) is returning to corporeal form. Maybe he is right in that he has more good to do in the world. But, not because he has to, but because he still can.