We’ve talked about star-crossed lovers Buffy and Angel. We’ve explored Buffy’s rather normal but still unhealthy relationship with Riley. Now we’re on to the relationship I’ve been most excited to delve into — Buffy and Scott.
The story of Buffy and Spike is one that goes around in circles, sends you soaring over cliffs and plunging through several floors of houses. In some ways, it’s the most destructive relationships displayed on the show at all — except for one major game changer.
Spike crashes into Sunnydale with his lover Drusilla, a sadistic vampire whom Angel drove insane before siring her by torturing her entire family — and brutalizing an entire convent the day Dru was supposed to take her holy orders. Spike and Drusilla roamed the world with Angelus and Darla until Angel’s curse made him go all repenty. Spike killed two slayers, one in the Boxer Rebellion in China and the other in 1970s New York — and he’s aiming for his lucky third.
The first time we meet Spike, he’s storming Sunnydale High with an army of vampires — on Parent Teacher Night no less. Through the season, he becomes a…spike in Buffy’s side as he tries to restore an ailing Drusilla from the wounds inflicted by a mob in Prague. After Angel loses his soul, Buffy and Spike form an uneasy alliance in order for Buffy to stop Angel from awakening Acathla and for Spike to get Drusilla out of town.
When Spike comes back to Sunnydale, Drusilla has dumped him, and he wants Willow to make Dru love him again. Though Spike seems reckless and rebellious, he often offers insights to the characters of the show that display depth and truth — which he sometimes uses to manipulate. In Lover’s Walk, Spike and Buffy have a run-in at the magic shop when a bunch of vampires try to get revenge on Spike. What Spike has to say about Buffy and Angel ultimately contributes to their break up:
Spike: The last time I looked in on you two, you were fightin’ to the death. Now you’re back making googly-eyes at each other like nothing happened. Makes me want to heave.
Buffy: I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Spike: Oh, yeah. You’re just friends.
Angel: That’s right.
Spike: You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love till it kills you both. You’ll fight and you’ll shag and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood. Blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.
It’s in season four where Buffy begins to trust Spike after Riley’s buddies at the Initiative shove a chip in his head that keeps him from harming people. Though he still manipulates and tries to sabotage the Scoobies, blaming them for his predicament, he ends up fighting alongside them in the battle against Adam, and this lays the groundwork for one of the biggest milestones in Buffy and Spike’s relationship: trusting Spike with Dawn.
When season five arrives, it comes with a massive surprise: Buffy suddenly has a sister she has to protect. She and the rest of the world remember growing up with Dawn — though the viewers obviously don’t. When Buffy finds out that Dawn is the human embodiment of a Key that can tear down the walls between dimensions, she suddenly becomes a protector in a very real sense. Before then, Buffy protected those she loved and a rather faceless world. Dawn puts a face on it. Here is someone with whom Buffy has a familial bond. Made from her blood.
Buffy: Summers blood. It’s just like mine.
Buffy quickly realizes that she can’t be there to help Dawn all the time. And when Spike is among the first to know the truth about Dawn, Buffy has to choose to kill him or trust him. She chooses trust. And Spike, in one of the most antithetical actions to his vampire nature, delivers. When Glory captures Spike and tortures him for information about the Key, Spike doesn’t give up Dawn. He escapes, earning him the first real kiss from Buffy.
When Buffy throws herself into the mystical energy at the end of season five, we see a broken and devastated Spike collapsed by her body. What is truly remarkable about these moments for Spike is that they go against just about everything the show has told us about vampires and love. Spike has no soul. Spike is, by nature, evil. Yet he is choosing to protect a human teenager (Dawn). He is fighting side by side with a Slayer by choice, out of love.
When Willow, Xander, Tara, and Anya bring Buffy back at the beginning of season six, Spike is the only person Buffy relates to. He’s stayed, protecting Dawn even after Buffy’s death. Why? His motivations, when he is completely ignorant of Willow’s plans to resurrect Buffy, show that he really loved her. He’s willing to continue fighting her fight even with her gone — and in his eyes, gone forever. Until she reappears.
Which brings us to season six. As Buffy’s life disintegrates around her, she feels lost. She feels wrong. She thought she was done when she jumped off that tower. She felt finished. She went to heaven — and she was pulled out by her friends. She hides it from them, but it’s clear she’s dying inside. She is forced back into a life she thought was over, and it brings out a side of her that she never expected.
Spike is the only one who seems to understand. Buffy turns to him for comfort early on, but in Once More, With Feeling that comfort becomes physical when they kiss — and then again after Giles leaves. A couple episodes later, Buffy and Spike start fighting, which ends in one of the more destructive sex scenes in TV history.
As Buffy and Spike’s relationship progresses, it is blatantly unhealthy. It’s violent and secretive, and oddly, Riley’s the first person outside of the two of them to know about it when he returns in As You Were. Back when Buffy was dating Riley, Spike told Riley that Buffy needed a little monster in her man. Though he said it lightly, he meant it — and he’s right to an extent. Buffy needed someone more than human who wasn’t put off by her strength and who didn’t try to change her.
