Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | November 4, 2012

Robin’s Review: S5, E07 – Fool For Love

Synopsis: While fighting a typical vampire Buffy makes a mistake and ends up with her stake in her abdomen. Riley patrols for her and takes revenge while she asks Giles how previous Slayers met their ends. He can’t help but Spike can, having killed two himself. He tells her the story of his life and claims that all Slayers have a death wish. When Buffy rejects him he grabs a shotgun and intends to kill her. However his anger melts when he sees her crying over news that Joyce is going into hospital for a CT scan.

The Good: This was a very strong episode which blended two different stories together with great skill.

Buffy’s season five arc has been intriguingly focussed on her Slayer powers, what they are and what she is capable of. It was a nice juxtaposition for her to be the one getting staked for once and to run vulnerably across a graveyard being stalked by a vampire. Her discussion with Giles over the lack of records about previous Slayer deaths made sense and led naturally to Spike. His explanation that a Slayer’s two weaknesses are her weapon and her death wish was pretty interesting.

The point about Slayer’s needing weapons might seem fairly obvious but it did fit both Buffy’s wound and the death of the Chinese Slayer (which was a terrifically choreographed final sequence). Perhaps there is also a deeper lesson about the need for Buffy to become as self reliant as her enemies. The concept of the death wish is pretty fascinating. It feels very much like a continuation of ideas from “Restless” and “Buffy vs Dracula” where the Slayer’s existence is linked to darkness in a way which Buffy doesn’t understand yet. Just hearing Spike talk about the mortality of the Slayer made for good television. The writers really explored the relentless nature of the job, the fascination with death and the potential for sexual feelings to become connected to the battle.

It would be interesting to know what Buffy took from the discussion. In the end she is far more preoccupied with Joyce whose situation doesn’t seem to be improving. I liked Dawn’s brief attempt to be helpful showing us their growing cooperation. Of course Riley had a great day. He got to patch Buffy up, do her patrol for her, take personal revenge on the vampire and kill all of his friends. This is the situation he would clearly be more comfortable in and it will be interesting to see if next episode this has knock on effects.

Spike’s story was a terrific achievement showing us the versatility and depth of both character and actor. The flashbacks (linked with the corresponding episode of Angel) were well put together to show us Spike’s origins. He worshipped one woman hopelessly before Drusilla turned him and he then transferred that affection to her. The contrast between him and Angel was very well drawn with one rejoicing in planning while the other lives to be spontaneous. The rivalry and jealousy between them played into what we saw in Season Two and helped expand our understanding of Spike. We can see the desires and ego which drive him as well as appreciate the wisdom he has accrued.

The stories were solid but the texture was gripping. I liked the outfits, wigs and settings of the flashbacks, simple as some of them were. I also enjoyed the editing choice to have Spike speak to Buffy from his flashback while killing the New York Slayer. The final scenes of Spike’s “lesson” were slick and fluid and had a tension and sense of consequence when really nothing more than talking was going on. It was a series of brilliant choices in writing and directing. Not to mention acting. James Marsters made Sarah Michelle Gellar look ordinary, so brightly did he shine. Of course he has a tremendous range to play with as William becomes Spike, is nearly killed, falls in love and gets rejected. His character is in many ways now a more interesting version of Angel. He is dark and mysterious, he walks the line between good and evil and he is trapped. Not by a curse but by love (and the chip in his head). He wants to fire that shotgun but can’t because even the demon inside him can’t give up on the idea of something better.

The Bad: We didn’t need the scene with Drusilla and the Chaos Demon. It was a fun throwaway line back in “Lovers Walk” (308) and added nothing here. In fact it tried to rewrite history in an unconvincing way. Back then it was clear that Spike was in love with Drusilla and was far from obsessed with Buffy. Now it was presented as if he really was becoming obsessed with her two seasons ago.

I didn’t enjoy Xander and Willow acting as if they had never been on patrol before. They once had to do it with no help (301).

The Unknown: I just about bought the final scene at the porch. Between her disgust with him and his shotgun it was tricky to imagine that Buffy was so addled that she would actually be comforted by his presence. It’s interesting how much tougher it’s been to accept Spike on Rewatch. On first viewing he was my favourite character and his residence in Sunnydale seemed like a natural choice given what a great character he is. Here though I had to ask myself whether I could accept that his demon heart could be melted or if her shell-shocked mind would accept his hand on her back. I did accept it but only just.

I also thought Cecily was presented as too polite for someone who would then tell William he was beneath her. Why not just say you see him as a friend? The idea that he was already called William the Bloody (before being turned into a vampire) didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Although I did like that the idea of torturing people with railroad spikes came from one of his arrogant acquaintances.

