As usual, this became a lot longer than I expected which is scaring the hell out of me - I don't want to even imagine how long my season 6 overview may be.
I realize it's debateable, but, for me, the emotional nadir of the Buffy/Spike relationship takes place im ‘As You Were’. Granted, the attempted rape in 'Seeing Red' is shocking, but in a twisted way, understandable. I could grasp where Spike was coming from and what the writers were attempting to do. With AYW, not so much - at least after my first viewing.
‘As You Were’ was an episode I had to work myself up to watch again. To say I detested the episode and thought it was an utter mess on every creative front would not be an understatement. I knew of a few who disagreed with my feelings and I’m glad they did. If not for them, I would not have been able to look at AYW from a different perspective. Do I suddenly love the episode? No. I can say now and couldn’t before that I am able to tolerate it and just maybe buy into the belief there was a greater point to it all that I missed the first time around. Specifically what made me reconsider my views was jonesiexxx’s thesis (which I’m sure she won’t mind me quoting here):
Buffy doesn’t break up with Spike because she sees Riley and Sam as ideal. She sees Riley and Sam as ideal because she’s emotionally readying herself to break up with Spike.
Other than this appeals to the fanwanker in me, I can believe this to be true. Maybe Buffy does have feelings for Spike, but she’s neither mentally nor emotionally ready to face them. There exists probably a half dozen reasons as to why Buffy should end things with Spike, saving each other from further damage. Problem is Buffy just isn’t strong enough to do it on her own and Spike certainly isn't willing to end it. It’s not healthy, but she does need him and he desperately wants her. So, in order for Buffy to see and believe the worst of Spike, to be confronted with ‘legitimate’ reasons to end it with him, she must idealize the Riley/Sam relationship. The better their relationship appears, the worse hers with Spike does and therefore gives her the ‘proof’ she needs that it’s wrong and it must end.
It’s no coincidence that Riley re-enters Buffy’s life just as she’s hit bottom. She has a condescending coworker reinforcing the belief she’s a failure, “I forgot you dropped out of college” (it doesn’t help that a short time later she receives a rejection letter from UC Sunnydale). And when the option of night school is raised, well, not exactly an option for a Slayer (thus further reinforcog that she’s giving her life over to being this thing rather than being a person). Then she's confronted by a fledgling vampire who wants nothing to do with her because of her smell.
Her one escape - Spike - just doesn’t seem to be doing it for her anymore. Tired and depressed she succumbs to his charms. Yet, the excitement seems to be gone, There no longer seems to be the release and comfort sex with him once provided. It isn’t enough anymore to stave off the chaos of her psyche. “Have a good time, someone should” are telling parting words to Dawn and Willow as they go off to the Bronze to have fun while she stays home to wash dishes and get grass stains out of her coat.
When Riley shows up the next day stating “I need the best. I need you Buffy.” is it any shock that she turns into the fawning ex-girlfriend? Other than Spike (who she refuses to see beyond “evil, disgusting thing” at this point), who but Riley has paid her a compliment lately? Given her any positive reinforcement and reminding her of how valuable and important she is? He walks in telling her what she desperately wants to hear just when she needs it the most.
Buffy's self-esteem has sunk so low that she's actually eager to be acknowledged and desired as the Slayer. Her personal life such a mess, the one thing she usually disdains she now grasps on to - the only part of her she feels is worthy of respect and trust.
Buffy doesn’t want Riley back. She admits as much to Sam. She does “wish things were different”, but she states “I don’t” before trailing off. I’m sure she took a look at Riley and thought ‘what if?’. That perhaps if she could have made things work with him, things would be better now. She might be happy like she perceives them to be. But, it all still comes down to Buffy wishing her life was different not that their lives were different. Riley is a catalyst to a solution, not the solution.
I have to admit there are times in AYW that I’m not happy with Buffy’s treatment of Spike. She’s too harsh, too hypocritical following Riley’s discovery of their tryst. In fairness, Spike’s cocky attitude and calling her a “bint” certainly does nothing to ingratiate himself with anyone. Part of the problem may be Sarah’s delivery (before anyone jumps on me, I’m going to pay her a huge compliment later). It’s also possible that Spike’s words were suppose to ring too true for Buffy and, once again, she put up a front rather than dealing. “You know what I am. You’ve always known. And you come to me all the same.” Buffy looks visibly uncomfortable at his words - confronted by the harsh truth of them.
“No more games”, she says to Spike, but she could just as easily be saying it to herself. It’s time to end the farce. The final scene between Buffy and Spike seems to have fans divided. I never had a problem with how she chose to end the relationship. “I’m using you. I can’t love you. I’m just being weak and selfish.” How much more honest can a person get?
Yet, Spike counters with “Really not complaining here” and takes a step toward her. He wasn’t going to back down; wasn’t going to let go. Therefore, she had to make it all about her - “It’s killing me”. With those words you see a look of concern and realization cross Spike's face. Yeah, he's hurt but he also finally gets it. And by calling him “William” I think Buffy was trying to acknowledge the part of him that was still a man. That through all the garbage they put each other through, she was still able to see that part of him.
