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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 6

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    I've always loved the scene of Willow killing the Penis Monster. The moment it rears it's head out from the meat grinder and she screams and pushes it back down never fails to make laugh. That scene manages to briefly recapture some of the loveable silliness of the earlier seasons and is reminiscent of the MotW episodes which I have such a soft spot for. Buffy and Willow's "Eww" and Willow having no magic to rely on both harken back to sillier, easier times.

    Speaking of the Doublemeat Palace, I was in a burger joint the other day and they actually had a cow + chicken burger. I immediately thought of this episode.
    "You've got ... a world of strength in your heart. I know you do. You just have to find it again. Believe in yourself."

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    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Really loved your review of Dead Things – one of my favorite episodes – not only in Season Six, but all of the Buffyverse.

    I know that Once More With Feeling and Seeing Red get a lot more attention, but in many ways, I think that Dead Things is the standout of Season Six for a whole bunch of reasons that you’ve detailed so well.

    “Hug” is a fairly standard episode of Smallville. “Waiting in the Wings” is a delicate jewel of story from Joss Whedon. But neither of the two episodes had the thematic punch of the 13th episode of Buffy season six’s “Dead Things.”
    Yes, I totally agree. In fact, I don’t think there’s another Buffy episode that quite manages to walk the high wire of moral ambiguity like this one does and end with such a nasty fall. I loved your comparison with Angel and Smallville episodes that premiered the same week – fantastic point that all three episodes are concerned with the same premise of angry men forcing women to do all manner of disturbing things – which says a lot about what people were thinking at the time. A lot of fans seem to point to Marti Noxon as the Big Bad of Buffy because she brought such dark misogynist themes into the show – but it’s evident from looking at other contemporaneous TV shows that such concerns weren’t limited to Buffy.

    In “Dead Things,” villainy is not some cosmic grandiose scheme or some comedic lark. It is stark, sickening and banal. The catchphrase for season six is “Life is the big bad”. Well, here we see an act of villainy that is terrifyingly real. No episode before or since gives such attention to the villains. And “Dead Things” also provides one of the best studies of the moral complexities of our hero Buffy as well.
    Yes, it’s the “banality of evil” that is so shocking – the immature Trio suddenly turning into murderers – as you say, there’s no supernatural element involved in Katrina’s murder. Just cruelty, stupidity and selfishness turned lethal through sheer terror. Warren’s monstrous act of self-preservation happens every day in every city in the world – there’s no need for unsouled vampires or demonic freaks to cause monstrous actions to happen.

    The title Dead Things can be seen as a reference to three characters who are either killed, have previously been dead, or are undead, The Things part of the title suggests a loss or denial of humanity. But the phrase Dead Things has older roots. It comes from the Hebrew Bible (or at least the King James translation of the Bible), specifically the Book of Job…Job (as it is published) describes the awesome and terrible power of God…Dead things are formed from under the waters, and the inhabitants thereof. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering.
    I love the title “Dead Things” and how it ties together so many strands of the episode. I agree that it is probably taken from the famous lines in the Book of Job that have been quoted so often in poems and novels. So I think it’s worth a minute to look at the original Hebrew for meaning.

    The Hebrew term for ‘dead things’ in the Book of Job translates as “rephaite” – which is either a reference to either tribes from the distant past and/or long dead ancestors. It is linked to ancient Semetic funeral rites (around 3000 BC) in which the dead are perceived as lost, abandoned, and forsaken and wander like ghosts/spirits/giants of the past to haunt the living. All the secrets of this world hidden beneath the water are revealed to God alone. We cannot see them.

    The Hebrew word translated as “formed” is yechôlālû - which means to be manhandled, twisted and turned in anguish – “Dead Things” are not actually dead in the Hebrew Bible - but maintain a painful form of unlife through God’s very knowledge of their state. So the phrase “Dead Things” – common in poetry – stems from the ancient idea that only Gods (and Kings/Priests/Shamans) can see certain aspects of reality despite being all around us, pressing into our consciousness.

    Notice that the “dead things” in this Biblical passage aren’t buried in the ground, never to be seen or heard from again. Rather they are formed from under the waters – and come bubbling to the surface again, just as Katrina’s body does after Spike’s clumsy attempt to get rid of the evidence. Water is fluid, malleable and ever-changing – capable of transforming or overpowering in a flood. It is not fixed and static like the earth is. And water does symbolize death. For example, to enter the underworld in Greek mythology, one crosses over the river Styx. Fire, on the other hand, symbolizes life and the soul – as we can see when Spike’s soul shines forth so brilliantly in “Chosen”. It may be a movement of sacrifice, but it is one predicated on his spark of life.
    That’s a fantastic point, PuckRobin!

    Although Hell is generally under the ground in ancient Semitic mythology, this places the dead things closer to Greek mythology with the idea of the grotto or the River of Acheron (River of Woe) as a covering – a separating membrane – from Hell that too chaotic and treacherous to cross without divine guidance of some sort. A kind of watery Hellmouth that evokes the great flood in the Hebrew Bible – or even the secret of immortality severed from man by the eternal waters in the Sumerian Gilgamesh. Unlike our ancestors who are buried in the ground, dead things that float in the water are manhandled, twisted and turned by the water’s movement (as in Job) and become visible again once the gases expand within the corpse caused by the living bacteria within devouring the body.

    Love your use of water and fire as opposing forces in Season Six! And yes, watery death as a contrast to fiery life is a very strong metaphor in the Buffyverse that moves from A to Z – from Buffy’s drowning to Spike’s burning in the Hellmouth.

    And one poem to borrow the phrase “dead things” from the Book of Job is Félise by Algernon Charles Swinburne…The book was likely a favourite of William Pratt, the future Spike. Certainly our favourite blood awful poet seems to have been inspired by Swinburne’s dress sense if nothing else. The name Félise means happiness, possibly even “perfect happiness” – a concept associated with another vampire in the Buffyverse. In this poem, it’s the name of a lover and the poem reflects on a now dying love. The expression recurs three times in the same poem. The romantic obsession reminds me both of Spike’s feelings for Buffy, and also Warren’s obsession of his now lost relationship with Katrina. The last use of the phrases is in such close proximity to the phrase “slays our souls alive” to add special resonance to Buffy connection. Clearly “dead things” was a favourite expression of Swinburne’s. He’d revisit it time and again. And the phrase turns up in even more Swinburne poems, but I suspect that forum members would probably require the patience of Job to read them all. The phrase “dead things” reoccurs so often in Swinburne’s work, I’m almost surprised that Spike didn’t say the episode’s title out loud.
    Swinburne is a great example of how the term “dead things” resonates in the arts today. The Romantic obsession with death as an impermanent state – one that confers both finality and immortality – finds an apotheosis in Swinburne with his astonishing poems about Persephone and the half-life, half-death state of the lover. Wikipedia says this much better than I when discussing his famous poem:

    “The Garden of Proserpine" works to challenge these religions by displaying a godless afterlife, tormented only by the blind will to live. This lyric expresses feelings validated by Swinburne’s pessimistic philosophy. Proserpine is the goddess of eternal death, which by nature overpowers the other gods. However, she is not actively powerful considering she represents nothingness herself. The Garden of Proserpine represents a sense of harmony, calm, and oblivion that only truly exists in this realm of nothingness. It is said to symbolize "the brief total pause of passion and thought after tempestuous pleasures when the spirit, without fear or hope of good things or evil, hungers and thirsts only after the perfect sleep." This poem celebrates the finality of death and the nothingness that lies beyond Persephone’s welcoming arms…

    It’s pretty obvious how this idea of a liminal place between life and death connects to Once More With Feeling and Whedon’s use of the Persephone myth as Buffy resides with Spike in the realm of nothingness and welcome oblivion at the very beginning of Dead Things after pain and passion are over. Dividing the world into neat categories is imperative in order to define what a human being is – a living, breathing thing that is not dead.

    There’s a game that kids are asked to play when they first enter school:

    1. Name ten things that are alive – like a tree
    2. Name ten things that are not alive – like a rock
    3. Name ten things that are dead – like a dried flower

    There’s a deliberate emphasis on the difference between being alive and two other states – never having been alive and having lived at one point, but not anymore. One is about inertia – and the other is about change. In language itself, there are declensions of nouns that sort things into the same three categories: alive, dead or never having lived at all.

    Of course, a rock is only perceived as “dead” because we are unable to make intellectual sense of the idea of change at the cellular level. But they are alive to our limbic system—the primitive part of the brain above the spinal column that mediates sensation and emotion. That’s why we dream of dead things who haunt the living – they’re signifiers of an unknown reality of “being” that we can’t comprehend, being alive. But the idea of death itself requires a temporal idea of life – things are born, things decay, things die – which is why we have metaphoric relations that transform the “never having lived” into the living through time – a rock can have a “life” in terms of formations through millions of years.

    So the confusion between what is alive, what is dead, and what never has lived is blurred in our consciousness despite the attempt through language to define them. In a supernatural show like Buffy, where the dead and the never-lived mimic the living through vampires and robots, the line is blurred even further as to what it means to be alive. So the idea of “life” as the Big Bad and the meaning of the title Dead Things has a special resonance when one looks at Buffy’s resurrection and her attempts to “feel” alive.

    The idea of something as “dead” as opposed to something “alive” – and their difference from that which has “never lived” at all – constitute a lot of the internal conflict of Buffy and Spike that informs Season Six and Dead Things in particular. The threat behind the transgressive nature of being – is something alive or dead or never alive – becomes a power struggle in which both try to press their different versions of what they believe to be true. In Dead Things, the viewer is trapped in multiple realities where states of being constantly shift and transform from alive to dead to alive to dead depending upon the point of view and definition of what constitutes them.

    How does Buffy perceive herself after the resurrection? Using the guidelines of the children’s game, does Buffy feel alive? She’s certainly brought back mortal and she visibly ages during the rest of the series. Does she feel dead because of her experience of death? Buffy “died” before in Season One – and has some problems accommodating herself to life again in When She Was Bad – but she still has a sense of herself as a living thing who temporarily dodged a bullet. When she confronts first Kendra and then Faith, Buffy has the sense of being the girl who died and lived – the Slayer who was skipped over in the official chain of succession. In that sense, she is dead. But in another very important sense, she is alive.

    But in Season Six, does Buffy have an irrational fear that she’s more like a creature who never lived at all because of her sense of a heavenly state that eradicated all sense of life and death and time? And if she is alive in a sense, has she come back human with a soul or is she some kind of soulless undead demon or animal with a soul – something other than her previous sense of self that muddies the distinctions between her humanity and that of something else?

    A lot of this has to do with the peculiar meaning of the soul in the Buffyverse that borrows from a huge amount of theology and the meaning of the soul shifts and changes with the writer of each individual episode. As in Christian/monotheistic theology, the soul in Buffy appears to be a thing that’s fundamentally immortal – it can be returned to a vampire or apparently lives on in some strange limbo after the person dies – but persists as a thing that never lived at all because it’s apparently not possible for a soul to actually experience “death” except in special mystical circumstances.

    We’re not told if souls are actually “born” as an individual soul for each person as in Christian theology or whether they’re smaller parts of a larger world soul as in many Eastern religions that are gradually reincarnated until they reach an apotheosis with their original source. We do know that souls are transported to the “ether” where they remain in a state of suspended animation until recalled – shades of the Christian apocalyptic tradition where the duality of the soul and body will be reunited at the end of Time.

    And Buffy in Season Six feels that in death she reverted back to a kind of state in which she was a being who had no need of any future change – transformed to be more like a rock that never lived at all – a state of suspended animation where “Time didn't mean anything – nothing had form – but I was still me, you know? And I was warm and I was loved and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or any of it, really – but I think I was in heaven.”

    Buffy fears that she’s come back so wrong in her newly resurrected state that she’s neither alive nor dead – but something else entirely. She’s been pulled out of a static “heaven” and back into a temporal world full of birth and decay and death.

    It’s never openly questioned that Buffy lacks a soul – not even Spike goes there – but there is a fear that she’s come back as something equivalent to soullessness – perhaps an animalistic version of herself with a tainted soul - or a more tangible version of the zombie-like Joyce that Dawn almost resurrects in Forever.

    I don’t want to get into the actual mechanics of the soul in the Buffyverse here because I’m hoping to delve deeper into the concept of the soul in Seeing Red – but there’s no doubt that Buffy worries that her “soul” is functioning properly – not only the terror that she’s regressed into a more animalistic state but it may even be possible that she fears she’s come back without a soul at all because she otherwise can’t accept her own actions towards her friends and Spike.

    A lot of this plays into the mythopedic value placed on the Western ideal of the “soul” and the need to make a solid distinction between human and animal. A hot topic at the moment is the idea of anthropo-exemptionalism - an exaggerated insistence on discontinuity between human beings and other species. The debate amongst evolutionary scientists and philosophers rests upon the idea of consciousness and morality: Are animals conscious of themselves? Do they have the same concept of morality – an evolutionary trait residing in the limbic system of the brain that deals with the conflict between one’s concept of oneself and others?

    And in a supernatural show like Buffy where vampires exist – dead creatures who were once human beings and retain the memories and appearance of their former host – what does the soul represent in terms of morality? If animals and demons do have a “soul” – are they different in nature than the human concept of the “soul”?

    In fact, the unspoken fear that Buffy may be lacking a “soul” or is in other ways a monstrous beast is even more pronounced than her fear that she’s come back a demon – the two qualities of animalistic demon and soul are intimately bound together in her training and one has to see her actions in Dead Things as an understandable reaction against the unspeakable horror that Willow’s resurrection may have brought Buffy back as the very creature she’s been called to fight against.

    The only episode in which this is an issue for Buffy before Season Six is Living Conditions, the second episode in Season Four. Buffy shares a dorm room with Kathy, a demon who is slowly eating away at Buffy’s soul and causing her to act in uncharacteristic ways:

    BUFFY: You're right, I've been thinking a lot about this and it's clear to me now.
    WILLOW: Good, that's better.
    BUFFY: Kathy's evil. I'm an evil fighter. It's simple. I'm gonna have to kill her.
    WILLOW: You have to kill her? Don't you think you could just switch rooms, or something?
    BUFFY: Well I would, but it's not just me in danger from Kathy. Look.
    WILLOW: Toenails?
    BUFFY: Evil toenails. I took them off the floor last night when she was in the bathroom. She thought I was asleep.
    WILLOW: Good thinking, 'cause in the middle of the night those toenails could have attacked you and left little half-moon marks all over your body.
    BUFFY: Don't be ridiculous. The point is I measured them before I fell asleep and again this morning, and they grew. After they were cut! That's a demon thing, she has to be eliminated.
    WILLOW: Of course. It makes sense, now. But you better show those bad puppies to Giles before you do anything just to be sure.
    BUFFY: Absolutely. I don't want to do anything crazy. (Living Conditions)
    And just as in Living Conditions, Buffy doesn’t want to do anything crazy in Season Six – but she does anyway. She’s hyper-aware of how her actions and choices since being resurrected are worryingly close to how a soulless demon would react. The viewer, on the other hand, can see that Buffy’s increasing moral concern over her choices set her apart from the garden-variety vampire/demon who understands cruelty and suffering – but has no compunction about causing it.

    And we’ve already seen early on that Buffy’s unease over resurrection stems from a fear that the person resurrected won’t be the same “person” who died – but something entirely different like an undead vampire or a feral soulless animal.

    BUFFY: You have no idea what you're messing with. Who knows what you actually raised, what's gonna come through that door!
    DAWN: No, I know. It'll be her.
    BUFFY: No. Now, Tara told me that these spells go bad all the time. People come back – wrong. (Forever)
    The idea of consciousness transference is a livewire issue in philosophy today – if we are able to transfer our sense of self to another body or a robot – will we still be the same person? Or just a copy? Cloning won’t necessarily preserve our sense of self. We’d be little more than a thing that never lived simulating a dead person – a zombie without the original programming. When Buffy is resurrected, she feels the same kind of body transference issues that philosophers posit would occur if consciousness could be placed in another vessel – her sense of coming back wrong wouldn’t be too far off the mark in real life if one defines “wrong” as different than before.

    There’s also a sense in which Buffy’s fears are compounded by the fact that she just can’t get back to feeling like herself after the resurrection despite having a sense of self that survived her heavenly time – that she can’t let her feelings about “heaven” go and accept her new situation. The more trauma and depression that Buffy feels over the fears that she’s come back wrong, the more she ironically fears that her uncharacteristic defeatist attitude is proof that she’s come back wrong:

    BUFFY: I'm just glad that it was Kathy's demony ways making me no-fun Buffy. I've always thought I was pretty easy going, you know? it's not like I have the big issues. (Living Conditions)
    But now Buffy is hiding secrets from her friends, running away from her Slayer duties, ignoring Dawn and worst of all – initiating a violent sexual relationship with Spike. Spike – the chipped vampire that she once said was little more than a serial killer in prison. A person that she could never have feelings for because he was a dead thing who lacked a soul:

    BUFFY: Oh – oh no. Are you out of your mind?
    SPIKE: It's not so unusual. Two people – in the workplace – feelings develop.
    BUFFY: No! No, no, feelings do not develop. No feelings.
    SPIKE: You can't deny it. There's something between us.
    BUFFY: Loathing. Disgust.
    SPIKE: Heat. Desire.
    BUFFY: Please! Spike, you're a vampire.
    SPIKE: Angel was a vampire.
    BUFFY: Angel was good!
    SPIKE: And I can be too. I've changed, Buffy.
    BUFFY: What, that chip in your head? That's not change. That's just holding you back. You're like a serial killer in prison!
    SPIKE: Women marry 'em all the time!
    BUFFY: Uhh!
    SPIKE: But I'm not – like that. Something's happening to me. I can't stop thinking about you.
    BUFFY: Uhh!
    SPIKE: And if that means turning my back on the whole evil thing –
    BUFFY: You don't know what you mean! You don't know what feelings are!
    SPIKE: I damn well do! I lie awake every night!
    BUFFY: You sleep during the day!
    SPIKE: Yeah, but – you are missing the point. This is real here. I love –
    BUFFY: Don't! Don't say it. I'm going.
    SPIKE: Oh, come on, we need to talk-
    BUFFY: We don't need to do anything! Okay, there is no we! Understand?
    SPIKE: Buffy. (Crush)
    Buffy doesn’t listen to Spike’s protestations in Crush – not only because he’s a soulless vamp who is decidedly not alive, but because she’s too busy trying to figure out how to get free from the chains that Spike has placed on her arms as he forces his feelings onto her:

    BUFFY: What's going on?
    SPIKE: Simple. I'm gonna prove something. I love you.
    BUFFY: Oh my god.
    SPIKE: No, look at me! I love you. You're all I bloody think about. Dream about. You're in my gut – my throat. I'm drowning in you, Summers, I'm drowning in you. I can do without the laugh track, Dru.
    DRUSILLA: But it's so funny. I knew before you did. I knew you loved the Slayer. The pixies in my head whispered it to me.
    SPIKE: You can't tell me that there isn't anything there between you and me. I know you feel something.
    BUFFY: It's called revulsion. And whatever you think you're feeling, it's not love. You can't love without a soul.
    DRUSILLA: Oh, we can, you know. We can love quite well. If not wisely.
    SPIKE: You still don't believe. Still don't think I mean it. You want proof, huh? How's this? I'm gonna kill Drusilla for you.
    BUFFY: That doesn't prove anything except that you're a sick miserable vampire that I should have dusted a long time ago. And, hey, already there. (Crush)
    Note that Buffy still refers to Spike as a vampire – a member of the undead who were once alive. It’s only when Drusilla is at the point of killing Buffy that Spike unlocks her chains – but it’s too late. A disgusted Buffy disinvites Spike from her home and only allows him back in when she needs him to protect Dawn after he’s proven himself in Intervention:

    BUFFY: The weapons are in the chest by the TV, I'll grab the stuff upstairs.
    SPIKE: Uh, Buffy – if you wanna just hand them over the threshold, I'll –
    BUFFY: Come in, Spike.
    SPIKE: Hmm. Presto. No barrier.Um, won't bother with the small stuff. Couple of good axes should hold off Glory's mates while you take on the lady herself.
    BUFFY: We're not all gonna make it. You know that.
    SPIKE: Yeah. Hey. Always knew I'd go down fightin'.
    BUFFY: I'm counting on you to protect her.
    SPIKE: Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.
    BUFFY: I'll be a minute.
    SPIKE: Yeah.
    Buffy turns to go up the stairs. Spike watches her go.
    SPIKE: I know you'll never love me.
    Buffy pauses halfway up the stairs, turns back to look at Spike.
    SPIKE: I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man. And that's –
    Buffy gazes silently at him.
    SPIKE: Get your stuff, I'll be here. (The Gift)
    There’s a sense of trust here because of Spike’s refusal to give Dawn up to Glory despite torture – but that trust never extends past the idea of comrades in arms. Buffy keeps a secure distance from Spike – in her mind, there’s not even a possibility of any romantic connection with him. But when she returns, she finds it easier to talk to Spike than her friends because of his soulless state – his feelings don’t matter in the same way. As she draws closer to Spike, she tries to maintain the same distance between them as before – but the problem lies in Spike’s new perception of things.

    In The Gift, Spike acknowledged the gulf between them – Spike perceives himself as dead despite his ability to walk, talk, think and feel – because his sense of being “alive” is wrapped up in memories of a once living man who has now become a monster. In his mind, Buffy is alive in comparison - but she treats him like the living man he once was. At this point in their history, her acknowledgement of Spike as a man has overwhelming emotional meaning for him – he’s acutely aware in her presence that in her mind (and his own) he’s a dead thing and she’s alive – an eternal barrier between them. But in the first seconds of his discovery that Buffy’s alive, he also discovers that she herself has changed:

    DAWN: Spike? Are *you* okay?
    SPIKE: I'm – what did you do?
    DAWN: Me? Nothing.
    SPIKE: Her hands.
    DAWN: Um, I was gonna fix 'em. I don't know how they got like that.
    SPIKE: I do. Clawed her way out of a coffin, that's how. Isn't that right?
    BUFFY: Yeah. That's – what I had to do.
    SPIKE: Done it myself. (After Life)
    There’s an immediate sense of closure here – the gulf between them contracting in Spike’s mind to a small gap as he takes her hand and leads her to the couch. The distinctions between “alive” and “dead” start to blur as the possibility of simultaneous states of being comes into play. Buffy is alive but also dead through her memories of heaven – and Spike is dead but alive through his love for Buffy. We see that the divisions between the two are more of a state of mind than a physical barrier – which means that Spike has a chance.

    As Spike and Buffy quietly talk, it’s obvious that Spike’s mind is racing with this new information about Buffy digging herself out of her own grave – her resurrection changing her state from alive to something closer to his own state of (un)dead – or at least the sense of having been once alive and then dead – from his point of view. When he runs out of the house, his words to Xander and Anya beneath the tree in the front yard are very telling in terms of where his mind is going:

    SPIKE: Listen. I've figured it out. Maybe you haven't, but I have. Willow knew there was a chance that she'd come back wrong. So wrong that you'd have – that she would have to get rid of what came back. And I wouldn't let her. If any part of that was Buffy, I wouldn't let her. And that's why she shut me out. (After Life)
    I think this is a key statement by Spike that explains a lot of his subsequent actions after Buffy’s resurrection – the growing conviction in his mind that Buffy has “come back wrong” – as a form of undead closer to his own state of being than not – informs the way in which he relates to her as the season drags on. The first thing Spike does after hearing that Buffy’s been pulled from heaven rather than hell is to psychologically assess her state through humor:

    BUFFY: Hello, Spike.
    SPIKE: You hear all that noise?
    BUFFY: Just enough to make me feel crappy.
    SPIKE: You know watcher-boy doesn't mean anything by it.
    BUFFY: I guess. Everyone – they all care. They all care so much, it – makes it all harder.
    SPIKE: I'm not sure I followed you around that bend, luv.
    BUFFY: I don't know. I just, I feel like I'm spending all of my time trying to be okay, so they don't worry. It's exhausting. And then, I –
    SPIKE: You want me to take them out? Give me a hell of a headache, but I could probably thin the herd a little. Knew I could get a grin.
    BUFFY: Why are you always around when I'm miserable?
    SPIKE: 'Cause that's when you're alone, I reckon. I'm not one for crowds myself these days.
    BUFFY: Me neither.
    SPIKE: That works out nicely then. (Flooded)
    As Spike and Buffy talk, the vampire tentatively takes a step at a time until he’s at her level and finally sitting next to her in a mimicry of their Fool for Love pose on the back porch. Buffy’s allowing Spike to sit with her on an equal level – and there’s a question as to whether the change is in Spike or in Buffy. Spike’s uncertainty is set by her first statement in his crypt as she drinks with him – life is stupid – and then agrees to “try on” Spike’s demon world for a while:

    BUFFY: Life is stupid.
    SPIKE: I have a dim memory of that, yeah. And I didn't figure you were here cadging my whiskey 'cause life's all full of blood and peaches.
    BUFFY: No. There's this thing – someone's doing stuff to me. Messing up my life. Except that it was kind of pre-messed already. You know, with school, and jobs – pretty bad even without the evil.
    SPIKE: So you, uh, just what? Gonna let this whoever play you till it figures out what kills you?
    BUFFY: Giles is working on it.
    SPIKE: Oh, good, 'cause Giles wields the mighty force of library books.
    BUFFY: You'd do better?
    SPIKE: Damn right! I'd hit the demon world. Ask questions, throw punches, find out what's in the air. Hmm? It's fun too.
    BUFFY: It's not my kind of fun.
    SPIKE: Yeah. It is. And your life's gonna get a lot less confusing when you figure that out.
    BUFFY: You have had *so* too much to drink at this point, I am cuttin' you off. Blaaah!
    SPIKE: You're not a schoolgirl. You're not a shop girl. You're a creature of the darkness. Like me. Try on my world. See how good it feels.
    BUFFY: Are there drinks in your world? (Life Serial)
    Spike first names Buffy as a “creature of the darkness” here – there’s a sense of the bestial and primitive here – not a civilized human such as a shopkeeper or a schoolgirl but an animal without moral beliefs and societal codes. But there’s another sense of the idea of Buffy as a dead thing – not only in the sense of being a supernatural slayer with a demonic essence, but also as a creature of the darkness like him – the undead – because she’s risen from her own grave as something that was once alive, but now reborn. This idea may also have been planted in his mind early when Spike and Dawn visited Doc in order to resurrect Joyce:

    DOC: It's a tricky spell, girl. I can't say for sure your mother will come back exactly like she was. Sometimes these – things – get a little off.
    DAWN: But she'll still be my mother. Won't she?
    DOC: More or less. (Forever)
    Spike’s attempt to drag Buffy into the world of the bestial and the demonic and the dead doesn’t work out very well – but he continues to believe that there’s something different – something has changed between them. In Once More With Feeling, Spike seems to believe that he himself has changed through his love for Buffy – she’s made him feel like he’s alive for the first time:

    SPIKE:
    I DIED
    SO MANY YEARS AGO.
    BUT YOU CAN MAKE ME FEEL
    LIKE IT ISN'T SO (Once More With Feeling)
    Spike acknowledges that Buffy sees him differently – as a dead man:

    SPIKE:
    AND WHY YOU COME TO BE WITH ME
    I THINK I FINALLY KNOW

    YOU'RE SCARED.
    ASHAMED OF WHAT YOU FEEL
    AND YOU CAN'T TELL THE ONES YOU LOVE
    YOU KNOW THEY COULDN'T DEAL
    WHISPER IN A DEAD MAN'S EAR
    IT DOESN'T MAKE IT REAL.

    THAT'S GREAT.
    BUT I DON'T WANNA PLAY.
    'CAUSE BEING WITH YOU TOUCHES ME
    MORE THAN I CAN SAY.
    BUT SINCE I'M ONLY DEAD TO YOU
    I'M SAYING STAY AWAY
    AND LET ME REST IN PEACE. (Once More With Feeling)
    The most important psychological subtext of “Rest in Peace” is that Spike perceives himself as “different” from Buffy based on their states of being – Spike is constantly hyper-aware that he is not a living being – and he compares himself to what he was:

    SPIKE:
    IF MY HEART COULD BEAT
    IT WOULD BREAK MY CHEST (Once More With Feeling)
    But Spike is not a “thing” to himself – not something which has never lived – but simply a dead man who was once alive. At the end of Spike’s song, Buffy stops Spike from attacking the priest and they tumble together into an open grave – a signifier that Buffy has fallen from a state of being alive into a state not unlike Spike’s as expressed in her lyrics:

    BUFFY:
    I CAN'T EVEN SEE
    IF THIS IS REALLY ME
    AND I JUST WANT TO BE
    ALIVE (Once More With Feeling)
    And when we get to the grand finale of Once More With Feeling, it’s Spike who stops Buffy from committing suicide by fire – from becoming a dead woman in a tangible, physical sense. When he realizes that Buffy is about to die, Spike catches her in mid-spin. For a moment, Buffy is almost insensible – her eyes are closed and her face is slack as she prepares to become another lifeless member of the dead. The undead Spike’s struggle to find the words to explain what it is to “live” matches the earthly Buffy’s struggle to explain “heaven” – both are concepts impossible to describe when one is no longer experiencing them but working from a dim memory.

    SPIKE:
    LIFE'S NOT A SONG
    LIFE ISN'T BLISS
    LIFE IS JUST THIS
    IT'S LIVING

    YOU'LL GET ALONG
    THE PAIN THAT YOU FEEL
    YOU ONLY CAN HEAL
    BY LIVING

    YOU HAVE TO GO ONE LIVING
    SO ONE OF US IS LIVING. (Once More With Feeling)
    Spike is projecting his own issues about life and death on Buffy because of what she represents in Spike’s mind. The “good day” that Spike speaks of in Fool for Love does come to pass at this moment – but instead of the finality of death that Spike envisions, Buffy’s desire to die becomes a springboard for a relationship that eventually transforms the undead Spike into a souled vampire who bridges the chasm between the living and the dead. For an immortal vampire like Spike who changes social identities in a heartbeat, life isn’t about the roles we play or the quality of our existence – it’s solely about being alive. Taking a breath, feeling your heart beat – simple things that are foreign to the dead and taken for granted by the living. He understands what it feels like to exist without living – he lives everyday what Buffy fears she has become. And he won’t allow that to happen to Buffy – despite the monstrousness of many of Spike’s actions in Season Six, he never once considers turning her. Buffy must stay alive.

