Granted, I knew they'd both end up getting contracts, but it just made the results anticlimactic. I was half expecting to see Clay shrug on stage. I think he was the most calm 'loser' in the history of contests.
I've seen it mentioned numerous times that the FE wasn't destroyed, it simply disappeared, and this is yet another example of Joss' sloppiness. Sorry, I don't buy that argument. I too noticed the FE simply vanished before the fight was over. Could it be that Joss did that for a reason maybe? Seems to me it did a vanishing act back in 'Amends' as well.
Following Buffy's epiphany, she tells Spike they can win this thing. She never said they could defeat or destroy it. After all, how can anyone - even the Slayer - eradicate evil? The goal was to stop the army of Ubies, prevent the FE from taking corporeal form, and save mankind. In that they succeeded. As well as reinforcing the theme of girl power and freeing Buffy to be the woman she chooses to be, no longer bound by duty or destiny. That's a heck of a lot of ground to cover and Joss pulled it off.
Did they or didn't they? I'm going with did. Why? The dialog that proceeds the scene. Amanda wonders how anyone could sleep tonight and Xander mentions 'only the crazies'. Next we see two very sane and wide awake individuals approach each other. So, they did it (just wish we could have seen a bit of it).
She loves him, she loves him not...OK, initially I believed she loved him, but wasn't in love with him. After reading many different interpretations of the scene and re-watching it six or seven times, I think I may have been a bit too pessimistic. I, at least, want to believe the arguments made by some that he said "No, you don't" to get her out of there. He's grown to the point where his love is no longer obsessive or possesive. Yes, he was redeemed because he died to save the world, not to impress Buffy. Yet, he also knew that in sacrificing himself he was freeing Buffy to be the normal girl she always desired to be. If she had stayed with him, imperiling her own life, his sacrifice would not have brought him peace.
Besides, it seems to me that in the brief time they were holding each others hands, their souls connected. Each experienced completely what the other was feeling. In that moment, from the expression on their faces, you can see she did love him and Spike feeling it. When Buffy uttered "I love you", it was a true expression of her heart. But, it was as much for herself as for him. It was the first time in a very long time she felt safe expressing her feelings without the fear of rejection and it freed her.
For Spike, he may truly believe that she doesn't love him in the consuming, you're the only one for me, sort of way that he loves her. But he's OK with that now. Loving her is enough. Being trusted and entrusted is enough. And doing the right thing because you know, in your soul, it's the right thing? With apologies to Mastercard again...priceless.