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Thread: BtVS rewatch: SEASON 7

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    a break for the marvelous SpuffyGlitz,
    one to mark the space of our dense awaiting—

    and to inscribe Dawn's moment—


    Volcanoes be in Sicily
    And South America
    I judge from my Geography —
    Volcanoes nearer here
    A Lava step at any time
    Am I inclined to climb —
    A Crater I may contemplate
    Vesuvius at Home

    ————Emily Dickinson (1705)



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    Scooby Gang SpuffyGlitz's Avatar
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    2.4: Spike and Buffy Patrol—


    Who knows what word were best to say?
    For last year’s leaves lie dead and red
    On this sweet day, in this green May,
    And barren corn makes bitter bread.
    What shall be said?

    ——Swinburne, Félise





    In the next scene, Buffy and Spike are patrolling in search of where Nancy's dog was abducted. Spike appears to be attempting to preserve a front of normalcy, but neither is making eye contact. He's a little ahead of her and Buffy trails behind him, wary of his intentions. Spike's internal remorse (part of him is grateful that he's even been allowed to help—another part of him feels he doesn't deserve any role in her life, nor even any acceptance of his help) battle under the surface but he pushes this back, in an attempt to mimic their earlier dynamic.

    "You're awfully quiet," he comments, noting her silence. And Buffy responds honestly: "Wouldn't know what to say." He quickly accepts this, snatching at any chance to fool her into thinking things are the same: "Fine by me. I was more half-expecting to get an earful anyway." He speaks casually, desperate to retain a semblance of his old self, so she won't suspect just how much he's changed.


    Why does Spike want this truth hidden from her? If Buffy were aware of the enormity of his change, this would put a spotlight on the act, and he no longer feels he deserves any attention on himself, no longer deserves forgiveness.

    Living in the school basement itself was a self punishing choice, but his only reason to venture from it was to provide help. He sees everything that occurred prior to his ensoulment through an entirely different lens now: Spike no longer believes he deserves her forgiveness but if he can pretend to be the same Spike of old, convince her of that, then maybe——without putting any light on himself——he can orbit her life as an ally, or at least attempt to be of use to her in the greater battle ahead. Back in Grave, his initial impetus for the soul stemmed from a selfish desire to "be with her" or to "fix" things, but this way of thinking is utterly repugnant to him now. Not only has his conception of love entirely changed, but he doesn't feel he deserves or can even expect any kind of forgiveness. And so he tries to divert attention on himself as a changed person, to keep up the pretence that he's just the same as before... He makes another attempt to normalise their conversation, trying to fill in the gaps in silence: "And when exactly did your sister get unbelievably scary..."

    But Buffy breaks through the ruse. She stops walking, and in a searching voice, asks an honest question:

    "What are you doing?"


    She's puzzled both by his actions, and his seeming willingness to help, without touching on any aspect of their personal history (both in her house when they talked in the foyer, and now during their patrol.) She's also noticed that he's still not attempted to apologise to her at all. At her question, he turns, and looks her sincerely in the eye, reminding her of what he said to her in the foyer: "What? I told you once, straight up, I'm here to help, and that's all."


    Very quickly, he attempts to change the subject again. "Think this here is our spot?" They've come upon a patch of sidewalk that looks like it's exploded outwards from the ground up and Spike points his flashlight at it.


    "How'd you guess?" Buffy quips. Spike looks down at it. "I don't fancy sticking my head in there," he remarks and Buffy dryly jokes: "Well, if something bites it off, that'd be a clue." She says it without rancour though, and Spike obliges, kneeling down with the flashlight in one hand to inspect the hole.

    Brief aside: I'm really trying to avoid a psychoanalytic reading here—don't want to ruin the scene and I feel like it's been laid out enough. So, veering away from psychoanalytic readings, this question of venturing into an unknown space and being scared of having one's hand (or head) bitten off, reminds me of the "Mouth of Truth" scene from William Wyler's Roman Holiday (1953), centred around the open-mouthed stone gargoyle hanging in the portico of the Church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin in Rome since 1632.


    When Peck's Joe Bradley invites Hepburn's Princess Anne to place her hand inside the "mouth of truth" she hesitates, not wanting her hand bitten off, and the scene functions as a metaphor for her fear of revealing the truth to Joe about who she really is.