    Why is this moment so important – why does it push Buffy to initiate her first tentative movements towards Spike?

    As an undead vampire, Spike believes that the wounds he suffered as the human William Pratt can never fully heal because he believes at this point in his journey that demons don’t fundamentally change. Vampires are eternally trapped in whatever emotional state their human selves were experiencing before they were murdered – and this is a form of emotional death. Apparently, without a soul, they are unable to come to terms with prior psychological trauma and pain and heal. Buffy only has one chance to deal with her problems as one of the living – death won’t end her pain – and Spike knows this because it happened to him.

    Because of this, Spike commiserates with Buffy – like her, he’s made his own journey through the underworld and clawed his way up from his own coffin. And yet – once again, there’s a confusion here - it’s clear that his desire for a relationship with Buffy doesn’t necessarily mean that Buffy should join him as one of the undead – on the contrary, the fact that she’s so alive is one of the main reasons why he loves her.

    In his lyric, Spike says, "So one of us is living." There is no I at this moment - for Spike, he and Buffy are an "us" now. Spike urges Buffy to continue living because he loves her and wants to protect her – but also because the only way he can experience the vicarious thrill of being alive as a dead thing is through loving her. Buffy longs to die and Spike stops her because she must live for both of them. As I said in Fool for Love, Buffy's presence in life makes Spike's heart beat again in a certain sense, makes him breathe again. It’s a reminder that Spike was once human – that he had a heart that used to beat and a soul that infused him with a sense of morality.

    And this breakdown of the categories of “alive” and “dead” allow Buffy to finally make contact with Spike – just as her mimicry of the never having lived Buffybot allowed her to kiss Spike in the crypt – the Buffy who returned in Season Six is different – now Buffy shares the same compulsion as Spike – she’s not fully dead but doesn’t feel quite alive. Buffy and Spike both share the same terrible fate of suffering a sudden violent death. Even worse, both were unwillingly brought back to live in a strange afterlife – and now that Spike is chipped and Buffy longs for heaven, neither feels at peace in the worlds of either the living or the dead.

    But in the days following that kiss, Buffy firmly places the walls up between the living and the dead, the woman and the monster, despite Spike’s attempt to knock them down again – implying that Buffy is fooling herself:

    SPIKE: Oh, don't get all prim and proper with me. I know what kind of girl you really are. Don't I? (Tabula Rasa)
    What kind of girl is she, Spike? A living woman? A dead thing? A demonic animal living in both worlds? There’s more confusion as the Scoobies all lose their memories – and with them any assumptions of being a dead being as opposed to a living being:

    SPIKE: Bloody hell, what are you doing?
    BUFFY: You don't know who you are.
    SPIKE: Right, none of us do, and we're being chased by-
    BUFFY: You're a vampire!
    SPIKE: How can you say - I, me, a vampire? No.
    BUFFY: Check the lumpies. And the teeth.
    BUFFY: I kill your kind.
    SPIKE: And I bite yours. So how come I don't wanna bite you? And why am I fightin' other vampires?
    Spike gets a look of revelation on his face, lifts himself up onto his elbows.
    SPIKE: I must be a noble vampire. A good guy. On a mission of redemption. I help the hopeless. I'm a vampire with a soul.
    BUFFY: A vampire with a soul? Oh my god, how lame is that? (Tabula Rasa)
    It’s notable that Spike immediately embraces an alternative identity to the grim idea that he is merely a soulless “dead” vampire – in his fantasy, he’s a vampire with a soul, a proud hybrid - living soul, dead body – a former human who may currently be a member of the undead but is still on the same level as “Joan” the Slayer. And after their memories return, we get even more smooches as Giles leaves Buffy feeling even more disoriented – which characteristically leads to an even more pronounced effort to distinguish herself from Spike:

    SPIKE: A man can change.
    BUFFY: You're not a man. You're a thing. (Smashed)
    There’s an interesting turn of phrase – Spike isn’t a demon or a man or an animal here – but a thing.

    For a moment, Buffy’s refusing to place Spike in either the living or the dead category – but in the category of never having lived at all. Her refusal to accept his prior humanity is based solely upon the idea of his soul – as a soulless vampire, he’s little more than animated dust in the wind to her. Then again, this actually may help in terms of initiating a sexual relationship with him – whereas a dead person can evoke guilt and/or pity because of their connection to the human they once were, a dead THING is little more than a rock that never lived at all. Buffy can convince herself that she can use Spike for whatever she likes – and there are no consequences – well, none that matter.

    Buffy’s reversal of the scene between them in The Gift – her negation of Spike as a monster trying to be a man – leads to the first mutual physical battle between them since Season Five’s Out Of My Mind when Spike believed the chip was gone and almost successfully took Buffy out. It’s interesting to note that until this point, Spike never physically lashed out at Buffy for fear of the chip going off. But he’s so blinded by frustration and rage at this point, he doesn’t seem to care. And the discovery that the chip has stopped working sends him racing to Sunnydale to put up those walls himself – he no longer wants to be trapped between both worlds of living and dead – but is determined to find solidity in self-identification as a member of the evil undead.

    But when Spike finds out that his chip only fails to work on Buffy, he immediately jumps to the conclusion that his suspicions were right all along – Buffy has come back wrong:

    SPIKE: You came back wrong.
    BUFFY: It's a trick. You did something to the chip, it's a trick.
    SPIKE: It's no trick. It's not me, it's you. Just you, in fact, that's the funny part. 'Cause you're the one that's changed. That's why this doesn't hurt me. Came back a little less human than you were.
    BUFFY: You're wrong.
    SPIKE: Then how come you're so spooked, luv? And why can I do that?
    BUFFY: You're wrong. (Smashed)
    And here’s where Buffy’s fears of being a demon – of having come back wrong – are wrapped up in the fear that she’s also soulless in the sense of lacking a conscience. Her trysts with Spike from that moment become more and more abandoned and uncharacteristic of the old Buffy – from the sex that brings down the abandoned house to the invisible sex in Spike’s crypt to the dumpster sex outside of DoubleMeat Palace, Buffy uses Spike’s love for her in order to escape the trials and tribulations of the living.

    Keeping her assignations with Spike secret allow Buffy to vicariously live in both worlds – the living and the dead – without trying to reconcile them. Buffy attempts to adopt both multiple identities without lowering the artificial barrier between them – as Spike realizes, she’s only playing dead for the moment with him – but runs off to join the land of the living when it suits her and the two worlds will never meet.

    INVISIBLE BUFFY: No! Maybe because for the first time since – I'm free. Free of rules and reports. Free of this life.
    SPIKE: Free of life? Got another name for that. Dead.
    INVISIBLE BUFFY: Why do you always have to – I thought we were having fun?
    SPIKE: Yeah, now! But sooner or later your chums are gonna work out a way to bring you back to living color. (Gone)
    What does Buffy believe? That she’s a “dead thing” like Spike pretending to be alive? Or a living woman who is only pretending to be dead? Buffy believes that she’s successfully hiding the fact that she fears she’s come back wrong – but Spike continues to press the fact that he believes it to be so:

    SPIKE: Give a bloke a chance for his eyes to adjust. Damn fluorescent lights. Makes me look dead. Some demons love 'em. The way they vibrate makes the skin twitch. That the kinda demon you are, luv?
    BUFFY: I am not a demon. I don't know why you can hit me, but I am not a demon.
    SPIKE: Oh. I see. That why you took this job? Prove something to yourself? A normal job for a normal girl? Good way to drive yourself crazy, that is.
    BUFFY: I'll be fine.
    SPIKE: Buffy. You're not happy here.
    BUFFY: Please don't make this harder.
    SPIKE: You don't belong here. You're something – you're better than this. (DoubleMeat Palace)
    Does Spike really believe that Buffy’s come back a demon like him? Or does the need for Buffy to maintain the artificial distinction between the living and the dead create a kind of power struggle that pulls both ways for both of them?

    Previously on --- The arrangement of the clips isn’t strictly chronological – the first clip we see of Spike and Buffy talking is actually the most recent of all the clips. And the “Previously on” section would mislead new viewers, just as Buffy misled her friends, to think she was in Hell, rather than in Heaven. I don’t think the choice was merely down to conveying the information in the briefest time possible. Showing Buffy’s resurrection while playing the audio from the Scoobies’ discussion at the beginning of “Tabula Rasa” would more accurately convey what happened and only a few brief seconds to the “Previously On” section – seconds that could be recouped by shortening some of the other clips. No, the “Previously On” segment is misleading. It deliberately tries to hammer home the point that Spike makes. By mentioning her return from hell rather than Heaven, these clips further suggest that Buffy is demonic and wrong. Saying that she came back from Heaven would complicate things. Why would be pulled from Heaven make her wrong or demonic?
    Fantastic point, PuckRobin! I did not catch that at all!

    Yes, the creators certainly wanted the audience to be hyper-aware that the question of resurrected Buffy being a demon/dead thing/other-than-human is still in the air as far as she’s concerned. And I think that’s primarily the reason for the peculiar arrangement of the “Previously On” as you point out – Buffy may believe that her soul/spirit was in “heaven” – but can she be sure that she’s come back right? Especially since she feels so unlike her former self – stuck in a suicidal depression, disconnected from her friends, in a bad way with Dawn and craving a secret violent sexual relationship with Spike. In many ways, Buffy feels like every day is Hell in Sunnydale – and only the temporary sensation of mindless sex and slaughter moves her at all.

    It’s standard for a Buffy episode to begin with Buffy patrolling a graveyard, looking for a vampire to dust. Buffy wanders the land of the dead from a distance, her stake at hand or in her belt, her eyes looking for the dead to either dig themselves out of their graves or attack the living. But there are only a few episodes in which Buffy is inside a place of the dead from the start – both fighting mortal enemies.

    In The Harvest, she is held down in a tomb by Luke and the erotic element of Buffy’s vamp slaying is present from the start:



    In Nightmares, she dreams of meeting the Master in his underground lair:



    But it’s not until Helpless, that we get an opening mixture of violent vamp fighting and sexual passion as Buffy and Angel tear up the mansion while romantic candles burn in the background:

    The CAMERA FLOATS PAST FLICKERING CANDLES casting shadows that dance across the walls, PAST a blanket laid out with various foodstuffs: bottled mineral water, French bread, grapes, etc. Gothically romantic. Apropos of the mood, we soon hear HEAVY BREATHING and...BUFFY's head falls into frame, her brow sweaty, muscles taut, straining, her hands gripping the shoulders of ANGEL, appearing in frame, above her. A moment, and she brings her knees up hard, flipping him over her and onto his back. THUD! Buffy springs to her feet. Angel quickly recovers and he rushes her. They tussle. She sweep kicks his legs out from under and he hits the floor hard, knocking the wind out of him. Swiftly, Buffy snatches the French bread, ROLLS over to Angel's prone body, then kneels on his chest, pinning him, the bread poised over his heart like a stake.
    BUFFY: Gotchya.
    ANGEL: Right in the heart.
    She tosses the bread back. They are still entwined, still close.
    BUFFY: Satisfied?
    ANGEL: I'm not sure that's the word...
    A little close to home - self-awareness intrudes and discomfort sets in. She quickly stands.
    BUFFY: Well, I didn't mean satisfied like-
    ANGEL: No, I wasn't trying to -
    BUFFY: 'Cause we're not having satisfaction, in the personal sense...
    ANGEL: Of course. (Helpless)


    Throughout Season Six, Buffy fears that her aggressive sexual relationship with Spike is a sign that she’s come back wrong – but throughout the series, it’s been made clear that fighting vampires and inflicting violence on them get Buffy hot. At the start of Where the Wild Things Are, her violent vampire/demon fight turns into sex in an instant as Riley is swept away by her passion:

    WHAM! A PUNCH sends a VAMPIRE reeling backwards. BUFFY launches herself on him, pelting him with blow after blow.Then with a kick to the chest - she sends him sailing back fifteen feet where RILEY picks up the attack, holding the Vamp at bay. Allowing Buffy time to reload her crossbow. She takes a short moment to admire his style as he clocks the Vamp, grabbing him in a choke hold. Finally, she raises her weapon. Riley spins the Vamp forward and away so his chest is vulnerable and Buffy FIRES. But - SLAM! The Vamp is knocked out of harm's way.
    RILEY: What?!
    Buffy and Riley are caught off-guard. The Vamp's rescuer is a DEMON WITH HORNS ALL OVER. Buffy and Riley stand side-by-side, sweaty and breathing hard.
    BUFFY: You take fang. I'll get horny. I mean…
    She glances at Riley. He whips a STAKE out of his utility belt. The multi-horned Demon advances on Buffy, and she greets it with a stunning assault, as the Vamp lunges at Riley. Buffy manages to slam the Demon to the ground where he stays a beat, hurt. As she retrieves a dagger… The Vamp already at the Demon's side, grabbing his arm and helping him to his feet! Buffy and Riley exchange a glance at this. Then quickly pick up the fight again. Which ends as Buffy stabs the Demon through the neck. He quivers, falling dead to the ground. And in a moment of disbelief at this, the Vamp leaves himself vulnerable - Riley DUSTS him. And all is suddenly quiet. Buffy and Riley move toward each other, wiping away dirt and blood, straightening their clothes.
    BUFFY: A vampire/demon tag team. Who says we can't all get along?
    RILEY: Don't recall ever seeing that before.
    BUFFY: 'Cause it never happens. Demons hate vamps. They're like stripes and polka-dots. Major clashing. I probably should, uh… go tell Giles…about this…
    RILEY: Right.
    BUFFY: I mean, it's the kind of thing he'd want to know.
    RILEY: Mm-hmm.
    BUFFY: Like… As soon as possible…
    RILEY: Soon as possible.
    SMASH CUT TO RILEY'S BED as BUFFY and RILEY fall onto it. Irrepressible lust in control, arms and legs swimming all over each other.
    BUFFY: Okay, I mean it now, first thing in the morning we go tell Giles.
    Buffy yanks Riley's shirt up over his head. His hands search up under hers.
    RILEY: First thing. Good plan. (Where the Wild Things Are)


    But we eventually find that Buffy’s sex with Riley becomes unfulfilling because she needs to hunt something down first. In Buffy vs. Dracula, she slips out of her bed where Riley is sleeping, hunts down a vampire and comes back home satisfied at last. The erotic component of her vamp dustings are even present in the opening of I Was Made to Love You where she pummels a puffy Xander after Spike reveals his crush on her in the previous episode. As her thoughts tend more and more towards sex with Spike, so does the sexual banter that combines Slaying with screwing:

    SPIKE: Feel like a bit of the rough and tumble?
    BUFFY: What?
    SPIKE: Me – you – patrolling? Hello?
    BUFFY: Oh. Uh – I – should stay. Maybe tomorrow. (All the Way)
    After Buffy and Spike bring down the house, the two twin desires of slaying and sex merge together again in one person as with Angel and so it’s not a shock to hear Buffy and Spike tearing up his crypt in a replay of the opening of Helpless Candles burning in the background, stuffed pillows, rugs strewn everywhere – but the difference rests in the soul. Angel doesn’t dare give into his passion or he’ll lose his – but Spike has no soul and so Buffy can both use Spike as a violent sparring partner and as a sexual release.

    The episode proper begins with a tracking shot, up from the floor to the bed and the across the rest of Spike’s crypt. Spike’s home is in a state of disarray, We see an overturned chair. Magazines, newspapers and clothes are scattered across the floor. We hear crashing sounds and grunting noises.
    Yes, PuckRobin, and the grunts of pain seem to be coming from both partners. There’s a clear balance here between Slayer and Vampire in this scene, neither apparently allowing the other to physically prevail, but locked in eternal combat that seemingly leads to mutual sexual satisfaction.

    We’ve seen from Spike’s relationship with Drusilla, his first Slayer kills, his initial daydreams about Buffy and his programming of the Buffybot that he also shares the same impulse to both kiss and kill his partner – both get off on the dual nature of the intense pain/pleasure they give each other and it’s telling that the script directions literally say:

    TRACKING through Spike's underground chamber. Sounds of furniture crashing and breaking OFF SCREEN, along with GRUNTS OF PAIN.
    And here’s one of the most problematic elements of the Spuffy relationship for a lot of fans and why this episode in particular is troubling for them – this opening shows once again that Buffy isn’t being physically victimized by Spike but is an eager partner in their violent pairings. Apparently, the groans of pain and the handcuffing and the violent couplings are agreeable to both of them – Spike complements Buffy on her skill in inflicting pain in all the right places and she notably compliments him back. So it’s not so much that Buffy is unhappy with the physical results, but she’s concerned that her desire to hurt and be hurt shows that there’s something wrong with her.

    Sorry for this long-winded introduction, PuckRobin, but your brilliant review brought up so many thoughts that I'm having trouble cramming them into one post! More tomorrow.

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  5. #483
    Bronze Party-Goer PuckRobin's Avatar
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    Wow, American Aurora -- with that introduction I can't wait to see the rest.

    And I agree it's important part that at least at the time of "Dead Things" both Spike and Buffy were willing participants in what happened.

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    Library Researcher debbicles's Avatar
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    I know I'm a bit of a romantic sap where Spike is concerned, but I never felt that bothered by the depiction of the sexy high jinks. I always felt that there was such emotional intensity at least on Spike's part that what would otherwise have likely been sordid and pretty disturbing for me was elevated. And I speak as someone who is not normally a fan of sex scenes. (Yes, really.)
    I always thought that Spike wanted the whole package from Buffy. A proper relationship. I know I'm only repeating what others have said before. Also for me there is actually a poignant quality to his "Do you trust me?"

    I know, twisted. What can I say?


    Edited to say to Aurora that I'm not able to give you any more reputation points for your post. The forum doesn't allow me.

    It's fascinating for me to see how during S6 Buffy vacillates between life and death. But what I also find interesting is that in the opening scene of Wrecked she's standing in a shaft of sunlight. I know that the destruction of the house was intended to symbolise her poor choice of sexual partner and the darkness inherent in their relationship. Nonetheless I couldn't help reading into that moment some kind of message of renewal. I expect the ending of AYW - when she steps out into the sunlight where Spike can't follow her - is meant to convey that. Unfortunately for me that was tainted by the implication that getting involved with Spike was one of the causes of her depression rather than a sign of it. The line "And it's killing me" struck me as self-serving. I understood I was meant to see her as stepping back or trying to step back towards her idea of her previous Self, the girl who would never be involved with Spike unless she was unconscious. But all I could see was Spike's pain at being rejected.

    Whilst I appreciate that she took responsibility at that stage for using him and that was a healthy step in the road to her eventual healing, I couldn't help but think of all the occasions before they became sexually involved when Spike had behaved lovingly towards her and indeed saved her from self-immolation in OMWF. By the end of S6/start of S7 it was as though none of that had ever happened at all. I did find that pretty sad to see.
    Last edited by debbicles; 11-09-18 at 09:15 AM.
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    Scooby Gang American Aurora's Avatar
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    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Here’s more of my response to your amazing review of Dead Things. I’m gonna spend a lot of time on the opening scene because I think it’s so important to Season Six and then speed through a lot of the later parts of the episode.

    I wanted to say that I really loved your choice of pictures – your description of Spike’s crypt is really amazing – I’m often totally color blind when it comes to noticing the meaning of visual components – so I’m really taken with your deep analysis of Spike’s initial set-up for Buffy’s visit:

    There’s one thing in pristine condition – the nicely made bed with its white sheets symbolizing purity. However, the purity of white is not usually the colour associated with Buffy Summers and love-making. With Angel, Parker and Riley – the colour we most often see is a rusty red, the colour of blood. No, red isn’t the only colour used. We see mixed colours, grey sheets, but in terms of the white sheets signifying purity, I see only three occasions – each of them complicated. The sheets are white in “Who Are You?” when Faith in Buffy’s body tries to lead Riley into kinky sex, they are pure white during Buffy and Riley’s sexual encounter in “Into the Woods” right before Riley sneaks off for a tryst with a vampire hooker, and we see Spike’s white sheets in “Gone” although what we don’t see in that scene is Buffy herself because she’s invisible. It’s likely the sheets belong to Spike, and it’s not surprising that he would choose white for Buffy. Yes, he’s been teasing Buffy’s supposed dark interests such as in “Wrecked”: But is that what truly attracts Spike to Buffy. He’s often put her on a pedestal. In “The Gift”, Spike says: Underneath all of Spike’s bluster, his phony working class accent, there’s still a trace of William Pratt – looking for salvation in the love of a good woman. He’s laid out the crypt with fine white satin sheets and romantic candles. But that’s not the game that Buffy wants to play.
    I really love this - it’s such a wonderfully detailed examination of how the two warring elements of Spike – soulless vamp and former soulful poet – combine to create a weird mélange of sumptuous rugs, delicate sheets and flickering candles within a sunless, dark place. You’re right to point out that Spike seems to be going for a general romantic atmosphere that has obviously been carefully prepared to please her. And like Angel’s mansion in helpless, Spike has tried his best to transform his once primitive abode of the dead where he slept on a hard sarcophagus into a soft duplex complete with bed and massive pillows to suit the living Buffy.

    That’s a great catch that the typical color of Buffy sex sheets are either blood-red and grey – and although both Riley and Spike both perceive Buffy as morally upright – deserving of sheets white as snow that they want to wrap around their beloved – the circumstances of being the Slayer make them an empty signifier of what Buffy should be rather than what she is.

    When the camera finally comes to rest on our characters, Buffy and Spike are underneath the rug – a rug positioned on an angle to cover more of Buffy’s upper half while leaving a level of Spike nudity that was acceptable to network censors and more than acceptable for the show’s many fans.
    I think it’s also indicative of the character’s wishes – once their sex is over, Buffy turns away from Spike and hides her body to avoid intimacy. Spike, on the other hand, uses his body to attract Buffy and try to pull her towards him sexually like a strutting peacock.

    Notice the colour of the rug – it’s red. Crimson, in fact. That’s the colour of the blood from the heart. Instead of the raised, pure, white altar that Spike arranged for their tryst, Buffy chose to make love under the rug, as much in the ground as possible. Just like two dead things.
    Oooh, I like this interpretation – Buffy immediately goes for the surface that signifies violence and death rather than the pure white cover of the bed that places her in a very different relationship to Spike – one that’s she not comfortable with. And she makes excuses for their strange location by suggesting that their passion is so great, so uncontrollable that they haven’t any time for domesticity.

    And Spike responds by joking that the soft bed probably would have been a victim of their unbridled violent passion which makes him feel like she wants him sexually. Does he really mean this or is he covering up for a bit of disappointment that Buffy would prefer to rut on the floor rather than sleep with him like a real boyfriend, intimate and loving? It cuts both ways.

    BUFFY: Uh – we missed the bed again.
    SPIKE: Lucky for the bed.
    I wanted to also note that Spike has rugs piled upon rugs that stretch outward – he must have broken into Rug Factory Plus at some point – as if to disguise the cold hard ground of the crypt. Or maybe they’ve had this same fight many times before and Buffy’s complained and so Spike keeps layering and layering until he’s made the floor as soft as the bed.

    That they have missed the bed on more than one occasion suggests they are not accidentally knocked to the ground, but deliberately steered – most likely by Buffy – and repeatedly so. They didn’t miss the bed in “Gone”, but then Buffy was invisible. That suggests it’s not that she doesn’t want to make love to Spike in the bed. It’s that she doesn’t want to be seen making love to Spike in the bed, almost as if she’s aware there are millions of home viewers voyeuristically watching her.
    Yes, I totally agree, PuckRobin. I also understand the significance of the two sweeping their relationship “under the rug” – but wouldn’t that be the most uncomfortable place in the entire crypt? If you follow along with your interpretation, I’d say that Buffy is deliberately trying to make their sex as uncomfortable as possible to keep Spike at arm’s length (figuratively) and convince herself that this is all some kind of unreal fantasy that doesn’t mean anything. One can only imagine the rug burns on their butts and backs as they roll in and out of some heavy rugs with rough padding underneath.

    I imagine part of their excitement rests in trying to outdo the other in making the sex as agonizing as possible without tipping over into real pain, to accentuate the pleasure of the sex act and display mutual dominance as they roll over each other and destroy the crypt, both trying to take the lead in their “dance.”

    I also agree that she doesn’t want Spike to watch himself making love to her – staying away from the bed ensures that he never takes their rough and tumble sex into anything approaching tender lovemaking. It’s obvious to me in watching the two that Spike wants more – he constantly moves his arm towards Buffy during their talk as if to touch her and connect in some more intimate manner. But the second she moves her head towards him and looks at his hand hovering nearby, he draws it back and lies frustrated on the floor, hands above his head.

    Next, Buffy asks a question that could be considered the beginnings of “small talk”. She asks if it’s a new rug, and Spike responds “no, it just looks different when you’re under it”. Buffy chuckles at the absurdity of it.
    Spike’s joke is an obvious reference to shifting perspective as well. One can see this entire scene as a power struggle between Buffy and Spike that’s even more subtly combative than their violent sex/sparring session a moment before as each tries to drag the other towards their view of each other and this “thing’ they have. The rug only looks new because she’s seeing it from beneath – and his implication is that the world looks different to Buffy because she’s slowly seeing – and accepting – the world from a different perspective, proving that she’s moving into his world.

    And then, Buffy goes for a backhanded compliment. “You know, this place is okay for a hole in the ground. You fixed it up.” She gives a look of … approvable, validation? Perhaps she’s just trying to normalize her surroundings – underneath a rug in a vampire’s crypt. Or is it deep denial?
    I think it’s complicated and connected to how she feels she must live her life after her resurrection – it’s all about outer appearance as we’ll see later when Spike talks about her “virtue fluttering.” Her line also reminds me of the opening words to The Hobbit:

    “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

    There’s a similar sense of coziness in Spike’s crypt that blends with the fantastical as in The Hobbit – a primitive, animalistic desire to burrow within a dark hole far away from the sun that is transformed into a place of comfort. It’s all womb imagery here – and Spike in some ways is protecting Buffy from having to face the trials and tribulations of life by keeping her safe within his private hideaway.

    As Buffy looks around and sees the crypt as a nicely decorated place, it seems to prove Spike right that her perspective is changing – as does her genuine smile of amusement when he jokes about eating a decorator and receiving his sense of style and her reluctance to kick Spike in the head and leave with virtue fluttering. They’re all signs that she’s slipping into his amoral world.

    But Buffy’s responses are also calculated to maintain distance by pointing out Spike is still a vamp who lives in a crypt and she deliberately creates a separation between the design of his “hole in the ground” and her childhood bedroom. And there’s also a separation in terms of ages – Spike’s a hundred year old Big Bad who ate a decorator once whereas Buffy’s still stuck in her childhood room, not fully grown up.

    Whatever the case, Spike seems to take the compliment and runs with it. This may well be the nicest thing that Buffy has ever said to him. Buffy never had to deal with such reminiscences from Angel. The vampire-with-a-soul viewed his history with a disgust that outstripped Buffy’s. Also, Angel felt guilt. Spike doesn’t have a soul … not yet .. and so he doesn’t feel grossed out by his past. But Buffy doesn’t react much to Spike’s joke about a past kill. Instead she smiles briefly and lets it go…Does Buffy letting Spike’s joke pass without comment suggest that she’s now inhuman and insensitive to matters of life and death? No, the rest of the episode clearly shows that is not the case. But perhaps at this point some part of her has honestly acknowledged what Spike is and allows herself to enjoy a moment of gallows’ humour…Or maybe she is suppressing her humanity. The enormity of Buffy’s death and resurrection – and all of her problems – emotional and financial – is overwhelming. So, she dampens her humanity in order to function. To make love to Spike, or to work at a dead-end job, she needs to be on auto-pilot. Like a BuffyBot made of flesh.
    Fantastic points, [B]PuckRobin.]/B] I totally agree with you that Buffy sees Spike in a very different way from Angel – Spike’s crudity and unintentionally offensive comments are acceptable because Buffy believes that he’s not capable of understanding how his words actually hurt her because he’s soulless – and therefore, akin to a special needs human being with sociopathic tendencies. The way in which she treats him is almost patronizing – there’s no point in being outraged at his joke because she expects the worst from Spike at this point. Which is kinda sad.

    As a character who tries to direct his moral compass through Buffy’s example, Spike slips from the high-minded vampire who wanted to impress Buffy by emulating her high moral standards and who watched over Dawn and aided the Scoobies in their patrolling. Now that Buffy’s started to morally vacillate, Spike feels he can be more openly amoral in discussing his past. And this, in turn, allows Buffy to feel like she owes Spike nothing because he’s an evil, disgusting thing who doesn’t matter at all.

    Buffy continues the conversation by saying she’s thinking about decorating: BUFFY: Yeah, I think the New Kids On The Block posters are starting to date me. Buffy is almost certainly joking here. I don’t believe we’ve seen any evidence of NKOTB in her various rooms. But it is a cute way to acknowledge the need to put away childish things. In the next scene we’ll see characters who wouldn’t dream of taking down posters of their childhood heroes.
    Buffy’s joke is also indicative that she’s not really serious about Spike’s decorative skills – no matter how nice he fixes up his crypt, it’s still a dead man’s home and something to be taken with a grain of salt. The small talk not only corresponds to her current desire to keep ugly things under wraps, but is obviously initiated by Buffy to cover up the void after the sex – Spike’s not allowed to cuddle or stoke or whisper words of love in Buffy’s ear so small talk must take its place.

    Spike starts to respond in a seductive voice suggesting his desire to steer this away from interior decorating and more toward tender love-making. But before he gets to whatever his suggestion was going to be, he stops and sabotages his efforts. He just realized that there’s a slight possibility that his most fervent desires are coming true.
    As Buffy talks, Spike tosses his head flirtatiously and moves his body towards Buffy, slipping his hand beneath her raised upper body even as he carefully keeps his distance. It’s a fascinating acting choice as Spike tries to get as close as possible to Buffy without literally touching her. When Buffy makes her New Kids on the Block joke, Spike lowers his head as if to rest it on Buffy’s shoulder as he laughs and only swoops back up at the last second before touchdown as she stares at him. The strain of trying NOT to be intimate gets to Spike and he grasps at her compliment and after-sex chatter as perhaps meaning something more than usual.

