I have been moved to meta. Maybe itís because this comic is all about my guy. Maybe itís because Iíve had a month to ponder this. But in my head itís because we finally get some writing that triggers thiky thoughts, and honestly that hasnít happened to me thus far in season 9. So here goes.
The opening page starts with an image of Spikeís ship sailing past the light side of the moon to get to the dark side of the moon. Heís thinking about Pink Floyd.
ďThere is no dark side of the moon really, says Pink Floyd. As a matter of fact itís all dark.Ē
Spikeís not oblivious to the fact that heís just sailed past the light side of the moon. He goes on to say that Pink Floyd isnít exactly scientifically accurate.
ďI guess thatís Roger Waters making with the metaphor. Clever wankers, those rock stars.Ē
Indeed. Dark Side of the Moon, which was a huge album back in the 1970s, is all about mental illness. When you are depressed, everything is black. And even if you know that itís the depression that skews everything black, itís still black. You can see that your brain is lying to you and still be absolutely beholding to the lie.
Light/dark. Truth/lie. Real/Image. Spikeís confused about all of it.
Spike in the Solarium
The central business of #1 has to do with the bugís plan to cheer Spike up. The preview pages gave us a hint of what the bugs had in mind. We saw one of them scuttling by with a cardboard sun in hand. A fake solarium was going to be built so that Spike could sit in fake light rather than brood in the darkness as heíd been doing.
But I was surprised when the bugs hoisted him up and started hauling him into the solarium while pushing the button to raise the blinds. They literally threw him into the sunÖ as it turns out theyíve fixed the glass with the stuff used at W&H, so Spike can actually bask in the sun in a pleasant non-fatal sort of way. And this is where we get all sorts of delightful complexity.
To back up a minute, letís start with Spike brooding about Buffy. He goes to sit in the solarium, with the blinds fully down.
ďThe solarium was going to be her place. A place of light.Ē
But not some place Spike could go.
ďItíll always be darkness for me, luv. My sort canít take the light, can they?Ē
Spike left Buffy because he doesnít want to be her dark place, but thatís all he can be. He passionately wants something thatís absolutely impossible for himÖ which trust me is exactly the recipe for a dark brooding depression.
Because depression paints everything black, itís impossible to see how to make things change. So the bugs take it on themselves, taking steps to make the sun vampire-safe. But they donít stop there. The cardboard sun is taped to the window, along with cardboard palm trees. Theyíve made a fake beach for Spike, and when we first see him in his new vampire-friendly solarium, heís basking in the sun in a beach chair with an umbrella drink in hand.
Before unpacking all of this, can I just say that I love Spike sunbathing in swimming trunks with his boots still on? Thatís almost as great as the white sock panel from #36. Heís such a dork.
Anyway, thereís Spike, basking in the real sun, in a room with a fake sun taped to the wall to give the illusion that Spikeís at the beach. Even better, Spikeís sunbathing with eyeball protectors on his eyes, so heís not looking at the fake sun or the fake palm trees. Heís basking in the real sun, eyes shut to the props. As weíll see later on in the issue, heís probably imaging him and Buffy at a real beach. But heís not at a real beach, much less at a real beach with the real Buffy. It is an illusion. But heís still in the real sun. Not looking at it because the brightness would burn his eyes.
Sebastian tells him they got the idea for the fake beach from a magazine Buffy left behind. Spike doesnít go all maudlin at the mention of Buffy. Instead, he dismisses the ad they modeled Spikeís beach on as a ploy by Madison Avenue to get people to buy their products as a way of avoiding dealing with the mind-numbing dreariness of their own lives. Seb asks him why people would fall for it, and Spike says:
ďThatís an easy one. Because they want to.Ē
He then settles back in with his eye protectors to keep sunbathing in the real sun with the fake beach in his head. Sebastian then makes his big mistake. He leans in and says that Spike must be too smart to do that sort of thing. Spike observes it can be hard to tell when the bugs are being sarcastic. He then sits up in his chair and looks out at the bleak landscape of the light side of the moon. And decides that heís not going to be taken in by chicanery.