    ~~~~


    As he works on investigating the sidewalk, Buffy looks down, unable to prevent herself from asking, her curiosity (and even a reluctant concern for him) getting the better of her: "So, what happened to you?" Spike continues to focus on what he's doing, not looking up, but talking as he looks around for clues. "When you saw me, those ghostly types in the school basement got in my head." He's repeating the same thing he said to her in the living room before the others ("for the record, last you saw me, I was a mess,"), distancing himself from the crazy image he presented then, hoping she believes it was a one-off case. "Made me flat-out, bug-shaggin' crazy. And I'm not exactly braggin' about it, but they were stronger than I was. Made me see things, do things."


    This is him obviously trying to divert attention from the truth and displace it onto "ghostly types" in the basement, but is any of it partially the truth? Spike doesn't know about the First at this point, but his description of forces that make him "see" and "do" things seems telling. At any rate, it's satisfied her for the moment, though Buffy doesn't seem entirely convinced.

    And now suddenly he stops and turns towards her, finally letting his own curiosity get the better of him; he asks her the question that's been persisting in his mind: "And how come you never told anyone that you saw me?"


    Buffy is immediately defensive, looking away and downwards. "I don't know," she answers quickly, "I guess I was partly hoping you were some kind of mirage." Spike absorbs this. "Sorry to disappoint," he says with a slight smile. She tries not to dwell on it. "Not your fault."


    At this point, Spike holds out the flashlight towards her. "Hold the torch, would you?" We see him from Buffy's POV, extending his hand towards her, and the camera privileges her perspective here. (This moment is illustrated pretty closely in the graphic novel.) The torch of course, is resonant with meaning— its association with light or fire (which follows through in this season); then his love for Buffy (OMWF, "the torch I bear is scorching me"); finally, at this point it is a barrier preventing touch, because the AR—its horror and its memories—stand between them.



    Buffy looks down at Spike's hand, holding out the torch to her, with trepidation—she doesn't know if she can do it. She tries to muster the courage to take it but it's agonisingly hard—


    This moment may seem contradictory if we recall that in Lessons, Spike did touch her, and she didn't flinch at his touch then, but here the situation is very different. Spike is real to her here, his "performance" of "old Spike" (and the toxic relationship she associates him with) make her memories of the AR rise closer to the surface.

    The script indicates (it's hard to tell in the actual scene) that his hand and fingers cover the shaft of the light in such a way that she can't take it from him without touching him. As she reaches for the torch and their hands touch, she has traumatic flashbacks of his attempted rape of her in Seeing Red.


    The flashbacks: I want to break this down in detail, because I think it's important. I've always found it interesting because there is no way these flashbacks are a literal representation of Buffy's POV. We get a series of shots (five in total, but I've not included the second because it went by too quickly) and they're all static shots (the camera's not moving) of the AR. The first shot is a medium close up of Buffy and Spike in the bathroom, by the tub, with him forcing himself on her, her struggling against him, her face scrunched up in disgust. The third shot (there's a split-second where we see Buffy's thigh as Spike forces himself on her, which constitutes the second) is an overhead, high angle shot of Spike on top of Buffy in the bathroom; the fourth is a medium wide shot with the camera on ground level, paralleling their position on the floor as he attempts to tear open her robe; and the last shot is a medium closeup of Buffy's agonised face as she screams for Spike to stop.


    What we just saw is not what Buffy actually sees in her own mental flashbacks. There's no way they could be, since her perspective would involve seeing Spike's face up close (as he was on top of her), or shots of the ceiling or the bathroom walls as she struggled against him, or even blackness as she closed her eyes. No, these flashbacks are to remind the audience of the AR, her own memories remain hers and hers alone. But as we see the flashbacks, we are reminded of the horror of the AR once more.


    The soundtrack rises to a crescendo as the flashbacks play, and as they end, Buffy looks down, her lips pursed tightly, remembering. And Spike moves back, as if scalded, seeing her reaction to his touch, looking at her in concern. (Which is consistent with the script, which indicates she is revolted at the memory and Spike looks in concern at her.)