    SPIKE: Are we having a conversation? This would appear to be a mood killer as Buffy crinkles up her nose as if she’s just smelled day-old fish rotting in the kitchen. “What? No! No.” Does that mean they’ve never, ever had a conversation after sex in all this time?
    I think that you hit earlier on what makes their talk here different – what sets this “conversation” apart from previous talks with Spike is Buffy’s out-of-the-blue compliment. As you said, it’s probably the nicest thing that Buffy’s ever said to him because it’s actually an acknowledgement that Spike is NOT a dead thing, but a former living human who’s laid out the crypt with rugs and fine white satin sheets and candles as you say. The fact that she’s noticed makes Spike feel different – she rarely acknowledges his human predilection for style and romantic gestures – it’s as if she told him how wonderful his poems were.

    And there’s a subtle link here to Spike’s long-term relationship with his mother and how she would praise him for similar actions. One sees how Spike puffs up with pride and laughs just like William with slight embarrassment that anyone would notice his artful display.

    Is Buffy hiding herself under the covers to satisfy the censors, or is she also stopping Spike from going an intimate look at her outside of throes of animalistic sex. Buffy and Angel snuggled and had intimate conversations all the time – even when she couldn’t make love to Angel. ] It was the one time – that Buffy remembers, anyway – her and Angel had sex that lacked intimate conversation. For the most part, Buffy and Angel were celibate but intimate. Of course, there was the one time that only Angel remembers in “I Will Remember You” where they made love and followed it up with intimacy.
    Excellent callback and I wanted to point out the difference between this scene and the opening scene of Helpless where Buffy and Angel have a conversation after sleeping together (but not having sex because of you-know-what). The intimacy is most likely what Spike can only dream of having with Buffy – and it’s exactly what drives Buffy to push Spike away from her.

    The mansion is dark, quiet. We move across the room until we find Angel's bed. With Angel and Buffy on it. They are clothed and Buffy is covered with Angel's comforter. It's clear we are not witnessing the aftermath of a night of passion.
    Angel's awake before Buffy. Watching her sleep, his expression both loving and thoughtful. After a long beat she stirs. Eyes open. She sees him looking at her. Smiles.
    BUFFY: What? Do I have funny bed hair or something?
    ANGEL: Or something.
    BUFFY: Guess we got carried away with the post-slayage nap thing. Oooh. Not good.
    ANGEL: Where are you going?
    BUFFY: To kill the cat on my head.
    ANGEL: No mirrors.
    BUFFY: You know. This place is not girl friendly. No mirrors. No natural light.
    ANGEL: I think you look perfect.
    BUFFY: Perfect? Come on. I mean, that's really – okay. Still, we could think about getting a couple of mirrors in here. And maybe a drawer, for stuff of mine. I mean, that's what couples do, they have drawers.
    ANGEL: That's right.
    BUFFY: 'Cause I figure sometimes I could spend the night. After the prom, it'd be great to come back here and just be together.
    ANGEL: The prom?
    BUFFY: Yeah. You know, the big "end-of-high-school-rite- of-passage" thingy? Imagine a cotillion with spiked punch and the electric slide.
    ANGEL: Right.
    BUFFY: Don't worry, it's at night. And lots of girls have older boyfriends. You'll blend.
    ANGEL: I guess maybe you should get home.
    BUFFY: Ah, there's gotta be a few hours before sunrise --
    She throws the curtains open, flooding the room with A SCORCHING RAY OF SUNSHINE which hits Angel dead on. Angel BOLTS for a dark corner. Buffy WHIPS THE CURTAINS CLOSED AGAIN.
    BUFFY: I guess it's later than we thought. (The Prom)
    Buffy had one true moment of intimacy with Spike in the TV series, but it wouldn’t happen until after their relationship had ended in the season seven episode “Touched”. But in “Dead Things”, Buffy pauses and assesses the situation. She adds, perhaps with a tinge of surprise, guilt and resignation. “Maybe.”
    Spike’s nose actually flares when Buffy pauses for a moment and says, “Maybe” – it’s proof in his mind that they’re becoming closer to each other with each sexual tryst. It’s interesting to note that the original shooting script had Buffy saying “Sort of” – which is different in nature from “maybe.” Sort of means “in a way to some degree”; but “maybe” means “a possibility” Buffy’s actual spoken word is much more ambiguous than the shooting script’s choice and leaves their relationship far more up in the air.

    Spike continues their conversation with a grunt rather than a clearly articulated word. It’s bait and Buffy takes it as she asks Spike “What?” SPIKE: Well, isn't this usually the part where you ... kick me in the head and run out, virtue fluttering? Spike is giving a synopsis of their usual script, just prevent disappointment. His emotional investment in Buffy usually ends the same way as Charlie Brown’s football practice with Lucy. BUFFY: That's the plan ...soon as my legs start working. Buffy’s expression seems to run from acknowledging to the truth of Spike’s words, to slight embarrassment to a bemused acceptance that a hasty retreat won’t be quite so easy on this occasion.
    Excellent point that Spike actually comments on how Buffy is too busy running away to have a relationship because he’s trying to forestall the hurt to come – if he jokes about it, then he won’t seem like such a chump when she does leave. One imagines that Spike actually takes pride in the fact that their overly passionate and violent lovemaking has obviously exhausted her to the point where she’s too tired to get up and run away and she has to fill the empty space somehow with small talk.

    The term “virtue fluttering” is a wonderful one – and I love the Victorian sound of it. William Pratt well knew the old adage “hypocrisy is the homage that virtue pays to vice” as he accuses Buffy of wanting to have her cake and eat it too. Buffy’s fixed moral standards as the Slayer are irreconcilable with her new sexual relationship – but she continues to come to Spike all the same.

    And this finally begins to explains Buffy’s compliment to Spike’s sense of decoration – she’s not really interested in changing posters on her wall – but in how to keep up appearances. It’s about how Spike manages to keep his crypt and bed looking so sparkly and romantic while screwing Buffy on the floor below. Buffy wants to be seen as a virtuous person, so she sweeps her relationship with Spike “under the rug” and admires his ability to keep appearances nice and tidy – even if it covers up the fact that it’s just a hole in the ground. It’s his ability to hide his true face – his game face – with a handsome, pleasing human visage that marks the true soulless predator vampire and Buffy’s attraction to Spike’s decorative skills is bound up in this desire to hide her true self because she fears what she has become.

    Spike decides to press on. He continues to snuggle and tells Buffy that she was amazing. Buffy’s response is far more dispassionate. BUFFY: You got the job done yourself. Buffy’s praise of Spike is the most noncommittal kind possible. She refers to his activities as mere job.
    Buffy’s joke about her legs staring to work again finally breaks the ice enough that Spike gently touches her shoulder with the back of his hand as if he were worshipping her body, crooning “You were amazing” as he obviously becomes aroused all over again. The uncomfortable look on Buffy’s face with her limp praise “You got the job done yourself” sounds like corporate speak 101 and almost makes their lovemaking sound like a financial transaction.

    Her obvious unease at his feeble attempt to break the emotional ice causes her to restate their relationship in the most detached manner possible as Spike takes advantage of her momentary pause to push their relationship a little more into an unknown area. And once again, as in Wrecked, Spike manages to destroy the mood with the wrong words.

    But Spike does not process what he hears. He continues in his pillow talk. In fact he continues it until he crosses a line. SPIKE: I was just trying to keep up. The things you do...the way you make it hurt in all the wrong places. I've never been with such an animal. Those words cause Buffy to shutter and jerk away from him. BUFFY: I'm not an animal. It appears to be a question of identity, and it’s a question that Spike decides to answer in the most blunt, empirical way possible. SPIKE: You wanna see the bite marks?
    And we have a reference back to the title in Spike’s “the things you do” that is echoed in the repeated question “What did you do?” asked by several people in the episode. The implication is that Buffy is doing “dead things” – morally dubious actions that are typical of someone who has come back wrong. As a vampire, Spike enjoys the pain Buffy inflicts on him – biting him, scratching him, throwing him around – and it seems to be primarily one way as Buffy doesn’t have a single mark on her in the opening scene. Or perhaps she’s told Spike that any visible signs of their lovemaking need to be in places where no one else can see – so Buffy carries the painful signs of his love beneath the rug literally.

    We’ve seen Spike make after-coital faux pas before – in Smashed, it was the self-aggrandizing statement, “I knew the only thing better than killing a slayer was f**king a slayer” and now it’s “I’ve never been with such an animal.” Does Spike even realize how much these phrases make Buffy regret the decision to spare Spike from fitting into an ashtray, much less have a relationship with him? They are designed to show that the lack of intimacy isn’t just a desire on Buffy’s part – they demonstrate that the lack of a soul makes Spike incapable of understanding why Buffy would be upset by his insensitive remarks.

    And the subtle tussle between them that started their conversation – seeing things from a different perspective as they lie under the rug – suddenly turns sour. Spike pushes too hard and makes a direct comparison of Buffy with a predator like himself – an animal who leaves bite marks – is too much for her and Buffy retracts her figurative fangs. She’s forgotten for a moment what Spike is – but now it’s time to go.

    Spike’s self-proclaimed and self-deluded role of “truth-teller” has failed. Buffy announces she needs to get home to see Dawn. Spike declares “And she’s off.” As if this is confirmation of Buffy being a tease. Spike doesn’t seem to accept or realize that his prophecy of her leaving virtue fluttering is a self-fulfilling prophecy. That are a million things he could have said, but he said words that would almost guarantee her departure.
    Yes, PuckRobin, Buffy’s sudden shift to “It’s late. I should try to catch Dawn before she goes to bed.” is not only the classic small talk line to exit stage right from a sexual encounter, but the mention of Dawn is probably meant to shame Spike a little since they’ve both been ignoring her. It also separates her daytime life of responsibilities from her night escapades – the job at DoubleMeat Palace vs the job of slaying vampires and getting the job done by pleasing Dawn vs getting the job done by pleasing Spike. Poor Buffy is all things to all people – but what is she to herself?

    Buffy ducks under the rug looking for her underwear, but Spike continues to push with an emotional neediness. SPIKE: (sighs) What is this to you? This thing we have. BUFFY: (muffled) We don't have a ... thing, we have ... this. (head reappears) That's all. Spike pushes forward with his need for emotional validation. It’s a trait that’s carried over from William Pratt’s days as a mortal. Angel’s mortal form Liam likes a good party, but then Liam was the life and soul of the party. He held court at parties. William, on the other hand, tended to sit by himself … hoping for a connection with a special person, but generally enduring the mockery of the crowd. Even though William felt uncomfortable in his own skin, he still felt the need to be in company. He couldn’t just read a book or write poetry at home.
    Fantastic point, PuckRobin – from the beginning, William seemed almost terrified of his status in crowds even as he pursued the woman of his dreams. I think the balcony scene shows this emotional neediness even more, believe it or not. And the word “things” brings up the title of the episode again.

    I really love Spike’s question – what is this “thing” we have – he’s desperate to give their sexual union some kind of validation through naming it. Throughout Dead Things and most of Season Six, Buffy is so careful not to give any voice to what she’s doing – to even acknowledge her actions as what they are. It’s an extreme form of refusing to define any relationships to herself, to others and to the world. Her monotone answers in this opening scene are defined by small talk and faint attempts to say what she thinks she should say – this continues throughout the episode until she finally has a major breakdown after learning that she’s still the same Buffy – and its only then that the words she’s been holding in for so long tumble free.

    But for the garrulous Spike who never seems to stay quiet, words are vitally important. From his earliest days as a poet, he tosses words around the room in an attempt to unlock their meaning – he theorizes, he evaluates, he judges, he condemns through a flurry of words that try to define the world around him as he makes grand pronouncements and shrewdly tries to second-guess those around him. Spike’s love of words is partly responsible for his hectoring lectures in which he fancies himself the “truth-teller” who’s unafraid to tell it like it is.

    But in reality, as a former poet, Spike knows that most of what he says is bluster – his dissatisfaction with his own initial theory pushes him to come up with even more elaborate scenarios of why this is happening and what that person is feeling. In a relationship, this tendency is even more pronounced – and with the terse Buffy, it’s ratcheted up to 100. So Spike brings up that word again – “thing” – that punches both the title of the episode and his hopes.

    SPIKE: What is this to you? This thing we have.
    BUFFY: We don't have a thing. We just have – this. That's all.
    Their relationship is so unspeakable that she not only refuses to give it a series of names to qualify it – he’s not her boyfriend, she’s not his girl, they’re not in a relationship – but even refuses to allow its existence as a “thing.” Her sex with Spike isn’t real – they’re neither alive or dead, ongoing or over – because it never really existed at all. It’s the equivalent of a rock – of something that never lived in the first place. No change is possible since the concept of life and death is foreign to it. It’s as unchangeable as heaven – and just as detached from the real world.

    Of course, this is not what Spike wants by a long shot. He wants Buffy to admit that she’s a formerly living human being who is now an undead creature of the darkness, bobbing along under the beautiful, briny sea of life and death. But he’s not a thing – he’s not made of stone. He’s a monster who wants to be treated like a man – or at least have Buffy accept him as a monster once she accepts the monster within herself and accept that the two of them are trapped between both worlds of the living and the dead. But this isn’t the time – Buffy has no response to Spike’s creepy bite marks, so she starts doing the whole “Hello, I must be leaving” routine.

    It’s hard to imagine any version of Angel – Liam, Angelus or Angel – asking Spike’s next question. But it’s easy to imagine all versions of Spike – human or vampire, souled or unsouled – asking it.
    SPIKE: Do you even like me?
    For once, this isn’t openly a question designed to lure Buffy into admitting that she’s a creature of the darkness who wants sex with the Big Bad – as in his dream in Out of My Mind, Spike gives Buffy a golden opportunity to dust him emotionally. And the script directions make this clear: She's stopped by the actual sincerity of that. And her answer is as ambiguous as her reluctance to define their relationship:

    BUFFY: Sometimes.

    Buffy doesn’t tell Spike what he most wants to hear. She does like him at times. But her feelings aren’t the same as Spike’s. And Spike’s response seems to suggest that he understands this. Buffy tells him much more directly in two episodes time that she’s just using him. And it would appear Spike is capable of grasping this.
    Yes, PuckRobin, on one level Spike is crushed by her answer because he’s madly in love with her. But on another level, he wants to hear the answer because it will reveal how she perceives him – as an evil, disgusting thing or as a man. And when she answers “sometimes” – it actually reassures Spike that she is already halfway in his world – that she’s slowly becoming like him. And that’s a good thing to him.

    But we will discover in the season seven episode “Never Leave Me” that Spike really didn’t understand – couldn’t understand – until he got a soul.
    Yes, and I think this is the key to understanding this scene. I agree that Spike has unwittingly set off one of Buffy’s major emotional triggers – has she come back wrong? And he seems slightly surprised and slightly smug about her denial as he tries to play his old role as Love’s Bitch who tells people what they don’t want to hear. There’s very little self-awareness here – only a surety that Buffy isn’t being her true self. He’s also taken with the idea of outward appearance here – believing that Buffy’s bites and punches are indications that she’s come back wrong.

    But the true Buffy has also been swept under the rug in an ironic reversal of Buffy’s desire to hide – Spike is reading her on a fundamentally physical level and ignoring the emotional turmoil within, instead favoring the idea that all Buffy needs is to embrace her inner darkness and her moral sense of virtue will flutter away permanently. He can’t see how much pain Buffy is in – how she’s holding back her feelings and using sex with Spike to hide from her feelings of suicidal despair after being forced to live again. She’s merely allowing Spike to let her play-act being dead – inside, she’s still bursting with life that he unconsciously covets, but can’t truly understand until he gets his soul back.

    But he does understand that Buffy is the Slayer and he’s still a vampire – the scratches and bites are mainly inflicted on him as part of their “dance.” Because of his chip, Buffy was for a long time the dominant partner in their relationship and despite the failure of the chip, she’s still determining where and when they have sex – and what kind of sex it is. She hasn’t yet relinquished her previous dominance over Spike as the Slayer and Spike continues to respect those boundaries because he wants Buffy to love him. As we’ve seen in Intervention, Spike also craves a little masochistic action as well – the idea that he’s sleeping with a mortal enemy who can dust him at any minute gets him incredibly aroused and Buffy’s dominance is exciting to him.

    But there’s also a feeling of wanting tit for tat – Buffy’s continual fight for dominance (and win from an emotional place) has Spike always feeling like he’s beneath her despite getting his balls back in their sex play – and so he’s obviously planted a new form of sex play in advance to spring on Buffy when she least expects it. We see that his tentative questions about the thing they had and whether Buffy liked him were the prelude to introducing the idea of submission to Buffy – whether she would allow him to turn the tables for once and become helpless to resist him.

    SPIKE: But you like what I do to you.
    And Spike reaches back behind him – not very far because he’s planted them there just for this moment – and reveals handcuffs.

    This isn’t the first time that the subject of handcuffs have come up. Spike manacled Buffy to the wall in “Crush” so he could demonstrate his love to her by attempting to kill Drusilla. In the third season episode Enemies, Angel pretends to lose his soul so that he and Buffy can trick information on the mayor out of Faith – the rogue slayer. Angel appears to knock Buffy out and then chain her to the wall as she’s coming to. Also, when Angel had stopped Faith from killing Xander in “Consequences”, he chained her up. Upon waking up, Faith remarked: So, Spike’s little suggestion would conjure up memories of Spike at his worst, Angel pretending to be at his worst, and Faith … well, the Rogue Slayer not being in a good place.
    Great points why handcuffs might have certain meanings for Buffy that go beyond sex play and make her uncomfortable. Here, they are notably police cuffs and not manacles or the kind of leather restraints generally used for bondage/submission – a precursor of Buffy’s dream and the alley scene. In fact, almost everything in this scene foreshadows the alley scene including an animalistic Buffy making it hurt in all the right places by kicking Spike in the head – virtue still fluttering – in the alleyway. The things she does.

    But here, Buffy’s eyes widen slightly and her lips tremble as Spike swings the handcuffs from one finger, smirking.

    SPIKE: Do you trust me?
    Buffy looks at Spike’s handcuffs and takes a small breath as she whispers in the most unconvincing response possible:

    BUFFY: Never
    That is not strictly true, however. Buffy has trusted Spike on many occasions. She has trusted him with one of the most important things ever – the life of her sister. Even after Spike’s actions in episodes like “Crush”, Buffy felt enough trust to bring Dawn to him for safe-keeping. And it’s not just because Spike had a chip that would prevent him from directly harming Dawn. There were a million ways he could harm Dawn – led her astray, manipulated her, sold her out to Glory or some other menace – without needing to punch or bite.
    Yes, PuckRobin, and that’s just one of the reasons why Dead Things becomes a bit problematic for me at this moment. I know that the viewer is supposed to consider Spike’s proposition to be a disturbing one – he’s a soulless vampire who has tried to kill Buffy multiple times and is still dangerous to Buffy despite being on a leash with everyone else thanks to the chip. We’ve seen in Smashed that he’s all too willing to go back to being a monster if both opportunity and desire arises and we’ve watched him pummel Buffy recently in the abandoned house. So the capacity for real danger is there – what’s to stop him from doing something really awful to Buffy despite the fact that he’s in love with her? Even if Spike has no desire to truly harm her, couldn’t he playfully drink her blood or even “turn” her in his longing to have Buffy with him forever?

    Then again, we’ve seen Spike already manhandle women in the past – he vows to emulate Angelus by torturing Drusilla like her “daddy” did until she loves him again – it doesn’t work. We later see Spike trying to use his set of “chains” on Harmony – and she implies that chains were Dru’s thing:

    SPIKE: I've got an extra set of chains.
    HARMONY: Just because Dorkus went in for that -
    Spike grabs her hair and pulls her head back.
    SPIKE: Dru-scilla. Say her name.
    HARMONY: Dorkus.
    SPIKE: Bite your tongue.
    HARMONY: Do it for me. (The Harsh Light of Day)
    Spike ends up trying to stake Harmony in the end. So the Slayer allowing a soulless vampire to handcuff her and do whatever he wants with her is a strict no-no and supposedly shows how far Buffy has fallen in her depressive state. The same goes for the infamous backdoor balcony scene in which Spike continues this new element in their relationship and plays Dom to her Sub. We’re supposed to take Buffy’s acquiescence as evidence of her suicidal misery and moral corruption – and it’s also supposed to be evidence of Spike’s misogyny because he wants to assert patterns of abuse in a male-dominated society. The parallels meant between Spike and Warren in Dead Things are numerous – but are they really fair? Is submissive Buffy on the balcony a genuine parallel to Katrina’s mindless slavery under Warren’s spell?

    Part of the problem rests in aligning Buffy’s moral weakness with S&M hijinks – just as Faith raising her butt in the air and crawling across Riley’s bed was supposed to signify how BAD she was, Buffy’s willingness to let Spike sexually dominate her is supposed to signify how she’s fallen into a dubious moral state. But in reality, sexual kinks and fetishes have nothing to do with the real world outside – Buffy could have sex with Angel while wearing a “furry” costume and it shouldn’t have zip-doodle to do with feminism or her place in the world outside her bedroom. The moral conundrums should be plain enough without bringing prudish ideas of what constitutes proper sex into the drama – and so, the handcuff move falls kinda flat because it’s really not even that outlandish of a thought that Buffy might want to enjoy playing the submissive since she’s always “on” as the dominant at every given moment.

    Maybe Buffy likes Spike taking control after a tough night out in the graveyard – the relief of not having to make decisions of life and death every moment – perhaps it’s one of the nicest things that Spike could ever do for her. Buffy seems to bear tremendous guilt for everything she does – screwing a soulless vampire would certainly induce even more – so cuffing her allows her to vicariously enjoy their sex without feeling shame. It’s out of her control. Spike doesn’t judge her for her sexual reactions so the sex is probably the best Buffy’s ever had in that sense if Riley’s reaction to Faith is any indication.Buffy can just enjoy the endorphins and the rush without having to think about her problems.

    The idea that Buffy’s sex play here with Spike is not consensual or is forced upon her in some way because she SHOULD’NT enjoy it if she were a good, strong, feminist woman – plays into the stereotype that there’s something wrong with her for enjoying it – which does come up in the final moments of the episode. Directly connecting these desires with Buffy’s moral fall as a sign of how she’s become BAD and feels she shouldn’t be forgiven is problematic in the extreme and leads to even more conflation of sexual escapades with moral values.

    The real issue being obscured here is that Buffy’s relationship with Spike is toxic because the lack of emotional and social boundaries between them. Their secretive relationship has no definition, no sense of trust, no safe word – because Buffy won’t even allow it to be conceived of as a “thing.” She’s allowed Spike to stalk her for years without any real consequence outside of disinviting him from her house – but the need to protect Dawn overrode all misgivings and Spike has proven himself enough by taking care of Dawn in her absence and aiding the Scoobies that she’s grown to somewhat like him – especially for his loyalty. But she doesn’t love him and only reluctantly acknowledges that she likes him because she knows what his feelings are for her. And regardless of whether they’re not real in her mind because he’s soulless, they’re real to him and she’s aware of that.

    So the problem isn't so much their crazy sex as their total disconnect from one another because Buffy sees Spike as nothing more than a "dead thing" and therefore incapable of real love and respect. And if that's the case, why expect trust at all? Spike, on the other hand, sees Buffy’s moral qualms as something to be overcome – something to ignore as she becomes the dark woman of his dreams – and in many ways, he devalues her soulfulness every bit as much as she devalues his soullessness.

    And as Buffy watches the handcuffs swing on Spike’s finger, we cut to the Trio in the basement seemingly trapped in an endless rinse and repeat of a new reality show, Who’s the Dom?

    We leave the complicated Spuffy relationship for the moment to check in on Buffy’s arch-nemeses-is-es: The Trio. They are settling into their new lair. Well, sort of new lair. I’m sure the similarity to the previous lair was a matter of set-dressing economy….
    Yes, PuckRobin, it’s comically identical to their last evil lair. After the posh surroundings of Spike’s hole-in-the-ground, their concrete command center for supervillains is somewhat of a mess with all the stuff strewn about. They’ve apparently moved from the basement of Warren’s parents to the basement of an empty house in the same tract housing development. Clever. As they unpack boxes, Andrew angrily pulls his record albums from Jonathan’s prying eyes. The fact that Andrew hangs on to his record albums is meant to show his immaturity at refusing to put away childhood things – of course, they’d be worth a fortune today, so Andrew seems pretty shrewd from today’s perspective. And the issue of trust comes up again – comically:

    ANDREW: How can I trust you not to touch my stuff? Actually living with supervillains was not part of the deal.
    JONATHAN: We're on the lam, moron, it's not like we have a choice.
    ANDREW: This sucks. Couldn't we have at least gotten a lair with a view?
    It’s fairly obvious that none of the three has ever eaten a decorator – but perhaps they ingested a comic con moderator as the room is filled to the brim with boxes full of pop culture items. As they fight over space, they use the time-tested method of male insult – accuse your enemy of being less than a man:

    JONATHAN: Stop whining! Get your sissy crap out of the way.
    And with a macho jab, Jonathan knocks Andrew’s stuff off the stack.

    ANDREW/JONATHAN: Ow! Get off! Stop it! My bone!
    While Jonathan and Andrew might seem especially childish, this kind of behaviour isn’t that far off from the supervillain norm…Supervillains, however, are fundamentally selfish. There’s rarely a concept of a “greater evil”. The villains usually come together in order to rob a bank, take over the world, or just kill the main hero. And then it all falls apart. Meanwhile Warren is working away at his desk, and he no doubt finds the commotion a major nuisance. His look says it all. Warren must be thinking what so many arch-villains have thought before him. “Why am I surrounded by idiots?” He’s not the only person to feel this way in Sunnydale. The Master, Spike, Glory and even Harmony have complained they cannot get the staff. Harmony and Warren are even frustrated with the same idiot. (I like American Aurora’s theory that Tom Lenk’s vampire character Cyrus from “Real Me” is in fact Andrew in disguise.)
    Great point, PuckRobin – there’s no real teamwork here as with the Scoobie gang – super-villains make terrible mistakes unlike heroes because they’re driven by a recklessness that stems from overambitious plans to take over the world or invade Fort Knox. Besides, minions tend to be weak-willed – why else would they work for a super-villain rather than become one themselves? They want all of the fun and glory of being evil without putting in the hard work of coming up with plans. In the case of Jonathan and Andrew, they’re too emotionally fragile to be very effective on their own – their natural instinct to value human life has both convincing Warren that he must reverse Buffy’s invisibility in Gone. It’s top dog Warren who is the natural leader because he lacks all empathy and sees the world from a place of unassailable and unmitigated ego. As Jonathan and Andrew wrestle, Warren turns around and cuts down both of them with the ultimate insult – they’re girls:

    WARREN: Hey, when you girls are done touching each other, the Cerebral Dampener's ready to be charged.
    It’s a remark that cuts right to the heart of the “Guy code”. In 1976 psychologist Robert Brannon listed the four basic rules of masculinity. The number one rule? “No Sissy Stuff.” This “guy” culture is replete with jibes undercutting masculinity. For people like Warren Mears to be labelled gay or a woman is not be a real man. And the remark has the desired effect. Jonathan and Andrew immediately fall in line – ready for Warren’s latest scheme. Warren acts like he is the true genius among the Trio. But his precious cerebral dampener was the creation of the three of them. It needed Andrew to supply the gland that powers it, and it required Jonathan to provide the necessary spellcraft. It was Warren that proposed the Trio team up to take over Sunnydale. He must have realized his mad schemes could only work if he had access to Jonathan and Andrew’s unique talents. Warren is using his allies, just as Buffy says she’s using Spike.
    I hope to write a lot about the Trio in Seeing Red, but that’s a fantastic point that without the effort of all three, the dampener could not have been created. And yet, as the Dom of his little group, Warren seemingly asserts control and takes all the credit for it. Tiny Tabby once pointed out in Life Serial that the Trio were trapped in prisons of their own making – their ridiculous ideals of uber-masculinity preventing them from growing up. The “Guy code” you mention seemingly works in the same way – what constitutes a “real” man is based on a very narrow set of rules that are even more restrictive than those in the Slayer Handbook.

    One would hope that most viewers would be immediately concerned with the implications of the Trio’s latest gadget. With this episode, the Trio cross a line into a new level of villainy. Or did they? In “Flooded” – the first appearance of the united Trio – Jonathan points to a whiteboard outlines their plan. Most of the items are the sort of villainy you’d expect in 1960s comic books or in Saturday morning cartoons. But two words stand out from the rest – girls, girls…. Back then, Jonathan looked smug about it. And yet now, when he’s about to get the most important part of the action he signed on for – the one he listed multiple times on their to-do list – Jonathan looks anxious.
    Fantastic point, PuckRobin – and the items for their spell are a parody of masculine identification – the ball of steel that will hold the dampener; the musk gland that attracts females in certain animals; the spell that translates as: “Tame the will, release desire. Spring forth, fuel the fire.” Sounds a lot like what Spike and Buffy are doing at the moment.

    Andrew looks even more nervous…Andrew doesn’t desire any woman – not in a sexual way. Even if he can’t admit it to himself yet, some part of Andrew must be afraid that the door to his closeted homosexuality is about to be thrust open. And these two trolls are among the last people you’d ever want to come out to.
    Great point – Andrew’s even in a more precarious position than Jonathan because he’s most likely never even had sex before whereas Jonathan’s HAD sex with women before in his Superstar spell – and in a similar manner to that of the dampener. Forced sex with women who would be most likely unwilling otherwise.

    And then there’s Warren – who has not only had sex with a real woman, but with a female robot deliberately designed to fulfill his every need. Now he’s ready to combine both experiences into one great big ball of rapey fun:

    WARREN: With this baby, we can make any woman we desire our willing sex slave. And I know just where to start –
    It’s fairly obvious that Warren has been thinking of enslaving this person all along – perhaps even before he suggested that the Trio team up and conquer Sunnydale.

