It had to happen; you know it did.
At least for me, you cannot discuss the men of the Buffyverse without mentioning Spike. Perhaps without a dissertation on Spike. So dig in, get cozy, grab a cuppa (or a cuppa blood with some Weetabix), and get ready for some serious Spike discussion.
Aside from Buffy, Spike is my all-time favorite character in the series. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a spectacular character development or transformation occur on television. (And Joss Whedon agrees with me — at least that Spike is the best-developed character of the show — so there.)
Born with the name William and later known under the rather ignominious alias of “William the Bloody” — ignominious because it referred to his “bloody awful poetry” — Spike gained his more punkish nickname after Drusilla sired him, showing a proclivity for torturing people with railroad spikes. As the show reveals, even as a young vampire, Spike demonstrates fierce loyalty and protectiveness, as well as a tendency to fall deeply in love. He also attempts to cure his mother’s tuberculosis by siring her — but that unleashes all sorts of mommy issues when she turns on him with some propositions that would make even Oedipus blush. His back story is explained through several seasons in flashbacks, from his lovelorn life as a human poet to how he managed to kill two slayers over the course of his existence.
When Spike entered the scene in Sunnydale, side by side with Drusilla, he was well and truly evil. He came to Sunnydale to get a third slayer notch on his headboard…er, headstone.
Spike became Buffy’s arch nemesis — and later an ally when Angel went the way of the uber-evil and tried to end the world. This shaky alliance paved the way for the events of season four.
If you’ve never watched Buffy, you might be a little glazy-eyed right about now. So I’ll perk up your glazed eyes with some sugary Spike-candy.
What I love about Spike is that he is a demon in a man-suit at first — it takes time and several seasons for the demon to choose to be a man with a demon within. In season four, Spike is caught by the Initiative, a military organization that did experiments on vampires and demons to try and harness their powers to use. The Initiative implants a chip in Spike’s brain that prevents him from biting humans — or even hurting them.
As Spike slowly discovers that he is in love with Buffy, this chip is what plunks him into the role of Dawn’s protector in season five — a role that spawns no little bit of conflict between Buffy and her friends. Spike is still a vampire. He’s still evil at his core — a demon. But he begins to show signs of the man he once was.
His earliest moments of tenderness often involve Dawn. He looks out for her — even if his methods vary from what Buffy finds acceptable. He helps her figure out who she is and where she came from, and he stands up for her when Buffy berates her about it.
Spike’s evolution fascinates me — he is an icon among bad characters who go good. He is the beast who becomes something nobler.
Spike’s interest in Buffy is brought out into the light when he commissions a robot (er, sexbot) made to her likeness, and the Buffybot comes in contact with the Scoobies. Though this is unhealthy and frankly, disgusting, Spike’s emotions for Buffy are real.
He genuinely mourns her when she passes, and he continues to try and fulfill his promise to her to keep Dawn safe. He’s also one of the only people to see the truth of the matter when Willow performs the spell to bring Buffy back. Through season six, their relationship is dysfunctional — he’s the only one at first who understands why she has such a hard time adjusting to being alive again. This relationship hits rock bottom when she leaves him and he attempts to rape her.
If you’re anything like me, you blanched when you read that. For a while, I thought that would be the end of Spike for me. I couldn’t get past it for a time. The scene is traumatic and horrific — and it’s what comes after it that challenges every bit of lore the Buffyverse has about vampires.
Spike is a vampire. By definition in the Buffyverse, he has no soul, no conscience. He is evil. A demon in a man-suit.
But when he tries to rape Buffy, his memory tortures him. He flashes back to it over and over again. He cannot live with what he has done to her. That right there is the utter beauty of his transformation — and why I disagree with assertions of Spike’s selfishness. Following this moment, he travels across the world to seek out a legend. He goes to find a demon who holds the power to restore his soul.
I’ve heard people say that Spike did this solely to get Buffy back, but I disagree. He did it because of the guilt he felt after hurting her, to be a better person. He never expected her to want to be with him after what he did to her, but he needed to be a better person. To prove he could be a man instead of a monster.
Spike proved over and over again why he is a worthy character. When it comes to love, I believe he’s better for Buffy than Angel is. Angel at his heart is a man cursed to decency, but his beast is always straining to be free, where Spike’s beast chooses to be decent. In many ways, Angel is a picture of an abuser more than Spike is. When Buffy does the wrong thing (sleeps with him), he turns evil and murderous. When he comes back, he “didn’t mean to hurt her.”
Spike knows he meant to hurt her, believes it because he didn’t have a soul to stop him — and even without a soul he tries to be a better man, even though he often flounders. His speech to Buffy in Touched describes why I love this character’s transformation so much. It shows that he risked everything to be a better man, to give the world the best of himself — and succeeded.
I’ve been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I’ve seen things you couldn’t imagine, and done things I’d prefer you didn’t. I don’t exactly have a reputation for being a thinker; I follow 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 – 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.
I could probably write an entire dissertation on Spike and still have more to say, but this describes why Spike is today’s Monday Man. And forever one of the most phenomenal characters I’ve ever seen.
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