    And Buffy starts speaking, and she's a little agitated, trying to make it very clear to Spike that they can't slip back into a toxic relationship again. She's worried that he may have got the wrong idea in her accepting his help—and she wants to make it very, very clear—


    "Look, this... us working together—it's not a way for us to get back together, if that's what you want." Her tone is firm and she's trying to gauge, once again, what his intent was in coming over to offer help.


    Spike looks at her searchingly, seeing her defensiveness and agitation, absorbing the fact that his touch has had this effect on her. Some of the layers of shame and disgust he feels at himself subtly come through in his expression, despite his trying valiantly to maintain a soulless demeanour. And he knows, beyond a trace of any doubt, that he can never, ever atone for what he did.


    "It's not," he echoes, then sighs. "Look, I can't blame you for being all skittish".


    And Buffy is incredulous at his choice of words. "Skittish? That's not a word I would use for it. You tried to rape me." She lets that sink in. She seems to then be trying to think of ways to describe what he did and she can't; she gives up. "I don't have the words."


    At this point he can't seem to continue facing her. He turns away, looking in the opposite direction, disgusted at himself. He cannot apologise for what he has fully realised since his ensoulment, is unforgivable. "Neither do I. I can't say sorry."


    And Buffy listens to him intently.


    "Can't use forgive me..." At this point, despite his need to hide the fact of his soul from her, he decides to offer at least this--


    Looking up at her, he declares: "All I can say is: Buffy, I've changed." I don't think he's asking for any kind of forgiveness here. He doesn't expect it and in announcing he's "changed", I don't think he feels entitled to anything from her anymore at all, or expects anything other than anger. But I think he says it to mark a difference from then and now.


    And it's a truth she acknowledges. Buffy surprises him by telling him she can tell that he has. "I believe you."


    "Well, that's something." There's a brief moment where Spike's face lights up and he almost smiles, in spite of himself. He doesn't want her to realise how drastic the change is, but the fact that she can tell the difference means something.


    But Buffy's not finished. She explains: "I just don't know what you've changed into." She shakes her head a little, describing the successive mysteries he's presented to her over the time that has elapsed since the AR.

    You come back to town. You make with the big surprises. Twice.
    Here she's referencing seeing him in the basement first, her realisation that not only was he back in town, but that he seemed to have lost his sanity as well. Then her shock, today, at his surfacing in her house, seemingly lucid again. And she can tell there is something different in his demeanour. "I don't know what your game is, Spike, but I know there's something you're not telling me," she concludes.


    And Spike realises it's pointless to deny it. It's interesting to consider that this moment would actually have been an ideal space for confessing to her about his soul (after all, they're alone and she's just told him she can sense he's changed), but once again, he doesn't.


    "You're right. There is." He stands up now. "But we're not best friends anymore, so too bad for me, I'm not sharing."


    If Buffy is disappointed by this (at being kept in the dark), she remains silent, listening to him intently. Once again, he tries to convince her to trust him for the service or help he can provide in the context of a larger battle against evil: "We've been through things. The end of the world and back. I can be useful 'cause, honestly, I've got nothing better to do. Make use of me if you want."

    He gestures towards the sidewalk. "And there's nothing here. Just a bit of slime. Mounds of displaced dirt and such." I can't help but see this statement in the context of the lyrics of the prologue song, which urges taking "development from the warm slime of the deep".


    Before walking away from the scene, he says to her "Whatever our beastie is, he's gone." He walks off alone, down the street in the direction from which they came, and his parting shot now takes on a double-sided meaning: if she'd been searching for the "beast" in him, it seems to have gone for now. And there's a fascinating interplay of expressions on Buffy's face as she realises he's not told her anything about how or why he's changed: puzzlement, confusion, an inner turmoil, and a sadness she pushes back with a deep breath and then exhales.



    ~~~~
    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 09-11-19 at 03:41 PM.
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    And I'll take the opportunity to thank you for continuing to post SpuffyGlitz to provide another buffer.

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    2.5: Nancy's Building—


    When they were introduced,
    he made a witticism, hoping to be liked.
    She laughed extremely loudly, hoping to be liked.
    Then each drove home alone, staring straight ahead,
    with the very same twist to their faces.