    Just look at how Warren is soaking up the moment. Warren announces he has a victim already picked out. We hear the familiar wolf howl and cut to the opening credits. Just moments later we see the title card “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” as if it punctuated the sentence of Warren knowing just where to start. I can imagine fans going into the first act convinced that Buffy would indeed be the first target.
    Yes, PuckRobin, there’s no doubt that Buffy was the first woman who would come to mind – not only because of the opening credits, but because of how we left her and Spike with the dangling handcuffs. Making Buffy his willing sex slave? Spike’s already been there, done that. And he didn’t need an artificial ball of steel or a magic bone, either.

    When we return from the opening credits and first commercial break, the show doesn’t show us a sex slave – but rather a wage slave. Buffy is working the cash register at the Doublemeat Palace. She’s even come up with a cheesy jingle to make her days bearable. “Doublemeat is double-sweet. Enjoy!” Her co-worker Gina just glares at her in disbelief and disapproval. Buffy says “Just something I’m trying.” Again, this is Buffy as human BuffyBot. That sort of brainless cheeriness is exactly what we’d expect a robot to say. And the bosses at the Doublemeat Palace would probably commend Buffy’s efforts.
    I’d also posit that Gina is glaring at Buffy because Buffy has broken a cardinal rule of zombie-like low wage jobs – never do anything on your own initiative, no matter how clever or smart. Those burgers need to come out the same every single time and the DoubleMeat Workers have to follow suit. Buffy’s writing her own jingle is as shocking as if a member of the Borg Collective started independently writing freestyle poetry. She might be commended – but chewed out at the same time for independent thinking. A big no-no in the world of fast food.

    For Buffy – a job at McDonalds or the Doublemeat Palace would be the epitome of normalcy. And Buffy always said she wanted to be just that – a normal girl…Now, Buffy has come back from the dead. It would be a lot harder to hang onto a sense of normalcy. And then there’s what Spike told her in “Smashed”. SPIKE: Don't you get it? Don't you see? (sneering) You came back wrong. Spike returns to this “came back wrong” theory in “Doublemeat Palace”, where he also specifically calls out the reason that Buffy took this job: SPIKE: Some demons love 'em. The way they vibrate makes the skin twitch. That the kinda demon you are, luv? Spike’s words obviously troubled Buffy deeply. She has – to borrow from the popular culture of the time --- decided to use one of her lifelines and phone a friend.
    Why Tara of all people? Is it simply because she’s more of an acquaintance than Willow? Perhaps she’s less discerning and judgmental - Willow would surely guess the reason why Buffy was asking in about thirty seconds and also raise the alarm with Xander that Spike’s chip doesn’t work anymore, endangering Spike’s life and Buffy’s relationship with him. Or is it really about something else?

    Tara enters and apologizes for her lateness. “Oh, time has no meaning here,” Buffy replies. It’s suggestive of the time distortions that Buffy will encounter later in this episode. Buffy also said that time had no meaning in Heaven in “AfterLife”. She’s in a dissociative disorder – viewing the Doublemeat Palace as a kind of Heaven. Or perhaps the mirror opposite of a Heaven – or a hell. Buffy takes off her cap and announces she’s taking a break. She’s also taking a break from working the cash register and from being the human BuffyBot. Seeing Tara brings out the genuine humanity in Buffy. Tara sits in the backroom and stares at the inspirational posters on the wall. And when Buffy brings Tara a drink, she cracks a joke. “I have the sudden urge to dedicate my productive cooperation.” It’s a wicked flash of humour from Tara. It’s a quality that we saw Willow bring out even back in “Hush”, despite Tara’s natural shyness. Buffy returns the joke with one of her own about the awfulness of the job.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree. Buffy’s joke that working at DoubleMeat Palace is like her experience in heaven where time didn't mean anything and nothing had form – “but I was still me, you know?” is a welcome return to Buffy’s salty sense of humor. Her relief at seeing Tara obviously brings out a bit of the old Buffy who viewed imposing events and places through a quirky prism of pop references and down-to-earth talk.

    There’s a slight awkwardness and distance between the women. Buffy thanks Tara for coming. As if it’s a summit meeting rather than two friends getting together. And then there was the location of this meeting. Not at Buffy’s home. Not at Scooby Central. But at Buffy’s place of work and in the backroom. There was one obvious conclusion – it’s something about Willow.
    TARA: Is it bad?
    BUFFY: I was sort of hoping you could tell me. [/QUOTE]
    When Tara uses the word it, she’s using it to describe a situation. But Buffy’s use of the word it could be meant to refer to a person or a creature – herself. [/QUOTE]

    That’s an awesome observation, PuckRobin, and I never caught that before! Wonderful catch!

    Tara assumes – not unreasonably – that’s she been called in to assess the need for a magic intervention. Tara looks down and away for a moment. Her worst fears have been realized.

    TARA: I knew this was gonna happen.
    And then Tara looks straight ahead – ready to face the situation head on. Although her steely resolve does break into a stutter.

    TARA: What did Willow do now? Did she – she hurt anyone?
    Buffy is surprised and looks even more awkward. She tells Tara that it’s not about Willow.

    BUFFY: Wha – uh, no, no, um – Ta-Tara, this isn't about Willow.
    TARA: I thought that's why you didn't want to meet at the house.
    BUFFY: Uh, sorry, it's, um – Willow's fine, uh, she, she's been doing really well. You'd be proud of her.
    TARA: Good, that's – that's good.
    The comic cross-purposes of their conversation makes a nice parallel between the relationship of Tara/Willow and Buffy/Spike here. Both Willow and Spike have hurt Tara and Buffy in the past – violated their boundaries and tried to because they loved them – so both assume that they’re talking about the same person. But Buffy’s not worried about Willow hurting someone – she’s worried about Spike.

    Here is Buffy, again at a place where her life sucks “beyond the telling of it” and yet she’s going to attempt to tell of it. But of course, the pain that Tara is most immediately concerned with is the pain of everything that happened with Willow. Why wouldn’t she immediately want to know how Willow is. The script describes Tara’s reaction to the news that it’s not about Willow as “(relieved/embarrassed)” and Amber Benson plays that well. Her relief is tempered with the awkwardness that she just admitted she believed Willow would go bad. The script states “The subject is too difficult.” And so Tara brings it back onto what – at least for her, she knows – is a less painful topic. She asks what Buffy wanted to talk about.
    I think this is such a wonderful scene – in many ways, Tara becomes the ballast that others cling to in Season Six because they’re experiencing such trauma in the moment. Tara’s prior experience in an abusive household has made her psychologically proficient in distancing herself from all traumatic situations – perhaps too much so for poor Willow – and diffusing tense situations. Like Xander, she uses humor and self-deprecation to deal with things that bother her because both grew up in toxic environments and developed coping mechanisms to deal.

    And here, the script clarifies that what Buffy’s body language is not mere nerve rubbing of hands. It is very blunt in describing what her nervous tics signify. “Buffy's absently rubbing her wrists. Handcuff action ahoy.” Buffy says “It’s Spike”, and Tara looks confused by this statement. We go to a close-up of Buffy as she continues her confusion. “He can hurt me.” It’s at this point that Buffy realizes what her hands are doing and awkwardly separates them and thrusts the hands under the table. It’s as if she caught a Freudian slip through body language. Once her hands are safely hidden, Buffy can clarify the threat without fear of any bondage activities getting exposed.
    And we’ve returned again to the idea that Buffy submitting sexually to Spike in sex play is somehow proof that she’s “come back wrong” because good girls don’t do that – and Slayers definitely don’t do that. Buffy seems to already assume that Tara will come to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with her – and her constant rubbing of her wrists is an unconscious reminder of her guilt and shame. It’s funny – but it’s also disturbing that Buffy is beating herself up in this way.

    She finally adds “Without his head exploding.” Tara is shocked. “His chip has stopped working?” Tara has never actually met the pre-chipped Spike. But she must have heard tales from Willow of what Spike was like in “School Hard”, what he threatened to do to Willow in “Lovers Walk” and “The Initiative”. The semi-domesticated, neutered puppy Tara has known may have become the Big Bad … Wolf. Buffy clarifies. BUFFY: No, it still works. Just not on me. At this, Tara eyes Buffy up and down. Maybe wondering where this conversation is going. It doesn’t appear to be a warning that Spike could now be a threat to Tara. Buffy continues to explain. The script describes Tara’s response as “Getting it” and you can see the look of certainty on her face.

    TARA: You think it's you?
    BUFFY: I don't know. I feel – different. There are things that – I think maybe I came back wrong.

    Buffy stopped herself from stating out right what those things are. She also performed another bit of self-editing. She could have said “Spike says I came back wrong.” After all, she’s quoting Spike. But instead she states it like that’s her own theory. Perhaps Buffy is avoiding any awkward questions that might come up if she explained that she had conversations with Spike. Or perhaps Buffy has now internalized Spike’s diagnosis.
    We get yet another reiteration of the word “things” here, harkening back to the title. Buffy doesn’t want to tell Tara why she’s so certain that something’s wrong – but the “things” are once again impossible to vocalize – it’s actually much easier to cling to Spike’s words instead and take them as her own.

    And we find that Spike’s words have found their mark after all. Buffy’s not sure if she’s human or animal or demon or living or dead or just a rock. But there’s something wrong with her – of that, she’s certain. At this point, she doesn’t necessarily need Spike to tell her otherwise – she’s convinced of it herself.

    Tara responds adamantly. “No! Buffy, “ but then she breaks into a less confident stutter. “that's n-not ...” And then Tara becomes firm again. “No. You didn’t.” Why does Tara waver? First if Buffy came back wrong, that would largely be Willow’s fault … and possibly Tara’s too as an accomplice. But also, there would be empathy for how Buffy is feeling. Tara is an empathetic person so she’d easily be able to put herself in Buffy’s shoes. But Tara doesn’t have to imagine how Buffy is feeling. She knows. As we discovered in “Family”, Tara was gaslighted by her father and brother. She was made to think she was a demon, worthless, that her thoughts were wrong and bad. She wouldn’t want anyone else to feel that way … not ever.
    Great point that Tara has to deny any possible change in Buffy because Willow would be the one directly to blame. And Tara’s background – believing that she herself was a demon – would make her very wary of Buffy’s belief that Buffy was inhuman in any way. But Tara looks shaken by the thought that it might be true. Buffy’s face is almost devoid of emotion as she asks Tara to check the spell – but a tiny tremor of fear slips out and Tara reacts to it.

    BUFFY: Can you check the spell, see if there's anything that could have – can you just check? Please?
    Buffy once again declines to even speak about her relationship with Spike – “anything that could have –“ is cut off to make a direct plea to Tara to check without asking for details. Buffy’s face is a mask covering pain and fear as she begs Tara: Please?

    And we cut to a nighttime scene where Andrew and Jonathan are parked in the van with headpieces on.

    The Trio’s van is parked in an alley. Inside the van, we see a computer monitor where a static-filled image of a bar comes into focus. Jonathan speaks into his head piece. “Mad Dog 2 to Mad Dog 1,”
    Mad Dog...Warren responds with the same vintage spy/cop lingo. “Roger that.” We see that’s he is inside the bar and that a camera is concealed in his tie pin. Oh, scratch that. It’s not spy lingo. The script tells us it’s not James Bond or Joe Friday that Warren is emulating. He’s trying to be a member of the Rat Pack. The other two members of the Trio are in awe of Warren and the possibilities. And boy, do these two look creepy as they fetishize the possibilities. But there’s something intriguing in the way Andrew realizes they can have anyone they want. The gay subtext to Andrew adds a vague poignancy to what seems like a personal revelation just out of his grasp. Jonathan and Andrew start to call the possibilities … the one with the neck. The red head. But Warren spots his ex-girlfriend Katrina sitting there. Was he specifically looking for Katrina? Or did he just visit a hangout that Katrina like … hoping to find a woman like her?
    Yes, PuckRobin, it’s obvious that Warren knows this spot is where Katrina hangs out all the time – and he’s not about to geek himself out by emulating spy/cop lingo. He’s all suave masculinity in his spiffy outfit with a nice tie complete with camera – reminiscent of suave Xander in The Replacement – as he enters the restaurant. The people in the restaurant look fairly middle class – weirdly, a subset of Sunnydale that we rarely see as people of different races and classes intermingle over drinks at cozy booths and high tops for two.

    Was this where Warren first met Katrina? It doesn’t seem like his sort of place full of enterprising young men and women. It’s more likely that Katrina – a fellow college student in his class – introduced him to this sophisticated upper middle class milieu and for a short time, Warren felt like he was on top of the world. But when April attacked Katrina and she broke up with Warren, he not only lost Katrina but the glamorous upper class world that she lived in.

    Whatever Warren’s original plan was, once he sees Katrina – there are no other options. Just look at how his usual sneer melts into an almost puppy dog expression with longing for times past. Well, as close to Puppy Dog eyes as Warren can get. He was pegged as Mad Dog One after all for a reason. Warren announces “Target acquired.”
    It’s interesting to see Warren’s eye light up when he sees her – he’s genuinely happy – one of the few moments in the Buffyverse where he’s not an utterly repulsive figure. He’s smitten with Katrina and secretly wishes that she could come back to him of her own free will. But if not – well, there’s always his sex slave toy. Which makes him immediately repulsive again.

    The irony is that the guys in the van are still playing Warren’s game – they’re trying to outdo each other in manly wolf whistles and flat-out ogling. Andrew in particular seems vastly uncomfortable as he calls out various sexy attributes of the women passing by Warren – blurting out body parts associated with heterosexual lust as if he’s reading the back of a laundry box as Jonathan chokes him to shut him up.

    Deciding he’s had enough of their advice, Warren drops his earpiece in a glass of champagne. It causes Andrew and Jonathan’s ears to ring with deafening feedback. But really it’s not just that Warren is sick of listening to Jonathan and Andrew. It’s that he doesn’t want them listening in as he talks to Katrina. He doesn’t want to expose his emotional vulnerabilities to his allies. It’s not that different than Buffy selectively editing details of her relationship with Spike from Tara and the other Scoobies.
    Great contrast with Buffy, PuckRobin! Revealing his feelings for Katrina not only would expose his soft spot to his frenemies, but it would also make their tag team of three seem incredibly horrifying to the other two since they’re unknowingly enacting revenge on Warren’s ex as a punishment – and when they find out, it does freak them out.

    Warren doesn’t go for his cerebral dampener. Instead he reaches for a tried-and-true pick-up line.
    WARREN: So how did you get so beautiful?
    Katrina laughs sarcastically.
    KATRINA: Okay, does that line usually work...?

    Well, ain’t that a kick in the head? Katrina seems generally charmed by unashamed cheesiness of Warren’s pickup line. Warren has been reasonable successful with this Dean Martin shtick. Even though Warren is the most unabashedly evil of the Trio, he is also the one with the least amount of social phobia. Warren is a high-functioning psychopath. He can clean-up nice and function in normal society without being completely dismissed as a social freak. Not that it truly matters. The ringleader of the Columbine shootings, Eric Harris, was the most socially adept of the pair too.
    I love your idea that Warren is unable to actually function normally in this world, but has to adopt a pop culture symbol like Dean Martin in the Rat Pack because he’s hollow within – he can only ape the manners of men that he wishes he was like in the movies.

    When Katrina turns to spot Warren’s big, cheesy grin, her expression sours.
    KATRINA: What the hell are you doing here?
    WARREN: It's nice to see you again too, Katrina.
    Warren’s response attempts to cast him as the wronged party. As if he’s deliberately ignoring the reasons why Katrina would not be happy to see him.
    Yes, PuckRobin, Warren is playing the typical wounded male who blames the woman for acting like a bitch after he’s done something terribly wrong.

    Warren is commited to his Rat Pack bit with is use of the word “baby” and then he attempt to snottly pay the bar staff to get another drink for Katrina. When Katrina still isn’t buying it, Warren tries to laugh off her feelings. Katrina stops the bartender from pouring her a new drink. She’s not taking anything from Warren. She asks her ex if he means “the wind-up slut” or when “Little Miss Nuts and Bolts” tried to kill her. Again, Warren goes for the classic gaslighting ploy of trying to make his transgressions seem like it was no big deal – something to be easily forgiven. He admits the smallest portion of blame possibly by saying he made a few mistakes. Katrina throws it back at him.

    KATRINA: No. No, I did. For ever lowering myself to be with a jerk like you.

    It’s a line that is reminiscent of both Cecily and Buffy saying that William/Spike is beneath them.
    Yes, and her line elicits the same kind of anger from Warren as it does from Spike.

    WARREN: Okay, so I've made a few mistakes.
    KATRINA: No. No, I did. For ever lowering myself to be with a jerk like you.
    Warren grabs her arm.
    WARREN: Don't say that.
    KATRINA: Well, what did you expect, to just waltz in here and sweep me off my feet with your cheesy lines and fancy suit?
    WARREN: No, I just thought we could talk. I thought maybe we could work things out.
    Which is almost a direct parallel to Buffy and Spike the morning after, complete with the arm grab as the woman they love tries to walk away:

    SPIKE: I just don't see why you have to run off so quick. Thought we could –
    BUFFY: Not gonna happen. Last night was the end of this freak show.
    Spike grabs her arm.
    SPIKE: Don't say that.
    BUFFY: What did you think was gonna happen? What, we're gonna read the newspaper together, play footsie under the rubble?
    SPIKE: Not exactly what I had in mind. (Wrecked)
    Surely this parallel is so direct that it has to be intentional. The difference lies in how Warren and Spike try to win back their women – Spike attempts to seduce Buffy and lure her into forgetting her woes through sexual abandon. Warren, on the other hand, decides to go the other route and cast a spell on Katrina that makes her his unwilling sex slave.

    He slips on a pair of red-tinted sunglasses and asks if she’s sure. And when Katrina reaffirms that no means no, Warren activates the cerebral dampener. Katrina’s face assumes a blank expression. The vibrant human woman is gone – to be replaced by another of Warren’s robotic automatons, although in this case one still made of flesh.

    KATRINA: I love you, Master.
    Warren smiles vindictively.
    WARREN: I love you, too, baby.

    Dean Martin has truly left the building. Warren’s true evil and predatory nature stands revealed. Whatever this is between them now, it is sure isn’t love.
    There’s another interesting parallel here to Spike – Warren obviously believes that he does “love” Katrina and his revenge in making her his sex slave doesn’t fundamentally change that. He’s unable to see how twisted his rape scenario is as he bewitches Katrina and takes her back to his lair – he honestly believes that this is a normal way to get them back together. Spike’s attempts to drag Buffy into his world shows some equivalence – he desperately wants them to be together and separating Buffy from her friends and family is a way to do this.

    Again, the major difference here is that Spike doesn’t want to directly take agency away from Buffy – yet. He’s aghast when she suggests this in Entropy and Seeing Red because he feels that no matter how evil he becomes, he doesn’t hurt her. Warren is using the same kind of justification in his mind for what he’s doing to Katrina – he’s not really going to hurt her – he’s simply showing her what she should be. His sex slave.

    The problem with all this parallelism is – Spike doesn’t have a soul – but Warren does.

    More tomorrow, PuckRobin!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 11-09-18 at 09:36 AM.

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    Fantastic post, Aurora, as always.
    Made possible by PuckRobin, and I owe you both a debt - I can't believe that I've watched this episode so many times and never compared or drawn the connection between Buffy wanting to put away her childish things and the Trio - in the form of Jonathan and his Peter Frampton collection - wanting never to grow up. Nice!

    Also, I laughed out loud at your passing reference to the possibility of a member of the Borg Collective writing freestyle poetry. That certainly conjured up an image of (say) Hugh Borg - the wonderful Jonathan Del Arco - reciting at the open mic in NFA. Ah well, that was a fantasy off topic moment.

    Looking forward to your next instalment.
    You know what I am. You've always known. You come to me all the same.

    "There's a lot of comedy to be gotten from the world's doom spiral right now." Tracey Ullman, June 2018

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    debbicles:

    I can't believe that I've watched this episode so many times and never compared or drawn the connection between Buffy wanting to put away her childish things and the Trio - in the form of Jonathan and his Peter Frampton collection - wanting never to grow up.
    Yes, I bet one could do a whole PhD dissertation on the depiction of fandom in the 90s just by exploring the contents of the Trio's basement lair.

    Also, I laughed out loud at your passing reference to the possibility of a member of the Borg Collective writing freestyle poetry. That certainly conjured up an image of (say) Hugh Borg - the wonderful Jonathan Del Arco - reciting at the open mic in NFA. Ah well, that was a fantasy off topic moment.


    Enjoy the moment!

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Part of the problem rests in aligning Buffy’s moral weakness with S&M hijinks – just as Faith raising her butt in the air and crawling across Riley’s bed was supposed to signify how BAD she was, Buffy’s willingness to let Spike sexually dominate her is supposed to signify how she’s fallen into a dubious moral state. But in reality, sexual kinks and fetishes have nothing to do with the real world outside – Buffy could have sex with Angel while wearing a “furry” costume and it shouldn’t have zip-doodle to do with feminism or her place in the world outside her bedroom. The moral conundrums should be plain enough without bringing prudish ideas of what constitutes proper sex into the drama – and so, the handcuff move falls kinda flat because it’s really not even that outlandish of a thought that Buffy might want to enjoy playing the submissive since she’s always “on” as the dominant at every given moment.
    Your rewatches have always made me re-examine this aspect of Buffy (the series). For example, Riley apparently turning Faith good with the power of vanilla sex. (Ironic since Riley developed his own trangressive sexual habits the following year.)


    Maybe Buffy likes Spike taking control after a tough night out in the graveyard – the relief of not having to make decisions of life and death every moment – perhaps it’s one of the nicest things that Spike could ever do for her. Buffy seems to bear tremendous guilt for everything she does – screwing a soulless vampire would certainly induce even more – so cuffing her allows her to vicariously enjoy their sex without feeling shame. It’s out of her control. Spike doesn’t judge her for her sexual reactions so the sex is probably the best Buffy’s ever had in that sense if Riley’s reaction to Faith is any indication.Buffy can just enjoy the endorphins and the rush without having to think about her problems.

    The idea that Buffy’s sex play here with Spike is not consensual or is forced upon her in some way because she SHOULD’NT enjoy it if she were a good, strong, feminist woman – plays into the stereotype that there’s something wrong with her for enjoying it – which does come up in the final moments of the episode. Directly connecting these desires with Buffy’s moral fall as a sign of how she’s become BAD and feels she shouldn’t be forgiven is problematic in the extreme and leads to even more conflation of sexual escapades with moral values.
    That's a fascinating take on it that Spike's dom games could actually be restful for Buffy.

    And I think there's a real double-standard that when say Wesley has his relationship with Lilah, it's to depict him as becoming bad-ass, whereas the Buffy/Spike relationship is played to suggest she's broken in some way.

    Can't wait to see more.

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    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Here’s more of my response to your wonderful review of Dead Things!

    Going through the opening scenes of Dead Things, what really struck me was how despairing so many of the characters were – not just Buffy, who’d come back from heaven, but Spike, the Trio and even Tara, who is obviously deeply depressed about her break-up with Willow. The complicated sexual relationship between Spike and Buffy is often viewed as some cheesy way to bump up ratings – but as I’ve said before, I find the exploration of Buffy’s depression and her sexuality to be rather daring and unusual in television at the time.

    I think that the balcony scene in particular has been unfairly attacked for not making sense, for its seemingly overwrought quality and for the supposed out-of-character actions by Buffy and Spike. But if you follow the trajectory of the opening scene between them, it all makes perfect sense to me and naturally leads to their confrontation in front of the police station. The theme of Dom/Sub isn’t introduced just to be edgy, but has tremendous bearing on the thematic structure of the episode. Which is why I spent so much time on examining exactly what’s going on there.

    But after four depressing scenes – the strained relationship of Spuffy, the scheming of the Trio, the sad Buffy/Tara conversation and the sick enslaving of Katrina, it’s a relief when Buffy comes wearily home from work to find Xander and Dawn jubilantly dancing in her front room as Anya and Willow watch, smiling, on the couch.

    Surprisingly, they’re not dancing to a pop song – or a Joss Whedon song for that matter – but to the beautiful "Grande valse villageoise" (The Garland Waltz) from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty ballet that was used as the melody to Disney’s animated song “Once Upon a Dream” of the same story and its counterpart, Maleficent. The ballet is a classic tale of good witch/bad witch with a spell cast upon the title character Princess Aurora to sleep forever. The good guys only win through enlisting a handsome and noble Prince’s help – he takes down the bad witch and awakens the bewitched heroine with a kiss.

    So it’s a story in which the lead character is asleep for most of the story – she has no agency, she’s a pawn of good and evil witches and she’s saved by a handsome Prince. In many ways, Aurora is just an ideal rather than a real person – a thing of beauty for everyone else to fight over. And yet, even the Prince is just a pawn in the bigger game of good and evil – it’s the good and bad witches who manipulate things to their liking.

    But the implication is that they need a man to break the spell because men are bold warriors who take what they desire and women are passive creatures who need to be awoken with a kiss while remaining completely unconscious. And this dynamic is played out in two ways in Dead Things – with the Trio and Katrina, who “sleeps” like Sleeping Beauty as the men tussle with who is to molest her first until she wakens with an almost blowjob – and Buffy and Spike, who play dominance-submission games with each other, ever-switching between playing the roles of the Maiden and the Prince.

    Which must be awakened from their slumber? Which one needs to be saved by the other? Buffy walks through life like a sleepwalker and she says that Spike is the only one who can make her feel anything – can make her feel alive. But Spike says the same about Buffy – that Buffy awakens him from a world of darkness and dead things through his love for her – which makes him feel alive.

    And this comes to a climax at the end of Grave when both have a true awakening – one that both ultimately fight for and almost die to achieve. And it’s notable that they are on different sides of the world when this happens – and only meet again when they are wide-awake.

    But for now, we revel in the dance between Xander and Dawn that prefigures so much of their future together even as Buffy recoils for a moment:

    BUFFY: I'm home! Who wants to help scrape the grease off my – is there singing?! Are we singing again?

    Buffy is horrified by the potential reprise of Once More with Feeling. It was under Sweet’s singing-and-dancing extravaganza spell that she first kissed Spike and the Spuffy relationship had begun. In a sense, Buffy herself was still singing and dancing to the beat of Sweet’s magic.
    Great point, PuckRobin – I would imagine the panic in Buffy’s voice is also because she might be tempted to reveal her secret relationship in song – a repeat of her confession of heaven. And that would be even worse if Buffy fears that her sex with Spike means she’s come back wrong because it means that Willow not only pulled Buffy from heaven, but brought her back as some kind of “thing.” But Dawn giggles as Xander spins her around and dips her in time to the music:

    XANDER: Nope, just the dancing.
    ANYA: We're teaching Dawn perfectly synchronized dance steps for the wedding reception.
    An initial reaction is to think of line dancing at a wedding – the thought of all the Scoobies doing the hokey-pokey or something similar is kinda frightening. But the waltz between Xander and Dawn is different – it’s obviously preparing her to get on the dance floor during the Wedding Waltz or First Dance between the bride and groom. The bridesmaids are usually expected to join the wedding couple and dance with the groom at some point and Anya may have a particular song in mind that requires them to know how to waltz.

    Xander tries to reassure Buffy, and yet Dawn seems to be looking at Xander with particular admiration. Is a slight flaring up of her old school girl crush on Xander? Dawn does turn toward Buffy, looking a little miffed that her big sister is dominating the conversation.
    Nice catch – she’s enjoying the attention of Xander and he immediately drops her and turns to Buffy – want to take a spin? – and it’s just like Spike all over again. Buffy, Buffy, Buffy – that’s all anyone ever cares about. The concern that the Scoobies had for Dawn during that summer of Buffy’s death has dwindled away and the twin blows of her mother and Buffy’s death in addition to Giles leaving and Willow betraying her make her feel unbearably neglected.

    But Xander doesn’t see this – he’s obviously enjoying himself immensely and he wants Buffy to join in the fun. From his perspective, things seem to be looking up for the Scoobies. Dawn is happy, Anya is happy, Willow is happier and now Buffy’s home early to join in on the fun. If Tara were to show up, it’d be like old times again. He turns to Buffy invitingly:

    XANDER: Wanna go for a spin?
    BUFFY: Uh, think I'm heading more towards an ungainly collapse.
    This scene is obviously meant to contrast with Buffy’s dark Spuffy sex – just as Buffy is feeling deeply depressed and morally bankrupt, here come the Scoobies – laughing and dancing and making merry – and then tossing around unwitting sexual innuendo to make her feel even worse.

    XANDER: You've been going at it too hard, Buffy. We hardly ever see you, what with slinging the double meat and pounding the big evil.
    Too hard? Slinging the Doublemeat? Pounding? One correction Xander, that’s the Big Bad she’s pounding not “The Big Evil”. Anya chimes in that Buffy is “looking a little pounded – just around the eyes.”
    Buffy looks downward as they speak, unable to meet their eyes with her own “pounded” ones. As she sighs, a nervous Willow tells her they’re all taking a trip to the Bronze to get “unwindy.” But Buffy already knows of other ways to get unwind – like last night with Spike. It’s notable that she doesn’t go to his crypt that evening, but comes straight home instead. Is this due to her earlier conversation with Tara?

    Her inability to even talk about her affair with Spike with Tara has probably made her see it from a more distanced perspective. She may be more conscious of how she’s ignoring Dawn and it may have sent her straight home to be with her sister. And her initial bad reaction is due to her disappointment that she’s not going to spend quality time with her – especially when she learns that Dawn is going out and leaving Buffy alone.

    DAWN: I'm sleeping over at Janice's?
    BUFFY: And I'm falling for that again because of the surprise lobotomy?
    WILLOW: It's okay, I checked it out. Janice's mom is picking her up.
    BUFFY: Oh.
    DAWN: I didn't think you'd care. You're never home, so –
    BUFFY: I know. I'm sorry. You know, but I, I'm here now. All visible and everything. Couldn't you just stay at Janice's another night?
    DAWN: Her mom's cooking Mexican. She's gonna teach me how to make real tortillas. Not like I knew you'd be around.