Spike: ďRight, then. Itís got to go. The whole lot. Out with it.Ē
Sebastian: ďButÖ but.. is not the light warm and comforting.Ē
Spike: ďYouíve got a cardboard sun here, Seb. And a proper beach is near the sea. Splash and frolic. All that.Ē
Sebastian: ďWeíre not going back to the dark side, are we, sire?Ē
Spike: ďYeah, well, it may not be bright and shiny but at least itís believable.Ē
What I love about all of this is that in rejecting the illusion, Spike is also rejecting the reality. He wants to be in the light, and he was in the light. He was seeing it in an illusory way, and because he recognizes that was an illusion, he concludes that the only thing thatís believable is something thatís all dark. And so he rejects the real light he was really basking in. This is again exactly right about how depression works. We are so focused on illusions about what we want, that we donít know that we actually have what we want, right now, in a non-illusory form. Rather than accept what we want in a way we donít want, we choose to sail back into the dark. Thatís more believable. But itís a lie.
I love how the lie is inescapable. To escape one lie, Spike tells himself another.
Presumably this is also a good mirror for Buffy. She wants normal, and thereís something real in that desire. But itís also a lie. Spike broods on a strand of her hair and wonders if itís the hair of a golden girl or synthetic fiber from a robot. Intervention echoes one more time. Buffy has been so detached from her reality she didnít even notice she was a robot. Itís been an interesting inversion of Intervention. There Spike constructed his own illusion. But came to himself in a real way when he had to put himself on the line for the real deal, Buffy. This time he tried to woo a Buffy!bot, thinking she was Buffy. And while she was, sort of; she also wasnítÖ and neither she nor Spike noticed. So what was the attraction? Was it the underlying unreality of the whole thing?
In season 6 Spike and Buffy danced around the light/dark imagery and the real/fake imagery. Buffy came to Spike telling herself she deserved no better than the dark. In doing so she was embracing something of value (her connection to her slayer power, the part of her that dances in the dark). But she did so in a way that was a lie, and so when she rejected the lie (as she had to), she also rejected something real. Season 7 had given us a lot of healing. It seemed like Buffy and Spike had gotten real with each other and themselves.
So is this regression? Or was season 7 one of those false epiphanies? They had a period of clarity, but maybe that was a lie too, masking an underlying unwillingness on both sides to really settle into the real. When the crisis had passed, neither of them could make a move toward each other. Weíll see how things unfold. But remember the basic dilemma. These swings from one illusion to the opposite illusion are born of an unwillingness to settle for whatís real. As long as you can avoid it you can dwell in fantasy, with alternating bouts of longing and despair.
Anyway, back to Spike. He decides the dark is more believable. We can guess heís heading off to flirt with the dark for a while. And heís going to figure out what he should be able to figure out now. He doesnít belong in the dark. He belongs in the harsh light of day.
Steps Must Be Taken
Sebastian repeats that phrase three times. On his fourth iteration of the phrase, he finally completes it: steps must be taken to restore the natural order. He says that as Spike lounges in the solarium. If Spike in the solarium is the destination, what natural order are we talking about? It canít include a fake beach. Does the natural order have Spike in the sun, but still forced to hide behind necro-tempered glass? Or is it something more? A girl can dream, and hope that the dead weight will, in fact, be jettisoned.
In the meantime, Spike goes to war with amphibian demons. Is his journey aimed at learning how to live when you belong not entirely to the water or to the land? Or is it aimed at finally choosing? Right now he thinks he has to choose, and he thinks he really only has one option. We know life in the dark isnít going to work out for him. The natural order for Spike has him in the light. But does it have him in the light the only way an amphibious/non-natural being like himself could be in the light? Or will steps be taken for Spike to find a way onto a real beach?