    ———David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews




    We cut to Xander and Nancy, as they walk to the front door of her building. Nancy, who has been dropped back to her place by Xander, unlocks the front door and they enter. Nancy is speaking, still in disbelief over the events of the evening: "Boy, I still can't believe this is happening. I mean even with this town's reputation for, you know, unexplained weirdness."


    Xander attempts some levity: "Right. Right, "Sunnydale: come for the food, stay for the dismemberment."" She responds to the most important thing of course: "There's good food?" Xander smiles at this, and then the silence gets a little awkward.



    Nancy voices her gratitude in a somewhat stiff, Anya-like, manner: "Well... Thanks!" There's a pause. She continues, clearing her throat: "And there's a couple of levels of lameness right there, me saying "thanks" after everything you've done for me tonight." She laughs nervously. Xander attempts to ease the tension with his trademark wit: "Well, you could slip me a twenty, but then I'd have to act all offended," and Nancy tucks her hair behind one ear. The air is heavy with the possibility that one of them will ask the other out.


    And it's Nancy who makes the first move, asking if she can give him "a call sometime." Xander is cautious at first. "Just to check in?" She makes her meaning clear with, again, an almost Anya-like clarity of purpose: "No, actually, I'm hitting on you." Xander seems relieved, as he's clearly been interested in Nancy and earlier in the car had expressed the wish to move on, not liking how his love life had seemingly reached a kind of stasis. He quips: "Even better. I'm very listed." Nancy's faint similarity to Anya in this scene is made even more apparent in her next statement: "And I'm really pushy, so that works out well, then. Good night!"


    They're about to part ways for the night, but Xander lingers. "Uh, Nancy..." The ground has begun rumbling and shaking, and it's clear that any minute there'll be an outbreak of chaos of some kind.


    "I just got a swell idea..." he murmurs, and the glass of the building door shatters. "Run!" Nancy is heard screaming as they both race down the hallway, further into the building as the monstrous presence underneath leaves a trail of destruction in its wake.


    Floor tiles shatter as they burst up from the ground behind the scrambling figures of Nancy and Xander. They speed up some stairs at the end of the hallway, but then fall to the ground. And the monster finally makes its most direct appearance. (There are actually three progressive stages where we see the monster in this episode: we first see it swallow Nancy's dog, Rocky, but we don't directly see it then—we only see Nancy run from it; next in this scene we see the monster directly; and in a climactic moment from a future scene, we see it transform just before "it" is staked—)


    It bursts forth from the floor in front of the stairs suddenly. As Xander and Nancy lie collapsed, the ground cracks and splinters as the monster looms up and we see—


    — a huge creature with large snapping jaws and pointed teeth opening its mouth as it surges from the tiles. It's clearly symbolic. Neither Nancy nor Xander move as they're confronted by the sight.


    The script has an interesting description:

    It's a long, pink, cylindrical, and slightly phallic-shaped creature with four jaws full of sharp, pointy teeth. It's roaring and screeching and its jaws are snapping as it lunges for Xander and Nancy.
    As the monster's jaws open successively wider, its teeth visible, we get reaction shots of Nancy and Xander, who look terrified (and neither seems capable of moving as they realise they are cornered.)


    As they see the monster, Xander is caught up in motion blur, but Nancy's jaw is stretched open wide in a scream of terror...


    They wait it out together, until suddenly — and somewhat conveniently — the monster retreats back into the ground, leaving them both alone. Xander wastes no time to check if Nancy's alright. She's breathing hard. "I just..." She can't seem get any words out. Xander asks if she's hurt. "I don't think so," she exhales, "I just—I don't think I can take any more of this." She seems to be having some sort of breakdown. Xander reasons that two attacks in the same night imply that there's something deliberate going on, that this can't be random: "I'm starting to think it's not coincidence," he says thoughtfully.


    Nancy starts revealing more details about her life. "Oh, sure. Why not? A monster trying to kill me. It's just the thing that was missing to make my life absolutely perfect. Uhh! Ronnie would love this. Boy!"