Best Moment: The climax of Spike and Buffy’s dance outside the Bronze was him trying to enact his dreams and kiss her. She is understandably shocked and he pushes it thinking his feelings might be reciprocated. Instead she shoves him down, telling him he’s beneath her. It’s exactly how she’s always felt about him and his shame and misery (as he recalls Cecily’s words) were well communicated.

The Bottom Line: As terrific as this episode was, something on Rewatch keeps it from being one of the classics. Perhaps it just didn’t quite land a solid punch (in terms of emotion) but was satisfied instead with just stirring the pot. Still, that’s only a qualification to explain my score rather than a knock on an episode of great quality.

76/100

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Responses

  1. Fool For Love. One of my top ten eps, like many Buffy fans. I like the way we see Spike build himself from the William he wanted to distance himself so much from. I love the distinct filming style.

    On the “beneath you” line. I do think Spike told Buffy about Cecily. I think he is seeing this interaction as a date and as a way to rub her vulnerability in her face. On both sides of the coin Buffy comes to him vulnerable needing something. If he wanted to only use it against her he would not have told her any of the story leading up to being turned, he would have picked it up where Dru had already turned him. Instead he chooses to give back. He tells her what Cecily says and puts himself on an even playing field, even while he is needling her to get all the hurt he can in. So I do think she uses the phrase to be cruel. I also think she is thoroughly disgusted with him when she says it, but I also think she is beginning to recognize what the Judge referred to as Spike’s “humanity.” She wouldn’t have made such a sharp shot at his emotional self if she hadn’t. She doesn’t punch him in the face like she normally would. She hurts his feelings instead.

    The other thing I see happening in this episode when Spike comforts Buffy and she lets him: I really like this. I love the way I see his face change with his emotions, and I love that I can see her decide to let him comfort her. And I do really believe it. What makes this episode hit home emotionally for me, and makes it so powerful to me is that by the time Spike tells Buffy “every slayer has a death wish” I know there is a part of Buffy that NO ONE else really knows, She is exploring this darkness that her friends, family, and boyfriend cannot handle and do not want to see. Spike not only does know, but he truly understands, and now there is a spot in Buffy Spike has touched that no one else has. This feels so intimate, especially with the perfectly placed kiss and the mutual vulnerability through the episode. When he decides to comfort her I think a part of Buffy welcomes being with someone who knows Buffy the Vampire Slayer better than anyone, because he knows slayers better than anyone, and is able to be around her when she is in pain without her feeling like she has to bring out non-slayer Buffy.

    I will bring this up again in my Riley sucks but I like him in season 5 rant as I get caught up on my posts, particularly in comparison with Riley and Angel, but for now I am glad to be back to posting. I haven’t missed a podcast, and I am very excited to get talking again. I trust you to edit and consolidate this!

    Ammie

  2. Fool For Love, in hindsight, is the episode where I realised Buffy was going to be more than just a very entertaining show.

    We have seen Angel transform from a good guy into total evil, but that was a risk we knew about and were prepared for. To see Spike start to go in the opposite direction was much less expected and for me, a more interesting journey. (And James Marsters is a much better actor than David Boreanaz!) The final scene where Buffy allows Spike to comfort her is completely unthinkable in Season 2. The fact that we go along with this is a great credit to the vision of Joss Whedon and the skill of the writers.

    I was interested in your takes on the second ‘you’re beneath me’ scene so I watched the episode again after listening to the podcast. On rewatch, there are subtle clues to a kind of warped chemistry between the pair. The look on Buffy’s face after he lights a match off the pool table, the body language and the fighting-as-dancing scenes all have sexual tension. We know from ‘Lover’s Walk’ and his insight here that Spike is very intuitive and can read emotions well. We see here that Spike’s experience of love is twisted by Cecily and Drusilla and we can guess he associates love with pain. To Spike, flirting and fighting are two sides of the same coin. Adding this up, it is no surprise that Spike tries to kiss her.

    While Spike hates Buffy because of what she represents, he loves her (or at least thinks he loves her) for who she is. Buffy hates Spike for what he is and what he has done, but she likes his swagger. She is disgusted by this and her slightly off-character extreme reaction to his attempted kiss gives this away. To me, it does not matter whether Spike actually told Buffy about Cecily’s put-down. The repeated line is there as a poetic construct, and it works, so I can live with it. The point is that Spike keeps coming back for pain from those he loves. This raises more fundamental issues about a demon being capable of such feelings, as this is not something we have seen before. At this point, the intrigue had me hooked! Again, credit to the writing and acting.

    The final scene is the one that I remembered best from the original watch in 2000. Spike storming in with shotgun ready and then putting it aside to comfort his ‘enemy’ is a great illustration of contradicting emotions and defines him instantly as a character.

    There are many themes underpinning the story but the essential one here is about love-hate relationships, with people (OK, vampires too) and with death. Pretty powerful stuff!

    Howard


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