    It feels like a deliberate echo of Buffy’s own sneaking out with Spike. However, Willow assures Buffy that she’s checked out the story this time. Buffy looks sad. Is it because Willow appears to be a more active parental figure to Dawn than Buffy? Or is it that Buffy’s excuse to avoid Spike is now in tatters. Dawn pours salt in Buffy’s open poor parenting wound. Buffy says she’s here now – and visible unlike in “Gone”.
    This is not only a callback to Dawn’s sneaking out of the house in All the Way but also to Dawn making the dreadful peanut-butter and banana quesadillas in Wrecked – since Buffy or Willow can’t teach her how to make them properly, she’s going to learn from Janice’s mother instead to make REAL tortillas which implies that Janice is a REAL mom.

    Buffy decides to take Xander up on his previous offer. BUFFY: Frosty nectar. Now please.
    Agreed, PuckRobin, that the temptation to go and see Spike is too great for Buffy now that her only reason for avoiding him is gone. She makes the decision to go drinking and dancing with the gang at the Bronze because she knows that otherwise she’ll find herself back at the same old hole in the ground. Like poor Katrina in the Trio’s basement lair.

    And we hear a pop and a drink being poured. The glass is tall, but this is not the nectar of the Working Man. No, this is the nectar of crime – champagne. Warren says “Thank you, baby” to Katrina who is serving the champagne. He’s still using his old, somewhat outdated and infantilizing term of endearment for Katrina. Katrina – dressed in a maid’s uniform with fishnet stockings – responds with a bland, robotic tone “My pleasure, master.” Andrew says “That is so cool.” Andrew must feel the pressure to share his own opinion – or more precisely the opinion that Andrew things he should have. ANDREW: Yeah, she's ... really cute Andrew is not a good actor. His attempt to feign young, immature lust is worthy of a Razzie. No one would buy his performance.
    The transformation of the living Katrina into a dead Katrina bot is surely one of the most disgusting and despicable acts in the Buffyverse as the Trio take turns ogling her as they drink to their success. Warren has dressed her up in a little French maid outfit – she’s destined to be a servant – that makes it all the more degrading.

    Their evil lair is really just a shrine to dead things in a sense – the records, the comics, the games, the books, the tapes, the DVDs, the action figures, the posters – all are records of inanimate things that aren’t real – a fantasy world made up of paper dolls. Pulling Katrina into that word makes her just another plaything for them – the semblance of a real living woman who is forced to act “dead” in their hole in the ground – neatly decorated with relics of another time.

    But it’s interesting to note the difference between Warren’s view of Katrina and that of his cohorts.

    Andrew seems to see Katrina bot as a cool invention – like his Boba Fett action figure – it walks, it talks, it performs sexual acts – but it’s utterly stripped of its humanity. It’s likely that Andrew has no sexual designs on Katrina at all – to him, she’s like a fiercely awesome storyline out of his comic books – Lois Lane under the influence of a drug that Lex Luther’s concocted to brainwash her. His obsession with fan culture has totally divorced him from any real world implications – the barrier between the fictional characters in the comic book and movie world and real people was eradicated a long time ago. It’s funny to turn Buffy invisible – there’s no real thought of killing her.

    Jonathan also seems impressed with Katrina who is now stiff as a statue. He is certainly sold on the properties of the cerebral dampener. JONATHAN: I really could've used one of these in high school. We saw in “Earshot” that Jonathan’s loneliness and depression led him to attempt suicide. But we also know from “The Prom” that Jonathan had dates in high school. Of course, given Jonathan’s spell in “Superstar”, maybe his prom date wasn’t fully aware of who she was dating. Although Jonathan also had a coffee date with Cordelia in “Reptile Boy” – if fetching highly complicated drink orders for Cordy can be considered a date. Whatever the case it’s clear that Jonathan’s lust for women and resentment over his lack of relationships is a clear motivator for his descent into villainy. He is far from alone in this respect…Jonathan walks around Katrina saying “Wow” as if he’s admiring the latest model of sports car and not a woman being held against her will. At this moment he seems incapable of seeing women as people with actual identities. Jonathan has no name for Katrina – she’s merely the brunette. A sporty model, but not quite as nice as the one with the bazoombas that Jonathan still talks about.
    We’ve already seen how Jonathan has turned his sad high school years into a litany of grievances against those who rejected him or treated him badly. Like many young men, he sees women as status symbols that reflect upon his own masculinity like the women on his arm in Superstar – the lack of action with them a personal failure that marks him as less than a man. So there’s a touch of revenge in his treatment of Katrina mixed with a need to prove himself – he desperately wants a woman to want him and sees Katrina as a way to boost his own ego. But to him, she’s a thing to be used like Buffy uses Spike – to make himself feel better.

    As Jonathan checks out the merchandise, he doesn’t notice how closely Warren is watching the going-ons on the showroom floor…Thinking about the slick act he was trying to project back in the bar, I can very easily see Warren thinking of himself as a supreme gentleman. And ever the gentleman, Warren proposes a toast to his companions who he also calls gentlemen.
    Of all the Buffyverse villains who selfishly try to end the world or murder the inhabitants of Sunnydale, none are worse than Warren because he’s a souled human man who seems to be without any real sense of morality. He’s reminiscent of other characters who believe they are Nietzschean supermen – a Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment or real life Leopold and Loeb – who murder someone to prove that they are superior to the common herd who are held back by a unquestioning belief in right and wrong.

    When Warren calls his cohorts “gentlemen” he’s not only designating them as real adults – men of superior position – now that they’ve succeeded in crime, but he’s also mocking the idea of honorable men who treat women well as in “He’s a real gentleman.” And as they scrutinize Katrina, they show themselves to be anything but.

    But the bubbly nectar of crime isn’t for all palettes. Andrew coughs and declares “Crime tastes funny.” Drinking is a huge part of the masculine identity. Those who don’t drink can be socially ostracized. Andrew’s admission that he doesn’t like the drink can be seen as immature. It doesn’t help that he expresses it in a tone similar to a small child saying “My tummy hurts.” Here he is underselling his phony role as a heterosexual horndog. “Really cute”? Warren is deeply offended. “Cute,” he barks. This woman may be just “really cute” or “the brunette” to Andrew and Jonathan. But she has an identity to Warren. He gets up to deliver the showroom pitch.

    WARREN: Look at her, man! The shape of her lips. The smooth, silky skin. The way her nose – the way her nose crinkles when she laughs – she's perfect.

    Warren had described his sexbot April as perfect too, but she ultimately unsatisfied him because she was too predictable. If what we’ve seen on TV is any indication, the other members of the Trio would never see nose-crinkling from Katrina. The roboticized Katrina has less of a sense of humour than Data the Android on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Maybe Jonathan and Andrew just think that the champagne is making Warren bizarrely sentimental. They’re giggling like fools … or hyenas.
    That’s a great point, PuckRobin, that Warren is showing them Katrina as if he’s selling his latest invention – he’s managed to subsume her personality into his own massive ego until he’s convinced himself that he’s invented Katrina. But that’s not a surprise. Women to him are little more than indicators of who’s the boss – and as he fancies himself the ultimate Dom, Warren demands submission from everyone around him.

    There’s an element of Angelus in his swagger and his demeaning treatment of Jonathan and Andrew reminds one of Angelus’ treatment of Spike in Destiny. However, we’ve seen that when a real threat comes around – like Spike – Warren grovels and cringes in fear. He’s a bully – meaning a coward who hides behind idle threats and insults to mask his own insecurity.

    And his greatest targets are women – especially the one woman that he loves who refuses to give him a chance. If she won’t do that, then he’ll make her bow to his will in other ways. There’s an obvious parallel here with Spike, who manipulates Buffy because he’s deeply in love with her – he doesn’t use a cerebral dampener, but Spike surely tries to emotionally control Buffy in order to win her over as we’ll shortly see.

    I wonder how the cerebral dampener works. It almost seems like Warren has uploaded a whole set of programmed responses – like the kind of programming he gave his robot April. The Trio don’t seem to notice or care how flat Katrina is. She’s like one of those toy dolls that talks when you pull the string or press a button. Jonathan is actually shifting around, eagerly anticipating his own confidence boosting experiences with their new toy. Warren wraps his arm around Katrina’s neck as if it’s a slave’s collar. Andrew and Jonathan respond to Warren’s power play for Katrina as if they’re on a schoolyard. What adult would ever say “You didn’t call it”? Warren asserts his authority, but then throws his allies a bone. They will get the “table scraps” from Warren’s conquest.

    WARREN: Oh, I don't have to call it, Sparky. She's mine. But don't worry. You can play with her all you want ... after I'm done with her.
    Even soulless Spike would refuse to do what Warren is doing to Katrina – when he had Buffy chained up in his crypt, he had the opportunity to rape her but never even stripped her of her clothes. His reasoning was to keep Buffy tied up long enough to listen to his avowals of love as he threatened to sacrifice Drusilla for her – his intent was still to win her over the old-fashioned way by convincing her to love him back.

    The creation of the Buffybot was a stand-in for the real thing – even after a day, Spike looks bored by the bot’s antics and even has the decency to look ashamed when Buffy confronts him with it – and he’s soulless. But Warren is perfectly happy not only to rape Katrina in a mindless state – but to subject her to a geek gangbang as well. That’s something Spike would never do.

    And that’s what’s chilling about Warren. Unlike Andrew or Jonathan – who have never met Katrina and therefore can distance themselves from her as a human being, Warren knows Katrina intimately – shared her thoughts and fears and kisses and anger – and he’s STILL willing to hurt her and treat her like a sex toy even though she’s a person to him.

    And this marks a major parallel between Warren and Buffy that makes him a functional touchstone for the entire Spuffy relationship. If Warren’s attempt to stalk and control Katrina because he’s infatuated with her is like Spike, then his willingness to see her as a “thing” to hurt and use for sex is like Buffy.

    Warren and Katrina leave, and the remaining Crime Lords are ambivalent . Andrew coughs again. Crime still leaves a funny taste in their mouth. At this point, they seem to be on edge a bit about Warren being a creep. But neither Jonathan or Andrew seem concerned about what Katrina must feel. It’s like they have completely dehumanized her. That is completely in keeping with the modern Incel movement…The TV series built dehumanization right into the fabric of the show. As established in the early episodes, Buffy can kill with impunity as her foes lack a soul. Any trace of human identity – those traits that keep the foes interesting – is a shallow copy of a human trait. I wonder what fantasy Andrew has concocted in his mind to accept this. Certainly he’s not using his overactive imagination to imagine a life or personality for their victim. Both are taking Katrina merely at face value.
    That’s a fantastic point, PuckRobin, that Buffy’s had to do the same kind of dehumanization when doing her duty as the hero of the piece – and it helps that her victims are soulless and generally evil. The villains follow suit – but they haven’t the strength of character or the moral certainty that comes with being a hero and saving others – only the vague sense that they’re doing something that transcends the moral boundary of playing pranks or ogling half-naked women. Agreed that the modern incel movement is indebted to a certain kind of mindset that began in the 90s and I’m hoping to talk more about it in Seeing Red

    The scene shifts to Warren’s bedroom. The script specifies the décor: Half unpacked. Electronic equipment and bizarre, unfinished mechanical devices litter the room. There's also a happenin' red velvet bed and a lava lamp. Warren apparently fancies himself as a swinger…While red velvet might be the nadir of dated tackiness, it does create a visual link with Buffy and Spike’s red rug and with Buffy’s red sheets from other episodes. Not that Warren and Katrina actually bother with the bed. Instead, she pushes him against the wall.
    Another parallel with Spuffy – Katrina ignores the bed in favor of a harder surface. Is this to teach Katrina that she’s not to be treated like a real girlfriend anymore? Does Warren consider this to be a kind of punishment? He certainly starts in with an emotional rant about how badly Katrina treated him.

    WARREN: I missed you so much. You never should have left me. Say it.
    Warren has crazed eyes, and with his hands on Katrina’s neck, it looks like he’s poised to choke the life out of her.
    KATRINA: (mechanically) I never should have left you, Master.
    WARREN: Tell me you love me.
    KATRINA: I love you, Master.
    We do see a brief smile of joy on Warren’s face but it’s fleeting compared to the demanding expressions he has. He’s almost like a director – forcing the actress to repeat the same lines over and over until he believes it.
    WARREN: Again.
    KATRINA: I love you, Master.
    Yes, the “Master” lines sure are similar to the Buffy and April bots, aren’t they? She’s been programmed to say the word after single f**king line, no matter what they say to her. This is a clear reference to the earlier BDSM antics of Buffy and Spike – but there is a difference according to the rules I’ve looked at online. A Master is a Dominant, but not all Dominants are Masters.

    A true Dominant/Submissive sexual relationship requires the Submissive person to guide the action and submit only when they wish and when out of the bedroom, the games are dropped for an equal relationship – the participants may even switch roles and we see this in their relationship outside of the sexual act. We see this in Spike’s programming of the Bot to treat him half the time as a submissive – he both wants to dominate Buffy and be dominated by her.

    I’m not trying to literalize the Spuffy relationship as a BDSM one – but pointing out that the psychological choices are still the same. And that’s why the issues of trust become so paramount – because Spike as a soulless vampire can’t distinguish the boundaries of sexual agency just as he can’t encompass the complex moral codes that Buffy lives by.

    In a Master/Slave relationship, there is no autonomy of choice and it is a 24/7 job. Buffy and Spike switch roles of Dom/Sub – but there is no chance at all of Warren doing any such thing. He fancies himself the Master and Katrina the Slave who will say everything that he wants to hear and assure him that he’s loved.

    Finally, Katrina must be convincing enough for Warren to be satisfied. Warren’s obsessive need to believe he is loved has been a part of the character from the start. His sexbot April was more perky than the brainwashed Katrina, but in both cases, Warren chose to believe that statements he programmed were statements of genuine affection. When he explained about April to Buffy, Warren said:
    WARREN: Oh, no, she's not a toy. I mean, I know what you're thinking, but she's more than that.
    BUFFY: I'm sure she has many exciting labor-saving attachments.
    WARREN: No, I made her to love me…I mean, she cares about what I care about, and she wants to be with me. She listens to me and supports me.I didn't make a toy. I made a girlfriend.
    Warren’s attitude – that he can MAKE a girlfriend – really puts his narcissism on display. He doesn’t want a girlfriend – he wants a mirror of himself that will tell him everything he wants to hear even if it’s not true.

    To Warren, women are the terrifying Other that he defines himself through – the more he can see them as appendages of himself – the safer he feels, the more the conqueror of the uncontrollable. He can’t make Katrina love him – but he can create the appearance that she does until he starts to believe it himself.

    And yet Warren admitted that he was ultimately dissatisfied with April because his robot was too predictable.
    What’s sad is that falling in love with Katrina may have been Warren’s one chance to gain some empathy and self-examine a bit more – but with their breakup, he’s fallen into a psychosis where he can’t feel anything for anyone.

    For the moment though, Warren indulges in his vintage role play. He says a stock phrase – one that Jackie Gleason’s character Ralph Kramden said on The Honeymooners. “I love you too, baby.” And while it’s typical of Warren to use a stock phrase from a 1950s sitcom, it’s also typical for him to follow it up with something no classic sitcom character would have said.

    WARREN: I love you too, baby. (a beat) Get on your knees.
    KATRINA: Yes, Warren.

    It takes Warren a bit to realize that she didn’t call him Master. The script says:
    He grins as she starts to kneel down in front of him -- then his eyes narrow. Wait a second...

    We see a bit more than a grin on screen although Warren’s look of ecstasy lasts less than a second. Katrina starts to repeat “Yes, Warren” but it’s then that the spell wears off. Katrina exclaims “What the f---“ because the scene changes. It’s a cute subversion of UPN’s profanity rules. Audiences might have laughed at the partial swear word. But the episode was about to get deadly serious.
    The writers do the same thing in Wrecked with Spike’s “the only thing better than…” line – which is interrupted by an outraged Buffy.

    It’s funny that Warren notices the spell wearing off when Katrina begins to personalize their relationship by calling him by his name. As she lifts her head angrily, we feel the balance of power shift as Katrina decides to play a game of Who’s the Master Now? and throw Warren out the door and across the room. Warren is either so squeamish or so cowardly that he doesn’t fight back but calls out to the others to get the dampener ready.

    We cut to Jonathan and Andrew. Their lightsaber duel is interrupted as Warren is thrown down the stairs. The lightsaber duel is a development of Jonathan and Andrew’s squabbling earlier in the episode. Now they’ve descended to complete playtime. But there’s one striking thing about their lightsabers. Jonathan and Andrew self-identify as supervillains. Andrew painted the Death Star – the technological terror of Star Wars’ bad guys – on the side of their van. So, given that they side with evil … why are their lightsabers green?
    That’s a fantastic catch, PuckRobin – I think that it’s proof Jonathan and Andrew still consider this all to be a game that they’ll give up – like a saturation point when you’ve played too many video games – and get back to real life at some future point.

    As Katrina throws her French maid hat at Warren – stripping herself of his costume – she asks the question repeated throughout the episode:

    KATRINA: What did you do to me?
    Which brings back Spike’s lines in the opening scene:

    SPIKE: The things you do – the way you make it hurt in all the wrong places.
    SPIKE: But you like what I do to you.
    With Spike, the things that Buffy and Spike do to each other are mutual. But with Warren, it’s all one way. During the rush of the Trio to get their “toy” back in working order, Warren keeps repeating his one line to Andrew and Jonathan without even responding to Katrina at all:

    WARREN: Get the Dampener!
    KATRINA: Who the hell are you?
    ANDREW: Um, your masters?
    KATRINA: My what?!
    JONATHAN: Where'd you put it?!
    ANDREW: You had it last!
    KATRINA: Are you kidding me?!
    WARREN: Get the Dampener!
    As Andrew and Jonathan scurry around looking for the dampener, Warren stands up and looks away even as Katrina looks him square in the eye with hands on hips. He can’t even face her after what he’s done and immediately tries to dehumanize her again until she’s what he wants her to be. It’s almost as if the bot went out of control and Warren has to reprogram it again.

    Katrina was shocked enough by the arrival of Buffy and April the Robot in “I Was Made To Love You”, but now she’s been kidnapped by Warren and he has some creeps? Like a cult. Even though they are now confronted with an independent, thinking Katrina – Andrew is sticking with his fantasy life.

    KATRINA: You were gonna share me with these two dorks?!
    ANDREW: Hey! We're supervillains! Call us "Master!"

    Of course, Katrina is outraged as she grasps the scope of Warren’s sick games.
    I really love your description of the Trio as a “cult” – a group of horrifyingly sick children playing with Katrina as if she’s a doll – or a sacrifice to their fanboy Gods.

    Given the circumstances, “dorks” is a pretty PG description of what the trio are. Still the term seems to bother Andrew. It probably reminds him of all the bullying taunts in high school. Andrew properly feels like it was unnecessarily cruel and he feels like a victim. Of course, in this scene, he is completely the victimizer – not the victim. Andrew tries to activate the dampener – even before Jonathan had a chance to find his protective googles. But instead of a wave of mind-control energy, only a handful of sparks issue forth from the device. “Aw crap,” says Andrew. “It’s out of juice,” Jonathan adds. I wonder what would have happened if the device had worked and both Katrina and Jonathan had been enslaved. While the Trio seems crueler to women than men,. I suspect that Warren and Andrew would have taken sadistic pleasure in forcing Jonathan to do things.
    I was actually thinking that myself when watching the episode – how far would they have gone in terms of making Jonathan their slave? Toxic masculinity is just as damaging to men as to women – if one isn’t perceived as an Alpha Male, then one can be treated just as badly. Just as Warren didn’t seem to care enough to tell the two of them that his invisibility ray gun could kill, he probably wouldn’t care what happened to them as long as he was the only Master in the room.

    KATRINA: Is that what you used on me?! Oh my god! First the skankbot and now this? What is wrong with you!
    WARREN: I just – I wanted us to be together!

    And there Warren has apparently revealed his true plan. It wasn’t about making himself master over all women – as if the Trio were somehow superior to womankind in general. No, Warren was obsessed with one woman in particular.
    Well, I imagine that it would have started that way – although I’m not sure that it would have ended there. Once Warren had conquered Katrina and gotten what he thought he wanted, it seems likely that he would have grown as tired of her as of the April bot.

    What’s amazing is that Warren would think his reasoning would make any sense to Katrina – “I just wanted us to be together!” apparently means “You would be my robot slave!” for all the togetherness it implies. Warren was the creator of the sexbot that originally drove Katrina away – and if anyone’s come back wrong from his former experiences, it’s Warren.

    KATRINA: There is no us, Warren! Get that through your big meaty head! I am not your girlfriend anymore!
    JONATHAN: She's your ex?
    ANDREW: Dude, that is messed up.

    So, capturing an anonymous woman was okay. But someone that Warren knows? That’s wrong. Probably because when Katrina was merely the anonymous “brunette”, they could rationally to themselves that maybe she was an evil person who deserved to be punished. Of course, their definition of evil might include any Stacy (the misogynists term for people who date hunky Chads instead of geeks) that wouldn’t give the Trio the time of day. Except now they know Katrina actually had dated one of them. She didn’t just hang with the popular crowd.
    That’s an incredibly insightful thought, PuckRobin! Most likely, the Trio was able to dehumanize her so easily because she seems to be so far removed from their experience. The shock of finding out that she dated Warren humanizes her to the point where Andrew and Jonathan are filled with horror at the thought that Warren had enslaved his own ex-girlfriend. And never told them what he was doing. And then Katrina really paints a pretty picture of their antics:

    KATRINA: Oh, you think? You bunch of little boys, playing at being men. Well, this is not some fantasy, it's not a game, you freaks! It's rape!
    Bravo, Katrina, for saying it out loud. It is rape. And saying this so bluntly to the Trio finally creates a moral line in the sand for the two blinded idiots – when they see things from her perspective, it looks pretty bad.

    And the penny finally seems to drop for Jonathan and Andrew. What they were doing was couched in sci-fi and magic terms – cerebral dampener. If Warren had suggested they head out to the bar, spike a woman’s drink with roofies and drag her back to their apartment to have their wat with her, then Jonathan and Andrew probably would have balked at the suggestion. Gussy it up with demon glands and shine balls, and it seemed palatable.

    JONATHAN: What?
    ANDREW: No – we didn't –

    But I thought the Trio wanted to be thought of as evil. Well, specifically they wanted to be Crime Lords or Supervillains. They didn’t want to be the creepy, little psychos who would kidnap and rape women. The icons of evil that Jonathan and Andrew looked up to were the products of a culture that stunted its artist growth at the age of children. So, Andrew and Jonathan might consider themselves supervillains. But the idea that they are rapists? That’s shocking to them.
    Yes, fantastic point. They’re only fantasizing about childish things and mediums where real life things don’t intrude – except for a few edgy comics and graphic novels, the supervillains in most classic comics and superhero movies may kill the heroes – but they don’t generally rape them.

    I wonder if Jonathan’s mind flashed back to the events of “Superstar” from the fourth season. Back then, Jonathan used magic to rewrite reality. He was no longer a sad sack loser but a cool action hero, inventor, billionaire movie star. He even lived with Nordic twins who begged him to come back to bed. When the spell faded, the twins had moved out. Back then, Jonathan couldn’t comprehend what he did. Again, he saw himself as the victim – people stopped like him. He couldn’t accept he used spellcraft to influence two sisters into doing whatever with him. I wonder when the twins left what they actually said to Jonathan. Perhaps they were still too confused by the lingering effects of the spell to express it as clearly as Katrina does here.
    I’m guessing that they probably didn’t remember the spell – or what they did with Jonathan at all – because the aftereffects of the spell seemed to cause a general amnesia. Otherwise, why doesn’t Jonathan remember that Spike is chipped in Smashed when he comes to them? So it’s possible that Jonathan doesn’t remember the two sisters at all.

    Katrina continues – directly most of her anger at Warren.

    KATRINA: You're all sick. And I'm going to make sure you get locked up for this. And then we'll see how you like getting raped.
    I understand Katrina’s anger and desire for revenge, but that line is kinda sad. There’s a tendency to make fun of men who are raped in prison – but it’s not funny at all to them. But the threat to their very existence is real – the point is that they’re most likely going to get what’s coming to them – tit for rapey tat – and this sets them into action. Warren looks at his two cohorts to see how they’re reacting – but when he sees disapproval on their faces, he switches from a look of fear to one of nonchalance.

    After that last remark Katrina turns to leave. Warren issues a command to his allies --- “Stop her!” And they comply. Or try to. Warren isn’t much farther from Katrina himself. But he has the others do his dirty work. At least at first. Maybe Warren knew what was coming. She elbows Andrew in the face and knees Jonathan in the crotch. The last we saw of Katrina in her original appearance in “I Was Made To Love You” was running away, horrified by Warren’s sex robot (which had just attacked her). “Get the hell away from me!”
    As Katrina angrily yells at Jonathan and Andrew, Warren stands behind her with a smirk on his face and his hands in his pockets as he barks out “stop her” in an authoritative voice. Katrina does a pretty good Buffy impression as she fights off both Jonathan and Andrew and races up the stairs.

    Warren had chased after her saying things like “No, wait!” Now Warren chases Katrina up the stairs. This time, Katrina fights back. She claws Warren in the face, leaving bloody marks. Earlier in the episode, Spike had praised Buffy’s animalistic side. What Katrina does to Warren is sheer survival instinct.
    Yes – and this is once again a travesty of the Spuffy relationship as Warren and Katrina battle for supremacy on the stairway – she’s almost out of their “hole in the ground” – struggling to leave this lair of dead things when Warren stops her for good and makes her one of them.

    Warren grabs the champagne bottle and brings it down hard on Katrina’s head. No sci-fi gizmos or magic tricks this time. The mundane nature of the violence is one of the most shocking things in the history of the show. This time, the death isn’t magical or metaphorical or even that melodramatic. It’s a moment that the viewers could encounter in their own lives.
    It’s a shocking moment because it’s so real – it happens every day. And I think this is where the Buffyverse reaches its real moral event horizon for Warren – as he told Spike, “There’s no coming back from that.” A person who cared so much about an action figure has now killed a human being.

    There is a brief pause and Warren back away. For a fleeting moment, we can see the horror of the deed on his face. But Warren quickly composes himself. He seems to want to return to his plan A. Telling his friends to charge the cerebral dampener. Jonathan and Andrew are overwhelmed by the sight of Katrina’s limp body. This is not the fun comic book romp they had signed up for. They are brought down from their fantasy daydreams to a very stark reality.
    At first, Warren tries to pretend that it isn’t a body at all – it’s still Katrina and she can be controlled through their toy:

    Jonathan speaks Warren’s name. But Warren has retreated into the denial of fantasy. Warren wipes one detail of reality – the blood on his face – off.
    Fantastic catch, PuckRobin – Warren wiping the blood off his face is the equivalent of Buffy hiding her hands under the table when she’s talking to Tara about Spike. And it’s notable that once again, Warren repeats the same phrase:

    WARREN: Charge the Cerebral Dampener.
    JONATHAN: Warren –
    WARREN: Charge the Dampener! Andrew – get her up. We'll give her another dose. A strong one. Everything's all right. Everything's – gonna be all right.
    Jonathan refuses to charge the Dampener or near the body. He shakes his head as Andrew steps forwards at Warren’s command and goes to the unmoving Katrina.

    Warren got lucky once before. In “I Was Made To Love You” his “skank-bot” April crushed Katrina and knocked her unconscious. Buffy had felt Katrina’s neck and declared she was still alive. In the older episode, Katrina’s injuries had sounded back (we heard cracking as April crushed Katrina) but it was still largely PG bloodless. Not this time. We see the blood on Andrew’s hand. He tells them the grim news.

    ANDREW: I don’t think so. She’s dead.

    Jonathan takes it. He inhales. Jonathan turns to look at Warren. As if he’d be able to provide more guidance and leadership. The act ends with Warren’s Adam’s apple pulsating as he mentally processes the situation. And that’s what it seems to be to him, a situation – not something he is personally responsible for.
    And it blows away the fantastical world that they’ve created below the real world – her dead body invades their subterranean space in a real, living way that they can’t handle and turns their evil lair into an actual tomb for the dead. And just as in The Body, the first thing they have to do to remove the contamination is to remove the body.

    Marvelous review, PuckRobin! I’m really enjoying going over it. More tomorrow!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 12-09-18 at 09:26 AM.

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    Hi Everyone

    Just a quick update on what is happening with the rewatch at the moment. StateofSiege is poised with the Normal Again review now. But with both Aurora and I posting on past episodes still, it felt fairer to them to get some of those posts down before NA and so overlap/disrupt the flow a little less. So I'll post my prepared response to the Hell's Bells review on Friday, after Aurora has completed looking at Dead Things. NA will then go up on Sunday and we should return to the fortnightly timings. Any remaining overlapping will continue, but it will be reduced somewhat this way. In the meantime, I jotted down just a couple of responses from reading Aurora's recent DT posts.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    And we’ve returned again to the idea that Buffy submitting sexually to Spike in sex play is somehow proof that she’s “come back wrong” because good girls don’t do that – and Slayers definitely don’t do that. Buffy seems to already assume that Tara will come to the conclusion that there’s something wrong with her – and her constant rubbing of her wrists is an unconscious reminder of her guilt and shame. It’s funny – but it’s also disturbing that Buffy is beating herself up in this way.
    I completely agree Aurora that Buffy's concern over certain aspects of her sex-life with Spike is uncalled for. I think I raised in the Smashed review that there is some extent to which the mutual violence is simply unhealthy. It is easy to see that the malicious verbal barbs are abusive and they are both guilty of that. But it is harder to draw the lines on when/where it is unhealthy in the physical violence, especially for a Slayer and vampire. There's a level of brutality where if it is about unrestrained violence or causing pain regardless of how the other person feels that I'd say it could be 'too much' and the beating in this episode I'd include in that, but what we are clearly shown very repeatedly is that they are consenting adults that do seem to enjoy the physicality of their relationship and that isn't wrong in and of itself. There are issues of dubious consent, as we have been identifying, which will obviously feed negatively into the relationship. Although I think the attempted rape is deliberately made distinct in tone in several ways to the previous occasions that raised issues of consent (no doubt something you will lead us in exploring soon enough!).