    She makes the first mention of "Ronnie" and there's a beat before Xander registers. "Right. Who's Ronnie?" And this sets Nancy off in an agitated explanation, revealing her suppressed feelings of trauma at a recently abusive relationship: "Oh, um, only my psycho ex-boyfriend that I've been trying to get rid of for the past few weeks. I almost prefer the monster. Ronnie was, um... trouble." There's a wealth of implication in her words. Clearly, she's had a troubled, abusive history with this guy named Ronnie. Xander inquires if her ex was more of a "borrowing money" type or someone who actually dabbled in raising demons out of vindictiveness.


    Nancy looks at the wreckage of the floor of her apartment building and shakes her head, disbelieving. "Ronnie? He couldn't." Apparently, this isn't the "trouble" she usually associates him with. "He just... " She decides to be direct. " "He was an abusive bastard" is the catchy headline. And he'd just show up, even after..." Her voice trails away. Ronnie was apparently a stalker who continued to follow Nancy even after they broke up. There's a moment of genuine empathy and connection between both characters in this scene.


    Wearily, Nancy turns to Xander. "You know the feeling that you get when your ex is constantly ruining every part of your life, and it just doesn't stop?" And Xander lets out a heartfelt, resounding "Yes" but stops short of saying anything more. Nancy continues: "And you get so tired of feeling helpless that all you can do is just wish that it would stop?" At this, Xander pauses, screwing his eyes shut as if thinking to himself this can't be happening again. He turns to Nancy. "Wish?"








    Interlude: BARBARA CREED AND THE MONSTROUS FEMININE


    Hannah Williams writes that vagina dentata is a "kind of fairytale", citing Barbara Creed's reference to Yanomamo myths which state that "one of the first women on earth possessed a vagina that could transform into a toothed mouth which ate her lover’s penis.’" For Freud, the female body is defined by its lack: "uncanny, strange, and unfinished." Williams believes this is why so many euphemisms for the female genitals focus on it as a wound: cleft, gash – the woman is always "a site of violence." The fear of women and their imagined "ability to devour a man during sex" seems to recur across cultures: Barbara Creed, in the introduction to her 1993 manifesto, refers to Joseph Campbell's description of the "toothed vagina" as a springboard for laying out her theorisation of the monstrous feminine:

    All human societies have a conception of the monstrous-feminine, of what it is about woman that is shocking, terrifying, horrific, abject. Freud linked man's fear of woman to his infantile belief that the mother is castrated. 'No male human being is spared the fright of castration at the sight of a female genital', Freud wrote in his paper, 'Fetishism' in 1927 (p. 154.) Joseph Campbell in The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology, drew attention to woman as castrator and witch. 'There is a motif occurring in certain primitive mythologies, as well as in modern surrealist painting and neurotic dream, which is known to folklore as 'the toothed vagina' - the vagina that castrates. And a counterpart, the other way, is the so-called 'phallic mother', a motif perfectly illustrated in the long fingers and nose of the witch. (Campbell 1976-73).

    —— The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis

    To be completely honest, I wasn't crazy about the giant worm monster of Beneath You the first time I watched it (which was way before I knew anything about Barbara Creed or her conception of the monstrous feminine.) I didn't find the worm monster particularly exciting or enthralling. In fact I thought it dragged the episode down a little, and it felt anti-climactic coming right after Lessons as another "monster of the week". While I still don't love it, I think I understand it better, or at least, understand its symbolic function a little better (as well as the ways in which it continues to be a thematic motif in the season), and this owes hugely to TriBel's incredible insights into season seven as a whole. As the monstrous-feminine is pretty unavoidable in this episode, and it's a recurring preoccupation throughout the season, I thought I'd devote this section to it before I return to the episode (and get to the fascinating scenes at the Bronze.) Big disclaimer: If I get anything wrong or contradict/ echo anything previously said, apologies in advance, I'm not an expert on the subject, but look forward to future discussions.

    To be a woman is to be feared, to know fear. To hold the two simultaneously within yourself, to know that your body, by the sheer fact of its existence, will be terrified by the society that claims to be terrorised by it; that the patriarchy deems women’s bodies so awful, so monstrous, that it seeks to limit and control their power. These people not only hate women, but are afraid of them; scared of the capacity for women’s bodies to be unruly, unclean, unknowable.