If Riley in AYW gave Buffy what she wanted - a way out, a way to start over - Spike in ‘Touched’ gave her what she needed - the ability to keep going and to end it. Whereas AYW is an episode I need to address logically, 'Touched' speaks to me on an emotional level. I have to halt what I'm doing and just watch The Scene.
Earlier I criticized Sarah’s acting a bit in AYW. Now, I think Sarah is a good actress, but I wouldn’t classify her as great. She’s had moments when I felt she shined. Buffybot in ‘Bargaining’ being one example - making me laugh one moment and breaking my heart the next. ‘Touched’ is another fine moment. I’m not just seeing and hearing Buffy, I’m feeling her. As Spike tries to reach her I can feel her stomach tighten up, the lump form in her throat, her willing herself to hold back the tears, trying to be strong and keep her emotions in check like she’s always felt she had to. She does this until she can’t anymore and one stray tear falls down her face. It’s a powerful moment. And I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.....
Buffy couldn’t let her guard down in season 6. She had to maintain a brave face for Dawn and her friends even at a high cost to herself. She had to be the Slayer, she had to be the Buffy everyone expected her to be. And while she's learned to again live in the world she is in, she concedes she's still emotionally shut down:
"These girls I got killed. I cut myself off from...all of them. I knew I was going to lose some of them and I didn't...You know what? I'm still making excuses. I've always cut myself off. I've always - being the Slayer made me different. But it's my fault I stayed that way. People are always trying to connect to me and I just slip away."
And doesn't this sentiment harken back to 'Intervention':
BUFFY: Yeah. Strength, resilience ... those are all words for hardness. (pause) I'm starting to feel like ... being the Slayer is turning me into stone.
GILES: Turning you into stone? Buffy-
BUFFY: Just ... think about it. (gets up, paces) I was never there for Riley, not like I was for Angel. I was terrible to Dawn.
GILES: At a time like this-
GILES: You're bound to feel emotionally numb.
BUFFY: Before that. Riley left because I was shut down. He's gone. And now my mom is gone ... and I loved her more than anything ... and ... I don't know if she knew.
GILES: Oh, she knew. (gets up, puts his hand on Buffy's shoulder) Always.
BUFFY: I don't know. To slay, to kill ... i-it means being hard on the inside. Maybe being the perfect Slayer means being too hard to love at all. I already feel like I can hardly say the words.
It always comes back to being the Slayer. Seeing Buffy so worn down, so willing to finally 'rest', It hit me that the Buffy we originally saw - specifically in season 1 and the first part of season 2 - was a girl full of hope. A girl who still had dreams and believed she would have a life beyond just being the Slayer. Now, even she realizes she gave up trying somewhere along the way, "...being the Slayer made me different. But it's my fault I stayed that way."
Buffy wasn't ready to listen to Spike before. She had to believe in him before she was willing to believe in what he saw within her to be true. Couple that with her friends kicking her out on her ass, it allowed her to let the façade fall and Spike in. Buffy was still hesitant and scared, but she was finally able to hear and accept the words:
" 100+ 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."
“It has nothing to do with me.” I think that’s a huge statement for Spike and for the Spike/Buffy relationship in season 7. In season 6 Spike loved Buffy, he wanted to help her, but as Tara put it so well in 'Crush' when disussing The Hunchback of Notre Dame, “No, see, it can't, it can't end like that, 'cause all of Quasimodo's actions were selfishly motivated. He had no moral compass, no understanding of right.”
Spike’s desire may have been to see Buffy happy, but he only saw that in relation to his own happiness. It was about him as much as her and because of that mindset he adopted a by any means necessary design. I'm not even including the attempted rape. That was without intent. Getting rid of a body to 'protect' Buffy. Selling demon eggs presumably for cash to help her but not contemplating the consequences of his actions. Threatening to expose their relationship to her friends. That was all intentional and selfishly motivated - ways he felt he could make her love him.
Now, we hear him state “I’m not asking you for anything” and he means it. He's not thinking of himself at all, just her. In fact, from ‘Showtime’ on, we see both more concerned with the others well being than their own.
As much as I love the show, I’m not one to turn a blind eye to it’s faults and season 7 had more than it’s fair share of them. Too many things were left unaddressed or brought up to never be fully resolved. But I see Buffy and Spike’s little heart to heart and, for a moment, the faults are forgotten.
If Buffy’s “I believe in you” was the wake up call Spike needed from his own “pity party” in ‘Never Leave Me’, Spike’s declaration of why he loves her capped off by “You’re a hell of a woman” was exactly what Buffy needed to hear. It's at that precise moment we see Buffy let go, yet, at the same time, find the strength to not give up.
Has anyone ever complimented her on the woman she has become? It wasn't being the Slayer that made Buffy brave or strong or resilient it was the person she was. Being a Slayer of Slayers, Spike knows this. We know this. We witnessed Faith give in to the dark side and Kendra easily lured to her death. Up until that moment, Buffy didn't see how special she was. She had to see herself through Spike's eyes. Sunnydale was destroyed, Potentials died, Anya died, even Spike died for awhile, but Buffy and Spike did manage to save each other.
Now, I'm tired. Sorry if I'm not able to respond to any comments until tomorrow afternoon. Seems I actually have to do some work at work tomorrow. :P