    But this repeated sense that Buffy feels someone 'good' wouldn't enjoy what she does is a social perception put on her/that she is putting on herself which feels arbitrary and unfairly judgmental (and possibly even sexist unless the woman is perceived to be wild and wanton in character, like Faith ). As PuckRobin says, this judgment of what is 'correct' sex seems reiterated with Faith being deeply affected by loving sex with Riley. But that sits against how the text greatly suggests that Buffy should move on and get over Riley's step into kink despite it being a betrayal of their relationship and one that could put others at risk.

    As you later say, the exploration of the dom/sub aspect of their relationship isn't out of character for either, or there to be edgy. One of the most complicated aspects of their relationship is that genuine draw between them. How Buffy feels and how she processes what she is going through against the relationship and within the context of her depression and self-punishment is tied up with how she perceives she should behave. And yes, in the context of this episode it compares against The Trio and especially Warren, where the removal of agency is a significant difference seen against Buffy's free choice in what she does with Spike, which is part of what the episode very deliberately reveals too.

    Again, the major difference here is that Spike doesn’t want to directly take agency away from Buffy – yet. He’s aghast when she suggests this in Entropy and Seeing Red because he feels that no matter how evil he becomes, he doesn’t hurt her. Warren is using the same kind of justification in his mind for what he’s doing to Katrina – he’s not really going to hurt her – he’s simply showing her what she should be. His sex slave.

    The problem with all this parallelism is – Spike doesn’t have a soul – but Warren does.
    Yes Spike doesn't do it deliberately, but he is unable to keep his promise. Without a soul he can't reliably see the lines that both he and Warren step over. Warren seems to make the choice with full awareness of what he is doing though. The shock that Jonathan and Andrew show later at Katrina's accusations isn't how Warren reacts. So we have the valid question whether a souled human that chooses to act this way is 'worse' than the unsouled vampire that didn't see the boundaries. Yes I think (which doesn't take away the bad from Spike's mistakes, I hasten to say). But it prompts us to question the mental balance of the human that is souled and chooses these actions. As we've no doubt mooted before, it seems likely that Warren would classify as a sociopath or psychopath.

    Buffy's use of Spike, which as you say can be seen against Warren's dehumanising of Katrina, isn't with his agency removed and she in part, imo, ends it because of her own behaviour in the relationship. This draws that distinction of moral capacity between her and Spike too, as he would never have walked away from what they had, no matter how abusive.

    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    I’m not trying to literalize the Spuffy relationship as a BDSM one – but pointing out that the psychological choices are still the same. And that’s why the issues of trust become so paramount – because Spike as a soulless vampire can’t distinguish the boundaries of sexual agency just as he can’t encompass the complex moral codes that Buffy lives by.
    Agreed.

    I really liked your description earlier of how the piece from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty ballet that Dawn and Xander are dancing to plays against the contrast. Katrina is very much the unconscious female, prone to the male's desire and utterly without any part to play in his choice to awaken her. Whereas Buffy and Spike actively engage in switching the sub/dom roles. Your continuation of this to consider how both Spike and Buffy desire to feel alive and when they both risk their lives to fight to awaken at the series end, they do so separately before they then come back together is great.

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    Hey, PuckRobin!

    Here’s yet another response to your wonderfully detailed review of Dead Things.

    In many ways, the most interesting about Dead Things is how misunderstood the episode is – I’ve read dozens of reviews and commentaries and a lot of them focus on the grimdark aspect to the exclusion of all else – Buffy’s depression or the Trio’s killing of Katrina or the Spuffy sex scenes and many complain that the episode is out-of-character for Buffy and her balcony scene with Spike in particular is psychologically abusive and degrading.

    It’s surprising to me since I think Dead Things is the turning point of Season Six, both in Buffy’s narrative arc and in the Spuffy relationship because the episode is fundamentally about moral culpability and how that relates to power – which is also the main focus of Seasons Six and Seven.

    I’d just like to pause for a moment to consider the complicity of Andrew and Jonathan…there were many chances when Jonathan and Andrew could have done something different. And Jonathan eventually does make a moral choice in “Seeing Red”. But there’s a big opportunity here that both Jonathan and Andrew missed. Katrina had told them they were rapists. The morality of the situation had been made plain. But when Warren ordered them to stop Katrina from leaving, they complied. They grabbed her. They didn’t have to. Maybe if they hadn’t, Katrina would have made it to the exit and freedom. They had a moral choice to make. They chose wrong, and someone was murdered.
    Yes, PuckRobin I think you’ve touched upon the major point of Dead Things that that starts to come into focus at this moment. It’s all about moral culpability – or lack of it. Those who remove themselves from any accountability for moral actions are little more than dead things – they have eyes, but they do not see, they have ears, but they do not hear, they have minds, but they do not think, they have hearts, but they do not feel. They have shut themselves off from human (and perhaps even demon) community because they refuse to fully participate in it as a being with agency and ethical autonomy.

    The second act begins on Andrew’s face. He’s sobbing uncontrollably repeating “Oh god” over and over. Warren more clinically checks Katrina’s neck. Warren doesn’t seem to flinch as he touches Katrina’s body. Andrew finds the intrusion of the physical into his fantasy life sickening. The blood on his hands makes the death real. It’s also probable that Andrew can see things from his vantage point that we gentle viewers have been spared, like the actual state of Katrina’s head wound. Jonathan tries unsuccessfully to enter a state of denial. “This isn’t happening.” He insists. He is horrified by the moral implications of their … rape … and now murder. They are morally compromised. And Jonathan wants the weighty moral murder to just … disappear. As we discussed in “Gone”, it’s easier to commit an immoral act when you don’t have to look at yourself.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree. The ways in which the Trio try to pretend that it’s no big deal that there’s a dead woman on their basement stairway with her blood still fresh on Andrew’s hands is shocking – and it’s even worse when they allow Warren to take command without protest considering what he’s just done.

    Warren was always the ringleader of the Trio – he came up with the idea to take over Sunnydale and enlisted Jonathan and Andrew as his co-conspirators. He seems to keep Andrew enthralled by playing upon his obvious Warren-crush – and he plays upon Jonathan’s self-loathing and his need to be something more than he is. And there’s a sense that the two of them feel they’re equal partners with Warren in this venture even as Warren looks down on them and plays them against each other.

    DEMON: Which of you is the leader?
    ANDREW/JONATHAN/WARREN: (unison) I am.
    DEMON: I will kill the leader.
    ANDREW/JONATHAN/WARREN: (unison, pointing at each other) He is.
    DEMON: I will kill you all.
    JONATHAN: Wait! Uh! No fair! (Flooded)
    We’ve seen Warren take the Dominant part again and again throughout their attempts to defy Buffy and live out a fantasy of super-villain cartoon excess. He constantly insults and mocks them - but Jonathan and Andrew were still happy to participate as long as things stayed within a certain range of activity that caused discomfort to their victims – but not permanent damage. Stealing money and diamonds – okay. Freezing museum guard – cool. Tormenting Buffy with time distortion – awesome. Spying on naked women with an invisibility gun – hot.

    But when Warren admits that the invisibility will eventually dissolve Buffy into pudding, Jonathan and Andrew fight back. Killing Buffy – bad. We saw pushback of two against one as they each asserted their authority as a third of the gang and demanded that Buffy be spared not once, but twice. And each time, Warren goes behind their back and makes moral decisions for the three of them – giving the demon Buffy’s home address, setting the gun to disintegrate her. But his two cohorts only realize Warren’s making decisions for all three of them when Willow notices Warren’s setting and they protest against his co-opting their individual autonomy:

    INVISIBLE WARREN: There's three of us, against just one of you.
    INVISIBLE JONATHAN: Hey, you lied to us!
    INVISIBLE ANDREW: Fight her yourself!
    INVISIBLE WARREN: Think she cares about that? I go down, we all go down! (Gone)
    Warren’s assumption that his actions reflect on all three men shows that he regards himself as the Master/Dominant in the Trio.

    WARREN: The Force can sometimes have great power on the weak-minded. (Flooded)
    So when Jonathan attacks him physically, Warren refuses to take individual responsibility. Jonathan poses nearly the same question to Warren as Katrina:

    KATRINA: What did you do to me?
    --
    JONATHAN: What did you do? What the hell did you do?
    Which brings back Spike’s lines to Buffy in the opening scene:

    SPIKE: The things you do – the way you make it hurt in all the wrong places.
    SPIKE: But you like what I do to you.
    And Tara’s words to Buffy when she fears Willow’s done something wrong again:

    TARA: I knew this was gonna happen. What did Willow do now? Did she hurt anyone?
    And Katrina’s first words to Warren before he turns her into a Katrina bot:

    KATRINA: What the hell are you doing here?
    The idea of moral agency is posed over and over again in Dead Things.

    And the question of Warren’s actions – his ethical agency – is deflected back on a protesting Jonathan and a weeping Andrew who try to pin it all on Warren. But as a team, Warren feels it’s not important what he did individually to stop Katrina – the sex slave idea was initially agreed upon by all of them:

    JONATHAN: What are we gonna do about Buffy? You know sooner or later, the Slayer's gotta come after us.
    ANDREW: Bring her on.
    WARREN: We could, uh, we could hypnotize her.
    ANDREW: Make her our willing sex bunny.
    JONATHAN: I'm putting that on the list! (Flooded)
    By acquiescing to the insane scheme to make a women their sex slave – by allowing Warren to make decisions for both of them by choosing Katrina and trying to enslave her – Warren claims they’re all equally culpable for her death.

    WARREN: We did this. Me and Andrew and you. It's on all of us.
    And he turns to Andrew rocking back and forth near Katrina’s dead body, mouthing “Oh, God” over and over:

    WARREN: Shut up!
    It’s telling that both Andrew and Jonathan obey Warren despite their own misgivings – as Warren starts to bark orders, they both fall into line. Allowing Warren to make the decisions from this point on diminishes their own responsibility – allowing him to slowly downplay the enormity of what just happened allows them to excuse away their own culpability in her death.

    WARREN: We have to get rid of – We have to get rid of it.
    JONATHAN: How?
    WARREN: Maybe a spell. Can you teleport it out of here?

    Notice – not her. Warren calls Katrina an “it”. This calls to mind the most famous human death in all of Buffy, Joyce’s death in “The Body”.
    Yes, PuckRobin and this harkens back to the question – is something alive or dead or never alive. Katrina is initially introduced in the restaurant as a living, breathing ex-girlfriend of Warren’s only to be transformed into a passive Submissive stance as a sex slave bot who seemingly was never alive to living woman again to a dead corpse polluting the Trio’s lair to a living human woman accidentally murdered by Buffy to a dead thing that will implicate Buffy unless thrown under the water to a homicide victim suspected of suicide and given a name once again that identifiers her as an ex-girlfriend of Warren’s. The multiple realities of Katrina shift and transform from alive to dead to alive to dead depending upon point of view.

    Warren introduced Katrina to Andrew and Jonathan as the Katrina bot who would be their slave and call them Master – now he’s encouraging them to see her as a dead thing to be discarded somehow through the subtle change of pronoun. And it works – Jonathan slowly adopts Warren’s terminology.

    Jonathan starts by calling Katrina a she. He then corrects himself to Warren’s term.

    JONATHAN: No, she's -- It's too big.

    When Jonathan said “she”, he was looking at Katrina. When he switches to “it”, he looks down and away. Jonathan had wanted to deny what had happened – to make it go away. So, Warren asked him to just make Katrina vanish. Andrew is focused on the physicality of Katrina. And Warren tailors his request to that. Devouring – the most physical tangible way to dispose of something.
    Love this reading of what Warren is doing, PuckRobin! He’s playing upon the immediate fears of the other two and literalizing their internal angst.

    WARREN: Andrew!
    ANDREW: What?
    WARREN: Is there any ... thing that you can, uh, summon, something that... (winces, wipes his mouth) something that can devour that much?
    ANDREW: Maybe a Jarvlen Flesh Eater, but ... they're hard to control. It'd go for us, too.
    What’s amazing is that in almost any other show, this dialogue would be preposterous. Warren’s just killed his ex-girlfriend and they’re talking about Jarvlen Flesh Eaters devouring her body. “Flesh Eater” is just another name for a cannibal in mythology, which makes for an odd link with vampires. Looking at the Buffy wiki, the entry did make me laugh: “Jarvlen Flesh Eaters were a species of disorderly, yet tameable demons” which makes them sound like an entry in an Initiative guide to demons – right next to the chipped vampires.

    But what it does show is how quickly transgressive acts can compound themselves – once murder is committed, even more heinous acts like cannibalism are considered in order to escape the original act. Warren asking Jonathan to transport the body elsewhere is one thing – to ask Andrew to conjure a demon to devour his ex-girlfriend is a major violation of taboo and shows not only how eager he is to get rid of any evidence of his crime, but his desire to totally eradicate any trace of the body – to remove it as if it never existed at all. Ex-girlfriend. As in former girlfriend. As in formerly alive. And Jonathan freaks out.

    WARREN: We just have to stay calm.
    JONATHAN: Tell that to your girlfriend!
    WARREN: Ex girlfriend.
    JONATHAN: It doesn’t matter. There’s a link. You knew her, so there’s a link.
    Jonathan doubts Warren’s judgment at the moment, considering he’s just lost control by bashing Katrina’s skull in and breaking her neck – a decidedly non-calm act.

    ANDREW: It was an accident. Maybe if we turn ourselves in-
    WARREN: No.
    JONATHAN: He's right. If we go to the police now-
    WARREN: I'm not going to jail.
    JONATHAN: We can't hide this! Sooner or later, the Slayer's gonna find out she's dead.
    WARREN: Well, then maybe it should be sooner.
    JONATHAN: Are you insane?
    It’s interesting that Jonathan doesn’t seem to be as terrified of the cops as Buffy. He refers to “She’ll figure it out.” It’s as if Jonathan is as afraid of Buffy’s moral judgment more than simply being caught. Andrew insists it was an accident and that they should turn themselves in. Jonathan agrees with the suggestion. But Warren is insistent. “I am not going to jail!” Warren is focused on jail. But Jonathan is still thinking about Buffy.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I agree. Whereas Warren primarily seems concerned with the human world of police and jails, Jonathan’s certain that it’s only a matter of time before the Fiery Sword of Judgment comes upon them as personified by Buffy. Andrew’s reaction is much closer to Buffy herself when she believes she’s killed Katrina – he suggests that they turn themselves in and take responsibility for their crimes – it was an accident, after all. But is it that simple? By kidnapping Katrina and placing her in such a precarious situation, isn’t this more than just manslaughter. Warren didn’t kill Katrina in a fit of passion – he killed her so that she wouldn’t turn them into the police.

    And then, Warren gets an idea. The perfect little intellectual solution to their puzzle. “Then maybe it should be sooner,” Warren responds. Jonathan asks if Warren is insane. And the look on Warren’s face as he repeatedly tells them to listen should answer the question. The Trio could have just done what Spike did – dump the body in the river. But they aren’t just worried about the town’s “deeply stupid” police. Buffy is smarter. The ideal solution – even if we don’t hear Warren vocalize it yet – is to make Buffy herself feel responsible for Katrina’s death.
    Which of course ends up being the dumbest thing they could do because Buffy ends up learning who Katrina is. Did it never occur to any of them that once Buffy learns of her identity, she’d immediately suspect Warren and the Trio had a hand in it? Of course, Jonathan and Andrew have no idea that Buffy knows who she is, so it makes sense that they’d think it was a good idea. But how does that explain Warren’s stupidity? It must be his overweening ego – Warren thinks he’s so clever that Buffy can never figure out his crappy plan.

    But the major take from this scene is that the three men are pushing all responsibility for their crime onto Buffy – they’re literally setting her up to take the “fall” for Katrina’s death of a broken neck.

    WARREN: Listen! We have two problems. The Body and the Slayer. Well, what if there was a way that we could take care of them both – with one big stone.
    Warren’s reference to “killing two birds with one stone” stems from Greek Mythology in which the captive inventor Daedalus throws stones at birds to acquire feathers to build artificial wings to escape – with one throw, he strikes one bird and it ricochets to hit yet another, killing both. Daedalus and his son Icarus escape, but his son flies too close to the sun (despite being warned) and his wings fall apart as he plunges into the sea to die, a fitting revenge for the death of the birds and their hubris in attempting to fly.

    Warren’s description of Katrina’s dead body and Buffy’s living body as nothing more than “problems” to be taken care of is chilling and foreshadows his almost fatal attempt on Buffy’s life later on.

    And we hear a voiceover from Willow. “What are they doing?”
    And there’s that phrase again that resounds throughout the episode – the question that forces the listener to examine their own actions. Does anyone listen?

    Xander and Anya certainly aren’t listening to Willow – they’re dancing their hearts out to Willow’s obvious dismay. The viewer would have already seen Xander and Anya getting in the swing of things in Once More With Feeling – but this is the first time that Willow’s ever seen it.

    What has Willow in such a tizzy was the Swing Revival in the late 90s and early 2000s that swept through the US for a brief time – people dressed up like it was 1942 and retro swing bands were everywhere. The movie Swingers was a hit in 1996 and even the Superbowl featured a halftime show in 1999 that had a Swing moment. So it was inevitable that the Bronze would get a Swing band or two – although it’s still surprising to hear the ten piece swing band Red & the Red Hots with its six horn players playing Cab Calloway’s classic 1940 piece “Boo wah boo wah.”

    But why the swing music in The Bronze of all places just before the infamous Balcony Scene? There’s certainly a musical shift between the two scenes – the giddy swing beat shifts to an ominous horror movie soundtrack in which the music practically screams “Bad Things are Happening!” as Spike stands appears behind Buffy. It’s obviously linked to the first time we see Buffy interacting with the Scoobies – but there the dance we saw was between Xander and Dawn - a waltz to Tchaikovsky which elicited an equally horrified reaction from Buffy.

    Linking the Scoobies to various forms of dance is fairly clever – the movement of bodies in time are anything but dead things – they’re vibrantly alive in a way that Buffy can only dream of now. And it could be that the old-fashioned innocence of the waltz is representative of a former, gentler, romantic world that Buffy sees only from a distance. The Swing sound with its sultry saxophone, the blaring horns, the rhythm section, the piano solo – all bring back memories of America between the Great Depression and World War II in which Swing was an escape from the dismal reality of high unemployment, misery and hopelessness that pervaded the country. As a cheerful celebration of “now”, the exuberance of Swing represents a counterbalance to Buffy’s grim state of mind – like the overly-happy greeting of DoubleMeat Palace workers, Swing music is designed to keep things in an artificial state of high spirits – its liveliness and energy a contrast to Buffy’s disconnect from life.

    Willow is freaked out at the possibility she needs to do that at the wedding. She’s carrying over her rejection of song and dance from “Once More With Feeling”. Look at Xander in that last picture. He’s doing jazz hands. The very thing Willow described as a “wacky, Broadway nightmare.”
    And we see the bodies dancing – the opposite of Katrina’s still corpse – as Willow and Buffy glumly watches from the sidelines. Xander swings Anya around, his silliness contagious as Willow makes a face.

    WILLOW: We're not going to have to do that at the wedding, are we? 'Cause there's this last thread of dignity I've been desperately clinging to.
    The phrase “desperately clinging” must make Buffy think about Tara’s concerns for Willow, and prompts her to ask how Willow is doing. Buffy apologizes for not being around.
    Love that, PuckRobin!

    There’s a weird sense of separation between Buffy and Willow in this scene that follows hard on the Trio dealing with Katrina’s death – like them, the two women are still grappling with things that they’ve done ever since that fateful night in Smashed. Willow, of course, is trying to wean herself from overusing magic to solve her problems – and Buffy is still concealing her sexual relationship with Spike. As Buffy notices Willow’s mention of a “thread of dignity” that she’s desperately clinging to, Buffy must think about herself with regards to Spike and felt intense guilt.

    But there’s also her meeting with Tara earlier in the day in which Tara immediately assumed that something was wrong with Willow – only to find that it was Buffy who was the problem at hand. I agree that Buffy’s memory of Tara’s concern is what makes her check up on her best friend – but what’s even more revealing is the way that Buffy says it:

    BUFFY: You're still doing okay, right?
    The fact that Buffy even has to ask this shows how little time she’s been spending with her friends. She’s been avoiding dealing with Willow’s problems just as she’s been neglecting Dawn in favor of wild sex in her favorite hole in the ground. Willow looks a bit wigged out at the blunt question and answers honestly, but exhaustively:

    WILLOW: Yeah. You know. Some days are harder than the really hard days. It's easier like this, though, when I'm not alone.
    BUFFY: I'm sorry I haven't been around that much.
    WILLOW: No, that's not – it's okay. We know you've been all tied up.
    BUFFY: What?
    WILLOW: With your job, and the slaying.
    A look of fear crosses Buffy’s face – like her sojourn in heaven, the important thing is that her friends never know about Spike. But as Willow continues to chat on, revealing that she suspects nothing, Buffy relaxes.

    Buffy is thinking back to her apparent bondage games with Spike. Even Buffy’s choice of wardrobe hints towards it. Spike dresses in black leather, and Buffy has a leather cord necklace on. The material and colour match Spike. And while it is just a standard 1990s accessory, the shape has a slight visual resemblance to a collar or choker necklace.
    Great visual reference, PuckRobin! Is Buffy dressing for Spike? Or is it an unconscious choice that feels right to her? The purity of her white shirt matched with the black leather necklace that gives a hint of a collar. The parallel between Katrina’s French Maid outfit and Buffy’s fetish wear makes it clear that the sexual Dominant/Submissive and Master/Slave scenarios are somewhat dependent upon roleplay – as are codes of language (“Master”) and action.

    Xander and Anya come over to the table, still jumping around as if the music has bewitched them and we get a series of dance terms that are unwittingly sexual in nature:

    XANDER: Hey, I see sitting where there should be dancing.
    ANYA: Come share in the joy of our groove thang.
    WILLOW: And despite that, I succumb to the beat.
    “Groove Thang” is an old jazz expression referring to a “groove” in the body below – either front or back – that rubs against another person while dancing. “Shaking the groove thang” is a dance phrase that’s really a euphemism for sex.

    Succumb, of course, means to yield to a superior force:

    COME ON BOY
    COME ON GIRL
    SUCCUMB TO THE BEAT SURRENDER
    ALL THE THINGS THAT I CARE ABOUT
    ARE PACKED INTO ONE PUNCH
    ALL THE THINGS THAT I'M NOT SURE ABOUT
    ARE SORTED OUT AT ONCE (“Beat Surrender” by The Jam, 1982)
    Dancing as a metaphor for sex and a power struggle – where have I seen that before?

    The joy between Xander and Anya is infectious and Willow finally smiles broadly as she gets up and glances over at Buffy.

    BUFFY: I think I'll catch the next Soul Train out.

    She’s referring to the 1971 – 2006 music and dancing program that promised “the hippest trip in America”. Buffy flashes Xander a smile that’s as fake as the one she offered at the Doublemeat Palace. Now her friends are getting her happy, corporate shill look.
    All the hilarity of mouthing old phrases from every era of music finally wears thin as Anya and Willow take the dance floor together. Xander remains standing in front of Buffy, looking a bit concerned.

    XANDER: You sure?
    BUFFY: Oh, yeah, you know, glass all the way empty. More nectar required.
    As Buffy holds up the glass, Xander doesn’t look very convinced.

    Of course, Buffy is referring to that classic distinction between optimists and pessimists. Optimists are supposed to look upon the half-filled cup of life as half-full. Pessimists are supposed to look at life as half-empty. And some of us look at people who use such phony “up with people” morality with deep suspicion. Buffy’s full empty glass is a joking reference to her depression. It’s also a good excuse to ditch her friends.
    Great catch, PuckRobin! Love the glass reference which perfectly encapsulates Buffy’s depression.

    XANDER: Cool, well, shimmy on out when you're done lubricating.
    And there’s yet another sexual innuendo dropped as Xander heads back to the dance floor with Anya and Willow. Buffy watches them dance for a moment as her smile fades.

    She heads to the bar, but instead of getting more frosty nectar, she leaves her drink there. Maybe her "Nectar of the Working Man" has that funny crime taste. Instead of returning to her friends, Buffy climbs the stairs to the balcony of the Bronze. Something, or someone, seems to be calling to her. It’s not the first time she’s climbed those steps. In the very first episode “Welcome to the Hellmouth” Buffy left her friend Willow to head up to the balcony. The reason? She spotted an older man lurking above – a man who wanted to draw her away from the concerns of the normal world into a world of shadows and danger. That man was Rupert Giles…In some ways the Scooby Gang was formed because Buffy was hanging out on that balcony. It was through the Scoobies that Buffy was able to hold her life in balance. Friends attached to the normal world, who were also involved in her slaying adventures.
    Great callback, PuckRobin! The balcony of the Bronze is where Buffy left Willow in the very first episode and met Giles lurking above. He even tells Buffy to look below them at the dancers who are so very unaware that they’re living on a Hellmouth:

    Giles: Look at them, throwing themselves about, completely unaware of the danger that surrounds them. (Welcome to the Hellmouth)
    And Buffy sees the danger as Willow leaves with an obvious vampire – standing far from the crowd allows her to see things that others aren’t able to see. But whereas in Welcome to the Hellmouth, that ability is used to bring bad guys into the light, this time it’s the opposite.

    But by the time of “Dead Things” Buffy’s outlook had changed. The episode’s script says:

    She wanders to the center of the balcony, shrouded in shadows. She looks down at her friends enjoying life, unable to feel a part of it.

    Now Buffy is joined by a different kind of older man -- one that also wants to pull her away from the normal world.
    And we have the infamous Balcony Scene which has launched a thousand erotic fics from Spuffy fans and eye-rolling laughter from critics and even sounds of alarm from the cast and crew that included Sarah Michelle Gellar herself – who felt so strongly that there was far too much weird sex in the show by this point that it prompted a meetup with the writers as to where in the f**k they were going with this season.

    And one could see the scene as ludicrous – Spike suddenly appearing behind Buffy to menacing music like the Emperor Palpatine and whispering creepy nothings in her ear as he does something sexual to her – no one’s quite been able to figure out what it is exactly – while the Scoobies dance innocently below. It’s almost a parody of “evil” sex – a less extreme version of Faith’s scene with Xander in Consequences where Faith plays the Dominant to the point of homicide:

    FAITH: I know what this is all about. You just came by here 'cause you want another taste, don't you?
    XANDER: No! I mean, it was nice. It was great. It was kind of a blur. But, okay, some day, sure, yay, but not now. Not like this.
    FAITH: More like how then? Lights on or off? Kinks or vanilla?
    XANDER: Faith, come on. I came here to help you. I thought we had a connection.
    Faith throws him on the bed and crawls on top of him.
    FAITH: You wanna feel a connection? It's just skin. I see. I want. I take. I forget.
    XANDER: No. No, wait. It was more than that.
    FAITH: I could do anything to you right now, and you want me to. I can make you scream. I could make you die.
    Faith puts her hand around his neck and squeezes hard until Xander almost loses consciousness. (Consequences)
    The difference between this twisted sex and the Balcony Scene, of course, is that Xander decidedly does NOT want sex from Faith and actively tries to talk Faith out of it even when she tries to turn him on. There is a massive power imbalance between Xander and Faith – he couldn’t stop her even if he wanted to.

    But with Buffy and Spike as vampire and slayer are equally matched – neither can easily overpower the other as we’ve seen from Smashed. Yet Buffy says barely anything in their scene – just a whispered “Don’t” that is opposed by Spike’s “Stop me” before they both engage in sexual activity.

    Certainly on other occasions she’s been more of the aggressor. They both brought the house down in “Smashed”. Even in her dream sequence later this episode, she is the one who has Spike in handcuffs.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I agree and I guess there’s a possibility that chipless Spike has physically or psychologically beaten down Buffy to such an extent that she gives in to his aggression – but we’ve just heard the two of them fighting it out the night before, destroying most of Spike’s crypt and ending up under the rug without either being a clear victor. Spike’s lines seem to imply that Spike wasn’t just having his way with her – Buffy herself was doing an awful lot of the having:

    SPIKE: You were amazing.
    BUFFY: You got the job done yourself.
    SPIKE: I was just trying to keep up. The things you do – the way you make it hurt in all the wrong places. I've never been with such an animal.
    The script very carefully lets us know from the beginning that Spike isn’t physically abusing a helpless Buffy – he’s just trying to keep up with her and even points out her bite marks. Hardly the actions of a beaten down, broken woman who’s being physically bullied by a bad guy.

    So what is going on here? Why the mysterious appearance of Spike? Why doesn’t Buffy just push him away or make fun of him? Why does this scene come right after the horrific death of Katrina? Are we just supposed to see Spike as another Warren using a defenseless, brainwashed Buffy like a Katrina bot, having his way with her as her friends dance below? What is the purpose of this scene?

    One could be crass and say it was to bump up ratings for the new network and there’s probably a little of that going on here –the writers were able to get a lot more graphic and openly sexual than on the WB network. But the script writer Stephen DeKnight states that Whedon himself had carefully planned out the balcony scene almost a year before as part of Buffy’s progression after being resurrected – and it was only by chance that the scene – and Katrina’s death – ended up in his episode because of Whedon’s constant changes to the plotline of Season Six as it developed.

    So what gives here? Why is this happening? What did Whedon intend the scene to convey?

    To figure this out, we have to go over the progression of the Buffy/Spike relationship after their first violent night in Smashed where both seem to be equally brutal with each other. We see Buffy unable to process the sex with Spike and try to keep it contained to that “one time” – but when she’s invisible and feels free of all rules and responsibilities in Gone, she walks into Spike’s crypt and tears his clothes off. She even physically teases Spike after Xander makes an appearance without revealing herself, which upsets Spike enough to throw her out despite an attempt to arouse him again.

    In DoubleMeat Palace, Buffy meets Spike behind the building for a quick screw against the wall, seemingly willing him to make her feel something. But whatever Buffy is looking for in sex with Spike, it’s obviously not working.

    When we get a glimpse of their sex again at the beginning of Dead Things, Buffy is as physically violent with Spike as in Smashed, obviously trying to drown out her troubles with pure sensation. She’s biting, him scratching him, rolling around on the floor with him – but she doesn’t even show much satisfaction afterwards as opposed to Spike, who is thrilled by their lovemaking.