The relationship wears on Buffy so much that in Dead Things, she beats Spike to a pulp, taking her anger and fear out on him. Though she seems to be talking at Spike, her words are clearly meant for herself, much like when Faith beat up Buffy during their body switch in season four.
Buffy:You don’t have a soul. There is nothing good or clean in you. You are dead inside. You can’t feel anything real. I could never be your girl.
Spike: You always hurt the one you love, pet.
Buffy has a total breakdown at the end of that episode when Tara tells her that she didn’t come back wrong — that everything she did to Spike, all her behavior was her. Buffy is forced to see a darker side of herself and take responsibility for her part in the unhealthy aspects of her relationship with Spike, which ultimately causes her to end the relationship, even though she repeats what Spike said to her. “You always hurt the one you love.” I believe this shows that Buffy was in love with Spike — she was just afraid to embrace it because of his nature.
The rest of the Scoobies find out only after Buffy has ended it, when the camera’s planted by the nerdy yet oddly effective Trio show Spike and Anya having sex in the Magic Box, and Dawn sees Buffy’s reaction. Spike reacts to this by coming to see Buffy, and if you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know what happens in this scene.
When he arrives, Buffy is injured, about to take a bath. And Spike tries to force himself on her. He almost succeeds in raping her, but she is able to kick him across the room and stop him. This is a tricky scene — a couple years ago, I heard a couple of podcasters blame Buffy for this. They said that she had ruined her “no” by changing it to a yes too many times with Spike. I don’t think that’s true, nor do I think that Spike came there to rape her. Is he to blame? Absolutely. But that scene is a catalyst for something spectacular, as painful as it is to watch — and I’ve seen it over ten times.
Spike, the soulless vampire, is torn apart by his memory of it. He replays it in his mind over and over again, hearing her screams, hearing her desperation, realizing how much he hurt the one he loved. So he leaves. Travels across the world to find a demon who can do something impossible.
A demon who can give Spike his soul.
As far as we’re told on the show, no vampire has ever actively worked to restore his or her soul. Spike is the first. He almost dies in the process — the trials he goes through in order to succeed are bloody near impossible. But he does it. He succeeds. To try and be a better man. To be what she deserves, someone who wouldn’t hurt her.
In season seven, Buffy notices the change in Spike. She discovers what he did after following him to a church, where he paces in the darkness gibbering about the spark. In one of the most poignant scenes in the series, Spike tells her why he did it.
Buffy:Why? Why would you do that?
Spike:Buffy, shame on you. Why does a man do what he mustn’t? Forher. To behers. To be the kind of man who would nev— (He pauses, almost crying.) To be a kind of man. And she shall look on him with forgiveness… and everybody will forgive and love. (Spike goes to the cross at the front of the church.) He will be loved. (He drapes himself over the cross. His skin begins to burn.) So everybody’s okay, right? (Buffy is crying.) C-can we rest now? Buffy? Can we rest?
From that moment, Buffy lets him try. And she sees him try, keep trying. In spite of the First taking up residence in his head, in spite of the crazy and the frustration, in spite of the trigger that makes him kill — Buffy believes in him. Whether he meant to do it or not, Spike proved something when he fought to restore his soul. He proved that he was a good man. He proved that he could rise above his nature.
While Spike and Buffy’s relationship in season six was unhealthy and destructive, season seven shows something so tender and fragile, so antithetical to the previous season, that it made me believe. Spike risked everything to be a better man, and Buffy saw it. His words to her in Touched show how much he’s changed.
SPIKE: You listen to me. I’ve been a live a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine, and done things I prefer you didn’t. Don’t exactly have a reputation for being a thinker. I’ve only my blood, which doesn’t exactly rush in the direction of my brain, so I make a lot of mistakes, a lot of wrong, bloody calls. A hundred plus 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, and 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 are a hell of a woman. You’re the one, Buffy.
Ultimately, it’s why I believe Spike is the better choice for Buffy. While I don’t know where the series will go in season 9 — Joss might cut off that relationship forever, though at the moment it seems unlikely — Spike remains Buffy’s most faithful confidant. His motivations may often be selfish, but that doesn’t entail that they are self-serving, whereas Angel’s actions post television are almost frighteningly so, and he does one thing that I don’t think Buffy can ever or will ever forgive.
Angel’s soul was forced on him as a punishment, and it can be lost. Even ensouled, Angel does some abominable things, and he often refused to let Buffy move on. Spike on the other hand risked everything. He fought to be better without making demands on Buffy — in season nine, this is evidenced even more. Riley was too human, but Spike understands both darkness and light. He knows what it means to sacrifice, and for that I believe he and Buffy deserve each other. I don’t know where their relationship will go, but I do know where I hope it goes.
Thanks for bearing with a very, very long post on this subject! With eight seasons of material to go through, Spike and Buffy’s relationship takes up some serious space.
I want to hear what you think! How do you feel about Spike? What do you think will happen when Buffy’s done baking?
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