    What Buffy wants is escape from a world that is too “hard and bright and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch – this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that – knowing what I've lost.” In her desperate attempt to retreat from the world, she tries to delegate all responsibility to Giles – taking care of her finances, taking care of Dawn, taking care of her own future – and he decides that the only way to pull Buffy back to this world is to leave Sunnydale. But his hopes that his departure will force Buffy to become more self-reliant backfires – Buffy immediately turns to Spike on the eve of his departure and starts to become more and more reliant on her vampire lover as events overtake her. But she draws the line at admitting any kind of feeling for him – he’s simply convenient as an escape value from the responsibilities of the world that are crushing her.

    One imagines that this is fairly frustrating for Spike – who is in love with Buffy and desperately wants to please her in every way possible so that she’ll eventually let her guard down and love him back. We’ve already seen his masochistic tendencies in Intervention – his desire to have Buffy nearly stake him before admitting that she’s in thrall to his sinister attraction.

    SPIKE: Is that your best, Slayer?
    BUFFYBOT: No.
    SPIKE: Why not?
    BUFFYBOT: I wanna hurt you, but I can't resist the sinister attraction of your cold and muscular body.
    SPIKE: Maybe I should repay you for your gentleness. Maybe I should let you go.
    BUFFYBOT: No! No, Spike. Never let me go.
    SPIKE: You know you should be afraid of me. I'm bad.
    BUFFYBOT: You are. You're very, very bad.
    Suddenly she twists out of his grasp and flings him across the room. He lands on his back on the bed. The BuffyBot jumps on top of him, straddling him, and puts her stake against his chest.
    SPIKE: Are you gonna do it that way?
    BUFFYBOT: No.
    She grabs the neck of his t-shirt and rips it open as Spike grins, putting the stake against his bare chest.
    BUFFYBOT: This way.
    Spike arches upwards in an orgasmic manner. Buffybot pauses.
    SPIKE: You can't do it.
    BUFFYBOT: I could never do it. I'm helpless against you, you fiend.
    She rolls aside onto the floor and lands on her back. Spike lands on top of her. He kisses her and she kisses him back.
    SPIKE: (whispers) Buffy.
    He slides down her body as the camera stays on her face. (Intervention)
    Even in play with a bot, Spike’s first impulse is to please “Buffy” rather than aggressively attack her – the impulse is twisted, but not comparable to Warren and his “Master” scenario in which Katrina is an utter Slave. Spike dreams more of being a Dominant in his kink fantasy – one in which Buffy has agency and his chip is irrelevant because Buffy longs for him to be the aggressor:

    BUFFYBOT: You're evil.
    SPIKE: And that excites you?
    BUFFYBOT: It excites me, it terrifies me. I try so hard to resist you and I can't.
    SPIKE: Yeah?
    BUFFYBOT: Darn your sinister attraction.
    SPIKE: Are you afraid of me?
    BUFFYBOT: Yes.
    SPIKE: You know I can't bite you.
    BUFFYBOT: I think you can. I think you can if I let you, and I want to let you. I want you to bite me and devour me until there's no more.
    SPIKE: Like this?
    He bites her neck lightly.
    BUFFYBOT: Oh, Spike, devour me!
    SPIKE: All right.
    BUFFYBOT: Spike, I can't help myself. I love you.
    SPIKE: You're mine, Buffy. (Intervention)
    So it’s not really a surprise when Spike introduces something new into their relationship in Dead Things in the hopes that it will please Buffy more than not – and Buffy is immediately drawn to it like a moth to a flame. He has an inkling that this is already the case – not only from their sexual night in Smashed, but in her behavior the following morning when he touches her and she responds even as she tells him to stop:

    Spike's hand disappears below frame, starts caressing her. She looks affected, despite herself. Buffy weakens for a beat. Then she finds her resolve, HITS HIS hand away.
    BUFFY: Stop –
    SPIKE: Make me.
    He moves to touch her again, she hits him away again. They end up in a tussle, sexual tension building until they can't take it. They kiss – it heats up faster than a microwave. Goddamn. She lies on top of him – feels him respond – which SHOCKS her back to herself. She pulls away.
    BUFFY: No. No. I have to –
    SPIKE: Stay. I'm stuck here. Sun's up.
    They're both drunk with it. Hot, pressing against each other. They kiss again.
    BUFFY: Oh, God. (Wrecked)
    It’s the old “I don’t want it, but if you insist” sex play – Buffy says “Stop” in a weak voice and then allows Spike to touch her anyway. Not soon after, Spike stops by for a breakfast morning in Gone and once again, Buffy says “Stop it” even as she allows Spike the opening to disobey her:

    BUFFY: Stop trying to see me. And stop calling me that.
    Spike moves in on her. She backs away as he gets closer.
    SPIKE: So what should I call you then? "Pet?" "Sweetheart?"
    He corners her, his face up to hers. He touches her hair.
    SPIKE: "My little Goldilocks?"
    He runs his fingers through her locks, twirling the ends.
    SPIKE: Y'know, I love this hair. The way it bounces around when you --
    Buffy's hand finds the spatula and she takes a swing at him. He grabs her wrist.
    SPIKE: Uh-uh. This flapjack's not ready to be flipped.
    Buffy squints at him. His other hand reaches below frame.
    BUFFY: Um, what the hell's that mean – ohh.
    Against her will, she lets out a slight, soft moan. SPIKE'S HAND rubs her thigh, moves up toward her hips.
    BUFFY: Stop it. (Gone)
    Why does Buffy do this? Buffy’s desire is to lose herself in their sexual encounters and forget the outside world and its responsibilities. As she says to Spike, she wants to be “free of rules and reports – free of this life.” Unspoken is the desire to be free of any moral culpability for her actions as well. In Gone, Buffy commits all manner of wrong-doings – she criticizes someone’s clothing choices, torments a social worker, steals a car, molests Spike, mocks Xander and acts flippantly about serious matters with Dawn – and this deep desire to break the rules creates a kind of self-loathing in her that engenders intense guilt. So the best way to escape that guilt – to absolve oneself of all responsibility – is to place one’s agency in the hands of another.

    I’ve spent a lot of time on the Dom/Sub aspect of Spuffy and Master/Slave dynamic of Warren and Katrina (as faux bot) because it is vital to understanding the ethical questions that Dead Things poses. What does it mean to relinquish all control to another person? Is it a liberating action – or is it a way to avoid decision-making? And how does that relate to abdicating responsibility? Is a Submissive person accountable for the decisions of a Dominant person? And what happens if the Dominant partner is morally compromised – or even worse, mentally disturbed? If Jonathan and Andrew are just following orders, then they’re not really responsible for Warren’s actions, are they? And if Buffy relinquishes all sexual agency to a soulless vampire, then she’s not really responsible for all the things they’re doing together, right? If she delegates moral authority to Spike, then she doesn’t have to deal with responsibilities at all – she can simply live in total sensation and leave the thinking to him.

    And I think this explains the narrative arc moving from the killing of Katrina to the Balcony Scene to Spike dumping Katrina in the water after Buffy accidentally hits her. Buffy’s desire to escape this world – to be free of adult responsibility – makes her Dominant/Submissive routine with Spike a metaphor for her unwillingness to grow up. Relinquishing all control to Spike allows Buffy to pretend that she doesn’t have to make difficult moral choices – that she can simply drift in the world instead of engaging with it. In this way, the ethical and the sexual are constantly intertwined in Dead Things in terms of power until they come to a literal climax in Buffy’s dream.

    If we follow this new discovery, then the Balcony Scene makes perfect sense. We know that Buffy and Spike were up to some real Dom/Sub hijinks from the way that Buffy rubs her wrists the next day. We also know that Buffy deliberately avoided going to Spike’s crypt after her shift at DoubleMeat Palace in order to spend more time with Dawn. What happened in-between? Buffy’s meeting with Tara – which was either made before or after her handcuff action with Spike – but obviously brought Buffy back to herself enough to feel guilt over the way that she’d been ignoring her responsibilities to her friends and Dawn and she rushes home, vowing to do better.

    But when Buffy makes an effort to bond with Dawn, she finds that Dawn already has other plans with another mother figure. Since her friends are all planning to go to the Bronze to unwind through drinking and dancing, Buffy agrees to go with them in an attempt to forget her troubles – but the frosty nectar and swing dancing doesn’t mitigate the strain that she feels to act happy and be a concerned friend when talking with Willow and Xander and Anya. She can barely deal with her own problems, much less Willow’s magic rehab and separation from Tara. So when she declines to dance and moves towards the bar to drown her sorrows in more booze, it’s not surprising that she finds it an unsatisfactory escape.

    In terms of the balcony scene, it might appear at first glance like Spike is the one who is doing things. He is the one who slides his arm along her body, who thrusts against her, and even the one who does nearly all of the talking in this scene. And yet, Buffy went up those stairs. She must have known that Spike was there – whether she saw him, or sensed him, or just knew he’d follow her around and would be there once she was away from the Scoobies.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree. As Buffy is drawn to climb the stairs, it’s fairly self-evident that she knows Spike is there. Her face doesn’t remotely change when he starts to speak off-screen – and she barely moves when he walks up behind her. But what is Spike doing there?

    Looking at their past relationship, it seems likely that Spike waited for her to show up at his crypt after her shift – and when she didn’t show, he went looking for her in his usual stalkerish way. Since we know that he can follow Buffy’s scent from Season Seven, it probably didn’t take him long to discover where she was. He most likely watched her sit with her friends for a while and then move towards the bar and make her way up the stairs – and he chose to step back into the shadows until everyone had left the balcony and Buffy was left alone, watching her friends below. The way in which Buffy stands makes it obvious that she knows Spike is behind her and she refuses to turn around to meet his eyes. And it’s only then that he finally speaks.

    SPIKE: You see? You try to be with them. But you always end up in the dark. With me.
    If we assume that the last time Buffy and Spike were together, handcuff action was involved, then it’s possible that Spike has learned something new about Buffy – she wants to relinquish control to him.

    SPIKE: What would they think of you? If they found out all the things you've done.
    So Spike struts forward and acts like the Dom that Buffy wants him to be – the person who will tell her what to do and let her escape a world of immense unhappiness. It’s an extension of their handcuff play – but the bonds that hold Buffy aren’t physical this time – they’re psychological as she allows Spike to guide her moral compass.

    Spike’s line is an echo of dialogue that runs throughout the episode. Tara asks Buffy what Willow has done. Katrina asks what Warren has done. Willow asks what Xander and Anya are doing. And when magically whammied to believe herself guilty of Katrina’s murder, Buffy asks “What did I do?”
    Yes, PuckRobin,, it’s a pointed reference to Buffy’s moral culpability in what she’s doing – and Spike is giving her a way out. She’s come back wrong like him – she’s not really responsible for how she’s acting because she’s as amoral as a soulless vampire.

    Spike continues, now making his seduction physical as well. Again, it plays on Buffy’s sense of identity – of wrongness. That she’s really not human. That her friends would reject her. But also, it implies that they would reject Buffy because the Scoobies could not accept or even understand who Buffy is. Spike thinks like him – therefore, he knows who she really is. He says it at the beginning of the episode – she’s like an animal.

    BUFFY: Don't.
    SPIKE: Stop me.

    This skirts the subject of consent – something that will culminate in “Seeing Red”. In this instance, Buffy does not try to stop Spike. She certainly has shown herself willing to stop him in the past. And if there are no mitigating circumstances (like an injury) Buffy has shown herself to be stronger and more capable than either Spike or Angel.
    Yes, it’s self-evident that Buffy and Spike are playacting a Dom/Sub relationship here that’s every bit as simulated as their handcuff play – this explains Spike’s mock Palpatine dialogue and Buffy’s pretense that she is helpless against his sinister attraction. Pretending that Buffy has no agency – that she’s simply a pawn – allows her to stop worrying about Dawn or Willow or Xander or Sunnydale and just revel in pure sensation without guilt.

    But what’s even more striking is that this is her sole line of dialogue in the scene. There are no sweet nothings from Buffy. Not even her usual catty Beatrice and Benedick style remarks. In “Into the Woods”, Spike had commented on how emotionally distant Buffy was with Riley. And now, here Spike is in much the same situation Riley was once in, only the forces keeping Buffy from emotionally connecting are so much greater than they were a season ago. Buffy doesn’t offer words of encouragement to Spike. But she doesn’t shut him down either. She knows if she does nothing – and gives little – that he’ll continue.
    Buffy won’t even go that far – anything beyond silence would mean she’d have to examine what she’s doing. And Spike is taking her silence and submissive stance as acceptance that everything he’s saying is true.

    She closes her eyes. She can feel Spike’s touch without needing to see where it’s coming from. In the script, Spike’s coat is meant to obscure the action. In the aired episode, much is played in close up as Spike humps Buffy’s back. Spike moves his head close to her neck. The old Spike would have tried to drain her at this point. But he doesn’t. Instead Buffy and Spike inhale and exhale together. But Spike doesn’t want to give Buffy the luxury of denial.

    SPIKE: No. Don't close your eyes.

    The words “Close your eyes” have a powerful resonance in Buffy lore. In “Becoming Part 2,” Buffy says these words to the newly ensouled Angel. So, in a sense, Spike is asking Buffy to do something other than the Buffy/Angel romance. And Buffy does as Spike asks, she opens her eyes.
    That’s a great callback, PuckRobin! I’d also say that Spike is deliberately giving Buffy commands in order to assert his Dom authority – Buffy’s desire to be submissive in order to escape responsibility requires her to accept Spike’s skewed view of the world. It’s a relief to believe for a short while that none of it matters and Buffy is “free of rules and reports – free of this life.”

    SPIKE: Look at them. That's not your world. You belong in the shadows... with me.
    As Spike says in Gone: “Free of life? Got another name for that. Dead.” And at this moment, Spike is positing that the two of them – Buffy and Spike – are dead things in comparison to the life below. Not only physically, but morally dead to the ethical pressures that concern that world.

    Spike may be an undead vampire and Buffy a twice-dead slayer, but as far as Spike is concerned they are more alive than those partying on the dance floor. Spike wants Buffy to stay in his world. Spike has his own history with the Bronze’s balcony. In “Crush” Drusilla returned to Sunnydale to lure Spike back to her side. In the second season episode “Surprise”, Buffy and Angel snuck into bad guy HQ The Factory to spy on Spike and Dru from above. They’re caught and dragged down to Spike’s level on the ground floor. And now in “Dead Things”, it’s both Spike and Buffy who are elevated above the others. Spike sees his world as one in the shadows. He dresses in black. He lives in crypts and underground caverns. He deliberately sets himself apart from mortal society.
    Yes, PuckRobin, I totally agree with you that Spike sees this moment as a triumphant one – he believes that Buffy’s acquiescence means that she’s accepted she’s come back wrong. That’s she’s a freak like him with one foot in each world, but superior to the mere humans below.

    SPIKE: Look at your friends and tell me you don't love getting away with this right under their noses.
    And there’s that moral culpability again that links Spike’s actions with that of Warren’s – just as Spike assumes that Buffy is feeling superior because she’s “getting away” with screwing Spike right under her friend’s noses, Warren eventually convinces the Trio (well, at least Andrew) that they are superior by getting away with murder right under the Slayer’s nose.

    “Dead Things” shows the Trio “getting away with” murder. Spike also tries to get away with it later when he throws Katrina’s corpse into the river. Buffy didn’t try to get away with murder. And while she’s participating in having sex with Spike – one of the few ways she can feel anything at present – she’s not getting away with it. Not inside. The script specifies that what we see on Buffy’s face is guilt:

    Buffy's face is wracked by guilt, but she doesn't move away -- or close her eyes.
    Yes, PuckRobin, and I think this is the whole point of the Balcony Scene – Buffy tries as hard as she can to forget her responsibilities – to hand over all agency to Spike and just become a dead thing from a moral standpoint. But she cannot. The look on her face at the end of the scene shows a struggle between giving into the void and who she truly is within.

    And that brings up the question – is Spike capable of feeling guilt? Spike appears to feel guilt over Buffy’s death – his failure to protect both Buffy and Dawn. He appears troubled after the events of “Seeing Red” too. But Spike and Dru also repeatedly claimed the ability to feel love as vampires. And yet the ensouled Spike in season 10 comic books said that was he felt back then wasn’t real love but a “selfish bastardization of love”. It would appear that an unsouled vampire’s guilt is a selfish bastardization of guilt. Because the lack of a soul impairs Spike’s range of feeling, he completely misreads this moment.
    Yes, I believe that is the point. I think that in some ways, Buffy and Spike are each fighting for their own version of Buffy – it’s a battle of Buffy vs Spike for her moral soul. And because Spike is misreading this moment so terribly, he’s fairly triumphant in his attitude.

    In his soulless state, Spike can’t see how this is a tragic consequence of Buffy’s severely damaged psyche or how she’s using him to avoid all adult responsibility. He believes that she’s finally decided to concede that her trivial human world of ethical quandaries and moral duty means nothing in the grand scheme of things. She’s come back “wrong” like him – without the guilt or moral culpability that Spike considers to be human weakness – and that’s why she’s turned away from her friends to be with him instead.

    Spike thinks he’s won. That this is a great victory. He and Buffy are looking down on the Scoobies – innately superior to them. For him, their pairing in the shadows is a great apotheosis. The human William had been enamoured with the word effulgent – well, one of the antonyms of effulgent is shadowy. So, this moment of victory is the opposite of what William once wanted. But from Buffy’s point of view, this moment on the balcony isn’t transcendent. It’s a fleeting and hollow remanence of feeling. It’s the best feeling she can manage but it’s one of shame and guilt as much as it is passion. She doesn’t feel that she’s better than the Scoobies. Buffy thinks she’s far, far worse than them. And while Spike thinks he’s drawing Buffy into his world – she’s as emotionally distant to him as she is to the Scoobies. Coming back “wrong” doesn’t make Buffy feel like she’s part of Spike’s shadow world. She feels emotionally disconnected from Spike too. To Buffy, this moment is the ultimate defeat.
    Fantastic reading of the scene, PuckRobin!

    Just as Spike first play-acted their relationship in School Hard and The Harsh Light of Day as the ultimate battle of Slayer and Vampire and then enacted the lover with the mannequin and Harmony and later the Buffybot, he’s now trying to manipulate their relationship to become a new version of his hundred year relationship with Drusilla. But Buffy is not a soulless vampire – as he will soon find out – and the tables will quickly turn as Buffy once again asserts control over herself.

    I’m almost done with the last part, so I’ll finish this off very soon. Thanks, PuckRobin for such an awesome review!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 14-09-18 at 06:33 AM.

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    Thanks for your latest amazing post, American Aurora.

    I'm putting this break here so you can post your last part today.

    I hope everyone scrolls up and reads your latest post.

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    Spike was absolutely going to take her agency away in Smashed. What do you think was going to happen if she went to meet him? Also, the Trio mark Buffy for mind control all the way back in Flooded. I've always wondered if that wasn't the original plan back when the Spike-Buffy storyline was plotted. It was meant to be a lot shorter. Instead, they used Katrina as an allegory when the extended B/S.

    That's what S6 and Spuffy was ultimately about if you ask me. As Whedon has claimed, it's about being ashamed of your power. As such, Buffy doesn't stop Spike from his actions. The phrase is repeated for that reason and turned on its head in Seeing Red when both she and Willow retake their power. If you look at what Buffy was meant to subvert, the blonde who gets attacked, raped/murdered in an alley, you can see it break down in Smashed. Buffy is meant to stake the monster, not get it on. So you have this underlying deconstruction. Then it asks an interesting question... what if you like it? Of course, that's when things go off the rails, IMO, 'cause the answer is stupid. It ultimately enforces a kinda sexist viewpoint that has been pointed out. "Good girls" and "Strong Female Characters" aren't supposed to like it and it ultimately ends up with the bathroom. At the same time, it could be argued that liking it is a male domination fantasy, which it is. The whole thing would be so much more interesting without Xander's rant in Seeing Red being a prelude to the bathroom.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out about the whole bed thing, they do it in the bed in Gone and it's implied whatever happened after the cut to black in the teaser happens in the bed, so I don't think there's much to read there other than they're more interested in engaging than moving to any conventional setting.

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    Aurora I really enjoyed reading your exploration of moral culpability within the dom/sub switches in the relationship, the freedom/escape the relationship can offer and how this relates to Buffy's disconnection from who she was and within the context of fearing/feeling she has come back 'wrong'. I'm really interested to see how (yes, I'm assuming 'how' rather than 'if' ) you relate this to the coming scenes and her violent outburst with Spike later.

    Excellent posts, you're really expanding my consideration of the Dead Things, not a small feat on top of a very thorough and very engaging original review. It's why I love the discussions here so much.
    Last edited by Stoney; 14-09-18 at 04:08 PM.

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    Hardly There:

    Spike was absolutely going to take her agency away in Smashed. What do you think was going to happen if she went to meet him? Also, the Trio mark Buffy for mind control all the way back in Flooded. I've always wondered if that wasn't the original plan back when the Spike-Buffy storyline was plotted. It was meant to be a lot shorter. Instead, they used Katrina as an allegory when the extended B/S.
    Point taken that Spike went into the fight in Smashed with the deliberate intention of bending Buffy to his will. But I'm not certain that he viewed it as taking away her agency - I think he felt that Slayers were creatures of the darkness like himself despite their heroics and by pushing Buffy, he was simply opening the door and letting the real monster out - as Angel memorably tells Spike when blamed for making Spike a monster.

    You can blame the prevarication of the writers, but I think Spike was always of two minds about his relationship to Buffy. On one level, he wanted to control Buffy and force her to love him and accept the darkness and bow to all of his demands. On another level, he wanted to be what he thought she wanted - her Champion and hero - someone that she would love despite his evil soulless state - and this led him to sometimes sacrifice his own comfort and existence to be what she wanted.

    From what I understand (and this is only from bits and drabbles dropped by the writers then and now) Katrina was actually a stand-in for Tara - Tara was supposed to originally die in the middle of Season Six through the machinations of the Trio and Willow would have been the Big Bad for much, much longer - but things change and Whedon and Noxon decided that Dark Willow would have diminishing returns. That's probably why the whole "magic is drugs!" setup didn't work too well - it was shoehorned in at the last minute to delay Willow's change. She couldn't recover completely because she had to become Dark Willow, but she couldn't go around casting evil spells indefinitely either.

    The whole Spuffy plotline was supposed to be shorter and much later in the Season after Willow goes nuts - but when the writers decided to go with Willow's crash and withdrawal scenario, they smartly tied it to Spuffy in order to parallel the two plot lines and extended it for a longer time period.

    Having worked on shows where things are restructured at the last minute all the time, I think they did a proficient job considering all the balls they had in the air. The real disaster in all of this was Xander/Anya - who weren't accounted for at all in the plot shift and had to sit and wait in the Magic Box or the living room for multiple episodes while all the drama went on around them. The biggest flaw in Season Six is the failure to incorporate the Xander/Anya storyline into the narrative arc until the final third of the season - it's annoying and grating to see the poor actors chewing on a meager gristlebone of a line in episodes that focused heavily on the meaty Buffy/Willow plotting.

    That's what S6 and Spuffy was ultimately about if you ask me. As Whedon has claimed, it's about being ashamed of your power. As such, Buffy doesn't stop Spike from his actions. The phrase is repeated for that reason and turned on its head in Seeing Red when both she and Willow retake their power. If you look at what Buffy was meant to subvert, the blonde who gets attacked, raped/murdered in an alley, you can see it break down in Smashed. Buffy is meant to stake the monster, not get it on. So you have this underlying deconstruction. Then it asks an interesting question... what if you like it? Of course, that's when things go off the rails, IMO, 'cause the answer is stupid. It ultimately enforces a kinda sexist viewpoint that has been pointed out. "Good girls" and "Strong Female Characters" aren't supposed to like it and it ultimately ends up with the bathroom. At the same time, it could be argued that liking it is a male domination fantasy, which it is. The whole thing would be so much more interesting without Xander's rant in Seeing Red being a prelude to the bathroom.
    I'm not so sure it's about being ashamed of power as much as being fearful to wield it because of the inherent corruption that always comes with it - but I agree with you that it's the salient point of the season. I'm not really certain that Buffy and Willow "like" handing their autonomy over to others so much as their fear that the power within them could destroy those around them unless they learn how to use it and channel it. The two women aren't so much ashamed as unwilling to take on the responsibility of power - and I think it's implied that this is partially because women aren't supposed to want power - it makes them basically unlovable and unfeminine. Totally agree with you that this all gets too mixed up in ideas of "good girls" and "bad sex" and the AR unfortunately can come off as a "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" warning of what happens to women - especially Strong Female Characters - when they screw monsters instead of staking them.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out about the whole bed thing, they do it in the bed in Gone and it's implied whatever happened after the cut to black in the teaser happens in the bed, so I don't think there's much to read there other than they're more interested in engaging than moving to any conventional setting.
    Well, I think that the opening was absolutely a heavy-handed "Buffy's sweeping their relationship under the rug!" metaphor that was slightly absurd as the poor actors looked hilariously uncomfortable during the whole scene. But I think that it's also supposed to be a contrast with Buffy's dream in which she and Spike are in her bed in her bedroom and he's making love to her like a real boyfriend would - Spike as Riley - and in Gone, she only allows him that intimacy because she's invisible - which pisses Spike off.

    I never got the impression that their handcuff play would move to the bed. It was always my surmise that he chained her upright (which would make her really vulnerable to him because there isn't even the security of a solid bed beneath) and went all doggie-style on her as in the Bronze - and that back-door entry sex on the Balcony was simply a replay of the night before. Buffy constantly rubbing her wrists would imply more of the pulling down from below action than pulling lying down.

    But, hey, I think it's also probable that the writers wanted to write Buffy and Spike in the most bizarre sexual situations possible because they wanted to underline the "Wrongness" of all of it - which is, as you say, kinda sexist. And they wanted ratings - Buffy screws a MONSTER in weird ways! A HOT NEARLY-NAKED MONSTER who has a great body! Tonight on UPN!


    Stoney:

    Aurora I really enjoyed reading your exploration of moral culpability within the dom/sub switches in the relationship, the freedom/escape the relationship can offer and how this relates to Buffy's disconnection from who she was and within the context of fearing/feeling she has come back 'wrong'. I'm really interested to see how (yes, I'm assuming 'how' rather than 'if' ) you relate this to the coming scenes and her violent outburst with Spike later.
    Yeah, I think you see where I'm going with this!

    Excellent posts, you're really expanding my consideration of the Dead Things, not a small feat on top of a very thorough and very engaging original review. It's why I love the discussions here so much.
    Yes, PuckRobin's review is awesome and it's a great springboard for all kinds of discussions! I just wish I could include the pictures!

    Thanks, HardlyThere and Stoney, for reading and offering some really great thoughts!
    Last edited by American Aurora; 14-09-18 at 05:36 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Hardly There:



    Point taken that Spike went into the fight in Smashed with the deliberate intention of bending Buffy to his will. But I'm not certain that he viewed it as taking away her agency - I think he felt that Slayers were creatures of the darkness like himself despite their heroics and by pushing Buffy, he was simply opening the door and letting the real monster out - as Angel memorably tells Spike when blamed for making Spike a monster.
    I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the original setup when he calls her at the Magic Box.

    You can blame the prevarication of the writers, but I think Spike was always of two minds about his relationship to Buffy. On one level, he wanted to control Buffy and force her to love him and accept the darkness and bow to all of his demands. On another level, he wanted to be what he thought she wanted - her Champion and hero - someone that she would love despite his evil soulless state - and this led him to sometimes sacrifice his own comfort and existence to be what she wanted.
    When?

    From what I understand (and this is only from bits and drabbles dropped by the writers then and now) Katrina was actually a stand-in for Tara - Tara was supposed to originally die in the middle of Season Six through the machinations of the Trio and Willow would have been the Big Bad for much, much longer - but things change and Whedon and Noxon decided that Dark Willow would have diminishing returns. That's probably why the whole "magic is drugs!" setup didn't work too well - it was shoehorned in at the last minute to delay Willow's change. She couldn't recover completely because she had to become Dark Willow, but she couldn't go around casting evil spells indefinitely either.
    There have been numerous suggestions about that. Benson has said Tara was meant to die very early in S6, then it slowly got pushed further and further back. Willow's descent was meant to start earlier. Spuffy happened when it was supposed to. Remember Whedon was writing the musical for a long time, as far back as S5, and it's the lynch pin to B/S. It just went on longer. So I'm not sure I'm buying Katrina was meant to be a Tara stand-in when she was probably meant to be gone by the time they were doing Dead Things, an ep DeKnight claims he, Marti and Joss broke in JW's office.

    The whole Spuffy plotline was supposed to be shorter and much later in the Season after Willow goes nuts - but when the writers decided to go with Willow's crash and withdrawal scenario, they smartly tied it to Spuffy in order to parallel the two plot lines and extended it for a longer time period.

    Having worked on shows where things are restructured at the last minute all the time, I think they did a proficient job considering all the balls they had in the air. The real disaster in all of this was Xander/Anya - who weren't accounted for at all in the plot shift and had to sit and wait in the Magic Box or the living room for multiple episodes while all the drama went on around them. The biggest flaw in Season Six is the failure to incorporate the Xander/Anya storyline into the narrative arc until the final third of the season - it's annoying and grating to see the poor actors chewing on a meager gristlebone of a line in episodes that focused heavily on the meaty Buffy/Willow plotting.
    You can probably blame it on Brendon.

    I'm not so sure it's about being ashamed of power as much as being fearful to wield it because of the inherent corruption that always comes with it - but I agree with you that it's the salient point of the season. I'm not really certain that Buffy and Willow "like" handing their autonomy over to others so much as their fear that the power within them could destroy those around them unless they learn how to use it and channel it. The two women aren't so much ashamed as unwilling to take on the responsibility of power - and I think it's implied that this is partially because women aren't supposed to want power - it makes them basically unlovable and unfeminine. Totally agree with you that this all gets too mixed up in ideas of "good girls" and "bad sex" and the AR unfortunately can come off as a "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" warning of what happens to women - especially Strong Female Characters - when they screw monsters instead of staking them.
    Joss has explicitly stated that's what it's about. It's explicitly stated in the show. It doesn't *really* work with Willow but I think we both agree that's a thrown-together plotline. I don't think it's about liking giving up power, but liking the mechanism of it. Most point out that the magic=drugs metaphor was stupid, but honestly, I'd say the sex metaphor was just as stupid.

    Well, I think that the opening was absolutely a heavy-handed "Buffy's sweeping their relationship under the rug!" metaphor that was slightly absurd as the poor actors looked hilariously uncomfortable during the whole scene. But I think that it's also supposed to be a contrast with Buffy's dream in which she and Spike are in her bed in her bedroom and he's making love to her like a real boyfriend would - Spike as Riley - and in Gone, she only allows him that intimacy because she's invisible - which pisses Spike off.

    I never got the impression that their handcuff play would move to the bed. It was always my surmise that he chained her upright (which would make her really vulnerable to him because there isn't even the security of a solid bed beneath) and went all doggie-style on her as in the Bronze - and that back-door entry sex on the Balcony was simply a replay of the night before. Buffy constantly rubbing her wrists would imply more of the pulling down from below action than pulling lying down.

    But, hey, I think it's also probable that the writers wanted to write Buffy and Spike in the most bizarre sexual situations possible because they wanted to underline the "Wrongness" of all of it - which is, as you say, kinda sexist. And they wanted ratings - Buffy screws a MONSTER in weird ways! A HOT NEARLY-NAKED MONSTER who has a great body! Tonight on UPN!
    Don't really buy it. They have to be covered by something and if they missed the bed (suggesting they were aiming for the bed), a rug is about the only thing around. I think they were just trying to not be boring. There are only so many ways to frame a sex scene where there is no nudity and can be shown on American open-air networks. The complaint about Briley was that it was "boring" because of that despite it being implied they got up to more.

    Buffy's dream takes place on Spike's bed, unless they moved his pillows to the floor, so there's every indication that's where it took place. Buffy doesn't dream of Spike "making love" to her in her bed, she turns over and then they're in his bed. As far as position, I just go with the dream. The juxtaposed blocking. Spike is cuffed with his hands over his head (so is Katrina) and since we know it's Buffy that was cuffed, I surmise that was her position in RL.

    I don't know if ratings was the driving force. After all, the balcony was something Joss thought of way before. S6 is bizarre in that it was the male demo that tuned out.

    But it's all so vague, there really is no answer. That's the bothersome thing about it. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too. I don't have a problem with ambiguity, but they later got cranky and decided to smack viewers that weren't seeing what they wanted them to. Not cool, IMO.
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    Hey, HardlyThere,

    Thanks for responding!

    Spike was absolutely going to take her agency away in Smashed. What do you think was going to happen if she went to meet him?
    ----
    I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the original setup when he calls her at the Magic Box.
    The original setup? Do you mean the cut scene in Spike's crypt where he tests the stun gun and prepares ropes and all that?

    I think my point still stands - for a soulless vampire like Spike, sex and pain are inexorably linked and he mostly likely believes that Buffy would welcome that kind of sex with chains and weapons as a fellow creature of the darkness. He literally says in The Weight of the World "I'm willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough."

    In BDSM, you can't take agency away from someone who wants you to use a stun gun and chains and such on them - like Drusilla - because they're asking you to do so. I assume that Spike feels Buffy would want it - at least deep inside because he's a soulless vampire who gets turned on by it himself. He'd probably lose his cookies with excitement if Buffy did it to him. Spike has the Buffybot almost stake him because that excites him.

    Thinking about it, if simply raping Buffy or torturing her to take away her agency was Spike's main goal, then why meet her in an alley when she doesn't show up and confront her head on? Isn't that kind of a foolish thing to do? Wouldn't it be easier to just take the stun gun with him and zap her when she isn't looking as in Crush? Why bother having a long, endless argument with her during the fight?

    Let's take the worst case scenario - supposing that Buffy had shown up and Spike had stunned her, bound her and raped her against her will, what would Spike do then? It's not as if he would have been able to continue any kind of relationship with her afterwards if it wasn't mutual. Was he then planning to kill her? Turn her? Keep her prisoner in his crypt forever?

    In their scene together in Smashed, he doesn't threaten her with rape or say he's going to kill her - he tells her that things will be different now and she oughta be careful because the pain is gone and he's no longer toothless. And it's because she's come back wrong and she's come back a little less human than she was. And he's betting that means she's open to lots of violent, passionate sex.

    Yeah, from our point of view, that's twisted. But Spike's a soulless vampire - that's how he thinks.

    Listening to the commentary of the soundtrack to Smashed, the writer Drew Greenberg doesn't really mention rape as a motivator - he talks instead about both being outsiders drawn to each other - an odd thing to say if it's just all about rape or overpowering Buffy.

    AA: You can blame the prevarication of the writers, but I think Spike was always of two minds about his relationship to Buffy. On one level, he wanted to control Buffy and force her to love him and accept the darkness and bow to all of his demands. On another level, he wanted to be what he thought she wanted - her Champion and hero - someone that she would love despite his evil soulless state - and this led him to sometimes sacrifice his own comfort and existence to be what she wanted.

    HT: When?
    Hmm - starting with Triangle:

    Spike is there, tending an injured woman.
    BUFFY: What are you doing?
    SPIKE: Making this woman more comfortable. I'm not sampling, I'll have you note. I mean, look at all these lovely blood-covered people, I could... but not a taste for Spike. Not a lick. Knew you wouldn't like it.
    BUFFY: You want credit for not feeding off bleeding disaster victims?
    SPIKE: Well... yeah.
    BUFFY: You're disgusting.
    She moves away. Spike looks after her disbelievingly.
    SPIKE: (to himself) What does it take?
    Crush:

    SPIKE: You can't deny it. There's something between us.
    BUFFY: Loathing. Disgust-
    SPIKE: Heat. Desire-
    BUFFY: Please. You're a vampire, Spike!
    SPIKE: Angel was a vampire.
    BUFFY: Angel had a soul. He was good.
    SPIKE: And I can be too. I've changed Buffy.
    BUFFY: You mean the chip? That's not change. That's just holding you back. You're like a serial killer in prison-
    SPIKE: Women marry them all the time! (quickly/heartfelt) But I'm not. Like that. Something's happening to me. I can't stop thinking about you. And if it means turning my back on the whole evil thing-
    BUFFY: (cutting him off) Stop. You don't mean this. You don't even know what... feelings are.
    Intervention:

    BUFFYBOT: Why did you let that Glory hurt you?
    SPIKE: She wanted to know who the Key was.
    BUFFYBOT: I can tell her! Then you won't -
    SPIKE: No!
    She stops. He coughs, very painfully.
    SPIKE: You can't ever… Glory never finds out. Full stop.
    BUFFYBOT: Why?
    SPIKE: Buffy - the other… the not-as-pleasant Buffy. Something happened to Dawn it'd destroy her. I couldn't live, her being in that much pain. I'd let Glory kill me first. Nearly bloody did.
    The Gift:

    Buffy opens the door and walks in. Spike hangs back.
    BUFFY: Weapons in the chest by the TV. I'll grab the stuff upstairs --
    SPIKE: Uh, Buffy ...
    She turns -- she forgot he can't come in anymore. Takes a moment.
    SPIKE: If you wanna just hand them over the threshold, I'll --
    BUFFY: Come in, Spike.
    A beat, as he tries not to show how moved he is by those three words. He steps gingerly in.
    SPIKE: Presto. No barrier.
    He is trying to be casual, but he feels his closeness to her. He moves toward the chest.
    SPIKE: Won't bother with the small stuff. Couple of good axes should hold off Glory's mates while you take on the lady herself.
    BUFFY: We're not all gonna make it. You know that.
    He returns, a couple of axes in hand.
    SPIKE: Yeah. I always knew I'd go down fighting.
    BUFFY: I'm counting on you, Spike. To help protect her.
    SPIKE: 'Til the end of the world -- even if that happens to be tonight.
    BUFFY: I'll be a minute.
    SPIKE: Yeah.
    She starts up the stairs.
    SPIKE: I know you'll never love me.
    She turns, says nothing.
    SPIKE: I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man, and that's...(stops himself) Get your stuff. I'll be here.
    ---
    SPIKE: You don't come near the girl, Doc.
    DOC: I don't smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you even care?
    SPIKE: I made a promise to a lady.
    Does any of this make Spike a wuvable teddy bear full of hearts and roses? No, he's still a thieving, twisted bastard - and he doesn't even really understand what Buffy would want. But he's acutely aware that he's acting "good" for her sake, trying to impress her and be her hero, even though he's a monster.

    There have been numerous suggestions about that. Benson has said Tara was meant to die very early in S6, then it slowly got pushed further and further back. Willow's descent was meant to start earlier. Spuffy happened when it was supposed to. Remember Whedon was writing the musical for a long time, as far back as S5, and it's the lynch pin to B/S. It just went on longer. So I'm not sure I'm buying Katrina was meant to be a Tara stand-in when she was probably meant to be gone by the time they were doing Dead Things, an ep DeKnight claims he, Marti and Joss broke in JW's office.
    I'm sure you're right, but I was only talking about the initial season plan - which would have had Tara die around the time of Dead Things.

    AA: I'm not so sure it's about being ashamed of power as much as being fearful to wield it because of the inherent corruption that always comes with it - but I agree with you that it's the salient point of the season. I'm not really certain that Buffy and Willow "like" handing their autonomy over to others so much as their fear that the power within them could destroy those around them unless they learn how to use it and channel it. The two women aren't so much ashamed as unwilling to take on the responsibility of power - and I think it's implied that this is partially because women aren't supposed to want power - it makes them basically unlovable and unfeminine. Totally agree with you that this all gets too mixed up in ideas of "good girls" and "bad sex" and the AR unfortunately can come off as a "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" warning of what happens to women - especially Strong Female Characters - when they screw monsters instead of staking them.

    HT: Joss has explicitly stated that's what it's about. It's explicitly stated in the show.
    Yes, but I don't think it's so much about shame as about fearing that power because Buffy is a woman and that makes her unwilling to take power because women aren't supposed to do that kind of thing - that's why she's so obsessed with being a normal girl - she's guilty about being the Slayer, not ashamed, which are two different things, I think:

    The two quotes by Whedon I can find are all about guilt:

    Re Season Six:At the same time, there’s the darker side of power and Buffy’s guilt about her power and her feeling about coming back to the world.

    Re Season Seven: The real beginning is what does it mean to be a Slayer? And not to feel guilty about the power, but having seen the dark side of it, to find the light again.
    I think we're just talking semantics here - I don't fundamentally disagree with you at all.

    Don't really buy it. They have to be covered by something and if they missed the bed (suggesting they were aiming for the bed), a rug is about the only thing around.
    What, they can't use a blanket? Spike's coat? An artfully positioned bureau?A camera angled around a sarcophagus?

    I think they were just trying to not be boring. There are only so many ways to frame a sex scene where there is no nudity and can be shown on American open-air networks. The complaint about Briley was that it was "boring" because of that despite it being implied they got up to more.
    All I see are people making fun of the "rug" scene all over the net because it looks like the most uncomfortable thing imaginable to lie under - especially because it's not some furry bear skin or a fuzzy shag rug, but a giant oriental carpet that must weigh a f**k ton and feel like sandpaper underneath (blame the prop person for that one). It always makes me shake my head to watch the opening scene because the actors look so miserable beneath it.

    Buffy's dream takes place on Spike's bed, unless they moved his pillows to the floor, so there's every indication that's where it took place. Buffy doesn't dream of Spike "making love" to her in her bed, she turns over and then they're in his bed. As far as position, I just go with the dream. The juxtaposed blocking. Spike is cuffed with his hands over his head (so is Katrina) and since we know it's Buffy that was cuffed, I surmise that was her position in RL.
    Yes, that's very plausible - although I'm not sure we can divine anything from a dream sequence because Spike and Katrina are both carefully posed to imitate each other - I always assumed that Buffy dreamed of them in that way not because it's imitative of what they actually did, but because it's the position of Katrina when she fell to the ground with her hands above her head. Spike was certainly never in Buffy's bed and yet there he is in the beginning of the dream.

    In terms of Buffy dreaming about Spike making love to her in her bedroom, the script very clearly says:

    He kisses her neck, softly, gently. She shudders, pulling him close. She kisses him, searching for solace.
    I'm assuming that it's supposed to contrast with their actual lovemaking, which is rough and violent and not romantic at all. The very next shot says:

    Buffy straddles Spike on his bed, her face quickly giving way to animal passion. Her hands sensually run up his arms - and we see that Spike's hands are cuffed over his head. Spike's expression betrays both pleasure and pain.
    To be honest, the cut that has Spike's head resting on a pillow with the handcuffs above him attached to - well, nothing - is a pretty lame way to do bondage if you ask me. Buffy could brain him in ten seconds if she wanted to by just lifting her cuffed hands to strike him in the face. It's obviously staged to flash to Katrina's dead body in the clearing. But I think it's all meant to be left up to the viewer's imagination - so there's really no wrong or right here.

    I don't know if ratings was the driving force. After all, the balcony was something Joss thought of way before. S6 is bizarre in that it was the male demo that tuned out. But it's all so vague, there really is no answer. That's the bothersome thing about it. They wanted to have their cake and eat it too. I don't have a problem with ambiguity, but they later got cranky and decided to smack viewers that weren't seeing what they wanted them to. Not cool, IMO.
    Do you mean the AR in Seeing Red? Or something else?
    Last edited by American Aurora; 15-09-18 at 07:33 AM.

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  35. #498
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    Hardly There:

    If you look at what Buffy was meant to subvert, the blonde who gets attacked, raped/murdered in an alley, you can see it break down in Smashed. Buffy is meant to stake the monster, not get it on. So you have this underlying deconstruction.
    But isn't what Buffy does in "Smashed" also a subversion of that trope? She's not Lucy Westenra from Stoker's Dracula under the hapless sway of the mesmeric influence of a man. Buffy may play the submissive in some bondage games with Spike, but she's the one who ultimately initiated the relationship. Buffy retains, to borrow an overused expression, agency. The bathroom scene in "Seeing Red" doesn't play because the writers need to temporarily remove Buffy's agency. I know they show her with a bad back, but Buffy doesn't need to be in first class shape to fight back -- she's got a first class mind. It's a bit like Robin Hood movies that establish Maid Marian as a great fighter, but then she loses her fighting know-how when convenient to the plot.

    But I'm getting ahead of myself.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out about the whole bed thing, they do it in the bed in Gone and it's implied whatever happened after the cut to black in the teaser happens in the bed, so I don't think there's much to read there other than they're more interested in engaging than moving to any conventional setting.
    But in "Gone", Buffy was invisible in the bed -- that doesn't really count as normal bedroom activities. And I didn't think the Spuffy scenes moved to the bed during "Dead Things" opening credits. Buffy's dream isn't really evidence of what happened.

    American Aurora:

    But, hey, I think it's also probable that the writers wanted to write Buffy and Spike in the most bizarre sexual situations possible because they wanted to underline the "Wrongness" of all of it - which is, as you say, kinda sexist. And they wanted ratings - Buffy screws a MONSTER in weird ways! A HOT NEARLY-NAKED MONSTER who has a great body! Tonight on UPN!
    That theme is definitely on display in this vintage commercial.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kL6qfQqb5xk


    Looking forward to American Aurora's next post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by American Aurora View Post
    Hey, HardlyThere,

    Thanks for responding!

    The original setup? Do you mean the cut scene in Spike's crypt where he tests the stun gun and prepares ropes and all that?

    I think my point still stands - for a soulless vampire like Spike, sex and pain are inexorably linked and he mostly likely believes that Buffy would welcome that kind of sex with chains and weapons as a fellow creature of the darkness. He literally says in The Weight of the World "I'm willing to wager, when all is said and done, Buffy likes it rough."

    In BDSM, you can't take agency away from someone who wants you to use a stun gun and chains and such on them - like Drusilla - because they're asking you to do so. I assume that Spike feels Buffy would want it - at least deep inside because he's a soulless vampire who gets turned on by it himself. He'd probably lose his cookies with excitement if Buffy did it to him. Spike has the Buffybot almost stake him because that excites him.

    Thinking about it, if simply raping Buffy or torturing her to take away her agency was Spike's main goal, then why meet her in an alley when she doesn't show up and confront her head on? Isn't that kind of a foolish thing to do? Wouldn't it be easier to just take the stun gun with him and zap her when she isn't looking as in Crush? Why bother having a long, endless argument with her during the fight?

    Let's take the worst case scenario - supposing that Buffy had shown up and Spike had stunned her, bound her and raped her against her will, what would Spike do then? It's not as if he would have been able to continue any kind of relationship with her afterwards if it wasn't mutual. Was he then planning to kill her? Turn her? Keep her prisoner in his crypt forever?

    In their scene together in Smashed, he doesn't threaten her with rape or say he's going to kill her - he tells her that things will be different now and she oughta be careful because the pain is gone and he's no longer toothless. And it's because she's come back wrong and she's come back a little less human than she was. And he's betting that means she's open to lots of violent, passionate sex.

    Yeah, from our point of view, that's twisted. But Spike's a soulless vampire - that's how he thinks.

    Listening to the commentary of the soundtrack to Smashed, the writer Drew Greenberg doesn't really mention rape as a motivator - he talks instead about both being outsiders drawn to each other - an odd thing to say if it's just all about rape or overpowering Buffy.
    It doesn't matter what Spike thinks. Andrew and Jonathon didn't think much of what they were doing to Katrina, either. The end result is Buffy being tazored and chained up, mirroring Crush when she told him what she did.

    What exactly do you think he was going to do had she shown up? Chained her up and played some records? The cut scene, while not technically canon, has spreading rose pedals on the bed. I mean... What else could his plans have been?


    Hmm - starting with Triangle:



    Crush:



    Intervention:



    The Gift:



    Does any of this make Spike a wuvable teddy bear full of hearts and roses? No, he's still a thieving, twisted bastard - and he doesn't even really understand what Buffy would want. But he's acutely aware that he's acting "good" for her sake, trying to impress her and be her hero, even though he's a monster.
    None of that suggests he wants to be her champion or be her hero. He's trying to win her favor and do what he thinks is right, even if she doesn't know. Take Intervention from your example. He never meant to tell Buffy. If he was trying to do that, he'd make sure.

    [quote[I'm sure you're right, but I was only talking about the initial season plan - which would have had Tara die around the time of Dead Things.[/quote]

    What exactly makes you think that? Tara disappears from the narrative after the musical. In all likelihood she was to die around that time. Similarly Wood was to die in S7 early, which is why he disappears until Never Leave Me.



    Yes, but I don't think it's so much about shame as about fearing that power because Buffy is a woman and that makes her unwilling to take power because women aren't supposed to do that kind of thing - that's why she's so obsessed with being a normal girl - she's guilty about being the Slayer, not ashamed, which are two different things, I think:

    The two quotes by Whedon I can find are all about guilt:



    I think we're just talking semantics here - I don't fundamentally disagree with you at all.
    Look up what Whedon says S7 is about. It tacitly states what S6 was about. Moreover Buffy says in S7 she wanted to be punished because she felt she didn't deserve her power. She is NOT obsessed with being a normal girl. She sometimes wants to do some normal things.



    What, they can't use a blanket? Spike's coat? An artfully positioned bureau?A camera angled around a sarcophagus?
    Because they opted for a rug. It's easier to shoot. Had they used a blanket, we'd be wondering why they pulled the sheets off the bed.



    All I see are people making fun of the "rug" scene all over the net because it looks like the most uncomfortable thing imaginable to lie under - especially because it's not some furry bear skin or a fuzzy shag rug, but a giant oriental carpet that must weigh a f**k ton and feel like sandpaper underneath (blame the prop person for that one). It always makes me shake my head to watch the opening scene because the actors look so miserable beneath it.
    I don't disagree, but all the sex scenes are made fun of. They are clearly not having sex on the balcony and yet. Yes, they were miserable. Sarah very loudly complains about rug burns



    Yes, that's very plausible - although I'm not sure we can divine anything from a dream sequence because Spike and Katrina are both carefully posed to imitate each other - I always assumed that Buffy dreamed of them in that way not because it's imitative of what they actually did, but because it's the position of Katrina when she fell to the ground with her hands above her head. Spike was certainly never in Buffy's bed and yet there he is in the beginning of the dream.

    In terms of Buffy dreaming about Spike making love to her in her bedroom, the script very clearly says:



    I'm assuming that it's supposed to contrast with their actual lovemaking, which is rough and violent and not romantic at all. The very next shot says:
    How does one equate the other? One leads to the other. They're not tender in Buffy's bed, it builds to what we saw later. It's not as if there is Briley or Amend-esque passion there.

    To be honest, the cut that has Spike's head resting on a pillow with the handcuffs above him attached to - well, nothing - is a pretty lame way to do bondage if you ask me. Buffy could brain him in ten seconds if she wanted to by just lifting her cuffed hands to strike him in the face. It's obviously staged to flash to Katrina's dead body in the clearing. But I think it's all meant to be left up to the viewer's imagination - so there's really no wrong or right here.
    Don't really disagree, but they're in the bed for a reason. Why else would they be? Definitely agree it's up to the imagination, which is all they can do on US TV.

    It all boils down to just that. We don't see all that much. We know Buffy and Spike were doing it pretty regular for some months. I just think it's reaching to think they never did it in Spike's bed when there is plenty to say otherwise.


    Do you mean the AR in Seeing Red? Or something else? [/QUOTE]

    Yes, that.

    Quote Originally Posted by PuckRobin View Post
    Hardly There:



    But isn't what Buffy does in "Smashed" also a subversion of that trope? She's not Lucy Westenra from Stoker's Dracula under the hapless sway of the mesmeric influence of a man. Buffy may play the submissive in some bondage games with Spike, but she's the one who ultimately initiated the relationship. Buffy retains, to borrow an overused expression, agency. The bathroom scene in "Seeing Red" doesn't play because the writers need to temporarily remove Buffy's agency. I know they show her with a bad back, but Buffy doesn't need to be in first class shape to fight back -- she's got a first class mind. It's a bit like Robin Hood movies that establish Maid Marian as a great fighter, but then she loses her fighting know-how when convenient to the plot.
    Yes, in the sense that she willingly does what she does... that was my point. Buffy allows all of it to happen. She's not a victim.

    But in "Gone", Buffy was invisible in the bed -- that doesn't really count as normal bedroom activities. And I didn't think the Spuffy scenes moved to the bed during "Dead Things" opening credits. Buffy's dream isn't really evidence of what happened.
    She's invisible but still her. She's not under a spell. I fail to see why it doesn't count. In Dead Things, there isn't a need to introduce it if it wasn't used. It's not a transition, ie, she's sleeping in her bed to kick off the dream. As I said, the very fact that they saying they missed the bed suggests they aimed for it. It was one instance. It wasn't Buffy insisting that they never do it there.
    Last edited by HardlyThere; 15-09-18 at 03:39 PM.

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    HardlyThere:

    It doesn't matter what Spike thinks. Andrew and Jonathon didn't think much of what they were doing to Katrina, either. The end result is Buffy being tazored and chained up, mirroring Crush when she told him what she did.
    Well, in most instances of drama, intent of character matters. It matters in terms of law as well - that's why we have varying degrees of murder depending upon intent.

    I honestly don't think Spike's intent was to take agency away from Buffy. That doesn't mean that he wouldn't have taken away agency from Buffy as the end result - but that's not how he would perceive it. This is not to say that Spike wasn't a rapist - he most surely was and talks about it in season seven - but I think that he saw Buffy very differently from your average woman-on-the-street because she was a Slayer and he wasn't about to take away her agency without believing that she wanted it because he's in love with her. He doesn't really want to hurt her. He thinks she'll like it.

    We basically get a confirmation of this in Smashed

    BUFFY: Your job is to kill the slayer. But all you can do is follow me around making moon eyes.
    SPIKE: I'm in love with you.
    BUFFY: You're in love with pain. Admit it. You like me because you enjoy getting beat down. So really, who's screwed up?
    SPIKE: Hello! Vampire! I'm supposed to be treading on the dark side. What's your excuse?
    --
    SPIKE: I wasn't planning on hurting you. Much.
    BUFFY: You haven't even come close to hurting me.
    SPIKE: Afraid to give me the chance? You afraid I'm gonna -
    Spike implies here that Buffy wants to be beat down as much as him. And he states she's afraid to give him the chance to hurt her - why? Why say this if he's just planning to rape her? He's implying throughout this entire fight that Buffy wants it rough - likes it rough - wants to be hurt - and she's just afraid of her own desires.

    And in Entropy:

    SPIKE: You believe him, don't you? You think I was spying on you. You think I could do that?
    BUFFY: Because you don't lie or cheat or steal or manipulate -
    SPIKE: I don't hurt you.
    BUFFY: I know.
    SPIKE: No, you don't. I've tried to make it clear to you, but you won't see it. Something happened to me. The way I feel - about you - it's different. And no matter how hard you try to convince yourself it isn't, it's real.
    BUFFY: I think it is. For you. I know that's not what you want to hear. I'm sorry. I really am. But, Spike, you have to move on. You have to get over -
    SPIKE: Get out.
    Buffy can see things more clearly now that she's out of the relationship and healing from her trauma - and she realizes that Spike is seeing a different situation than what she's seeing because he's soulless - he's trying to love her and even be romantic in his own vampiric way with the dichotomy of the rose petals and the handcuffs that shows how torn he is - and she feels sorry for him. There's a certain level of condescension there as well - and Spike bristles at the thought that she's not treating his love as real because he's no longer human.

    What exactly do you think he was going to do had she shown up? Chained her up and played some records? The cut scene, while not technically canon, has spreading rose pedals on the bed. I mean... What else could his plans have been?
    Have fun with Buffy. And she'd like it. She wants it deep down in his mind. Doesn't make him right about Buffy - it just shows that he's f**ked up.

    Sadly, Buffy does want Spike to do bad things to her and lets him in because she's longing to relieve herself of all responsibility to avoid dealing with trauma. Which only makes Spike more convinced that he's right because he doesn't understand the real reason why Buffy is having sex with him until he gets his soul.

    None of that suggests he wants to be her champion or be her hero. He's trying to win her favor and do what he thinks is right, even if she doesn't know.
    It's the same to me - trying to win her favor and do what he thinks is right is the same thing as trying to be her hero. You're splitting those hairs a little fine, I think. But if the word "hero" or "champion" bothers you, then let's adopt your definition.

    To repeat myself and edit out the bad words, I think Spike was always of two minds about his relationship to Buffy. On one level, he wanted to control Buffy and force her to love him and accept the darkness and bow to all of his demands. On another level, he wanted to be what he thought she wanted - someone that she would love despite his evil soulless state - and this led him to sometimes sacrifice his own comfort and existence to be what she wanted.

    But I meant hero or champion only in terms of what those words mean to Spike. His definition of hero doesn't match reality - but it doesn't make it unreal for him as Buffy says. And I don't think it necessarily matters if Buffy knows or not - he knows - and to him, it justifies his stalking and constant pressure - he feels that she should be grateful to him for what he's done.

    What we seem to be arguing here over and over again is Spike's intent - and I'll continue to maintain that his motivations are guided by his soullessness - in many cases, he's unable to read what's clearly in front of him because he hasn't the capability. This sound like mitigation of his evil deeds - but it's not - it's just the way in which the soul functions in the Buffyverse because of the narrative of Angel.

    What exactly makes you think that? Tara disappears from the narrative after the musical. In all likelihood she was to die around that time. Similarly Wood was to die in S7 early, which is why he disappears until Never Leave Me.
    From what I've read. Could be wrong.

    Look up what Whedon says S7 is about. It tacitly states what S6 was about. Moreover Buffy says in S7 she wanted to be punished because she felt she didn't deserve her power. She is NOT obsessed with being a normal girl. She sometimes wants to do some normal things.
    As I previously said twice, I don't think it's so much about shame as about fearing that power because Buffy is a woman and that makes her unwilling to take power because women aren't supposed to wield that kind of power. That's obviously just a component of the whole idea of power that Whedon pushes incessantly about six billion times in season seven. I don't see how that invalidates what you're saying at all.

    What makes you think Buffy isn't obsessed with being a normal girl? Doing a quick search of the first six seasons, she mentions it an awful lot. It's pretty self-evident to me that she slowly grows out of that fantasy in seasons five, six and seven as she embraces her power.

    Because they opted for a rug. It's easier to shoot. Had they used a blanket, we'd be wondering why they pulled the sheets off the bed.
    I'm betting that filming the actors under that awful rug was not easier to shoot - it actually looks like a nightmare where the actors most likely had to film multiple times because the rug has tremendous weight and no give - plus a very hard edge that would easily reveal the actress's halter top or bra if Buffy even slid half an inch upwards or the rug slid downwards from all that weight - it probably tops 50-60 pounds. A soft blanket or rug or a tablecloth or article of clothing - anything else - would have been more flexible and would have made things a lot easier.

    How does one equate the other? One leads to the other. They're not tender in Buffy's bed, it builds to what we saw later. It's not as if there is Briley or Amend-esque passion there.
    I don't understand what you're saying here - one is meant to be a contrast to the other in a dramatic sense. They ARE tender in Buffy's bed - it says so right in the script. Your interpretation doesn't negate what the writer has actually written.

    I'm not sure why you're bringing up Riley or Angel - do you actually believe I'm saying that Buffy wants Spike to be tender in her bed? If so, no, that's not what I'm saying at all. This isn't some Spuffy romantic dream. Her unconscious (or Slayer sense or whatever) is placing Spike where former boyfriends have been - and then suddenly shifting to show her the reality of their relationship and how she's given up all moral choice to lose herself with him. It's a warning signal.

    It all boils down to just that. We don't see all that much. We know Buffy and Spike were doing it pretty regular for some months. I just think it's reaching to think they never did it in Spike's bed when there is plenty to say otherwise.
    It's not important as to whether they've done it in Spike's bed - what is important is that the writers chose to show us otherwise because they wanted to impress on the viewer that this relationship is anything but conventional. That's the pertinent point.

    Do you mean the AR in Seeing Red? Or something else?

    HT: Yes, that.
    Well, I agree with you there.
    Last edited by American Aurora; 15-09-18 at 08:49 PM.

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