    ———Hannah Williams, "The Resurgence of the Monstrous Feminine"
    In the episode Dirty Girls, the evil misogynistic Caleb makes a direct reference as he tells Sheila: "You were born dirty. Born without a soul. With that gaping maw that wants to open up, suck out a man's marrow." "Maw" means the jaws or throat of a voracious animal, which Caleb seems to locate in women. He seemed to be referring, indirectly, to a woman's vagina as a kind of "devouring mouth", representing a direct threat to men.

    In Part 1 of her book The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis, Creed asserts that woman isn't just the "victim" in popular representation; that the horror film is in fact populated by female monsters, images that have evolved from centuries-long dreams and myths. The female monster, according to her, "wears many faces: the amoral, primeval mother", the "monstrous womb"; the "possessed body", moreover, there's also the conceptualisation of woman as a "beautiful but deadly killer". Creed uses the term the "monstrous-feminine" deliberately, as opposed to the "female monster", since this isn't an exact reversal.


    In direct contrast to the Freudian conception of a "lass with a lack" as I mentioned in my intro, Creed asserts that women are terrifying to men because they endow women with "imaginary powers of castration". She exposits that the myth of the "toothed vagina" (Latin: vagina dentata) entails a specific kind of fear reflecting male anxieties about women, and it's a symbol that comes up in the Dark Horse comics too—TriBel once pointed out the inclusion of vagina dentata in Season Eight's Last Gleaming. In this myth, as Jill Rait (as quoted by Hannah Williams) writes: "[...] women are terrifying because they have teeth in their vaginas...women must be tamed or the teeth somehow removed or softened – usually by a hero figure – before intercourse can safely take place."(link)


    Part 4 of The Last Gleaming, Season Eight.

    And yet, when Spike stakes the giant worm monster (with its devouring teeth) in this episode, it transforms a split-second earlier to reveal Ronnie, a man. This is possibly because, on a symbolic level, the monstrous-feminine is a construct reflecting male anxieties about women back at themselves. Maybe this is why the monster is described in the script as "slightly phallic shaped"—BY goes to great lengths to obscure which gender deserves "blame", and it seems like an endless loop at times—is Ronnie a victim or a monster? Is Nancy a damsel in distress/ a victim/ or another representative of the monstrous-feminine, as is Anya? Is the worm monster phallic or feminine? Creed writes in the introduction to her book, "The presence of the monstrous-feminine in the popular horror film speaks to us more about male fears than about female desire or feminine subjectivity." (23)


    images from Vera Chytilová's 1966 feminist classic, Daisies, a landmark of the Czech New Wave

    Women according to Creed, are terrifying to men not because of their "lack" of the phallus, as Freud conceived, but because of their imaginary power to castrate. Susan Lurie in "The Construction of the Castrated Woman in Psychoanalysis and Cinema" challenges the established Freudian position by making the point that men fear women not because women are castrated but because they are not; that according to such anxieties about their imagined power, women may castrate both psychically and physically: men fear physical castration might take place during intercourse when the penis "disappears inside the woman’s devouring mouth." (Lurie, Discourse, Vol. 4, 1981: 52-55) In fact, it's interesting to think about Creed when one looks at some of the dialogue from Beneath You: As soon as Anya spots Xander entering the Bronze, she exclaims rolling her eyes: "Oh, penis." Xander jokes to Nancy: Sunnydale. Come for the food, stay for the dismemberment." Nancy promptly responds, "There's good food?" Anya's "client" at the Bronze wants "more quesadillas" as she discusses her apparently spineless ex, merging consumption with the act of vengeance.


    Archetypes of the woman in myth and culture represent deep seated fears about their capacities to destroy men (both Xander and Spike in Him are afraid for a moment when they realise that Willow has the power to castrate them both when she is under the spell of RJ's sweatshirt.) Creed describes images of women in various avatars of "monstrousness": the "witch", the "archaic mother", the "vampire", the "castrating mother", the list goes on.


    In the conclusion to her book, Creed writes:
    "Such images, they shock and repel but they also enlighten, they provide us with a means of understanding the dark side of the patriarchal unconscious, particularly the deep-seated attitude of extreme ambivalence to the mother who nurtures but who through a series of physical and psychic castrations associated with her body and the processes of infant socialization, also helps to bring about the most painful of all separations, necessary for the child’s entry into the symbolic order….Woman’s abjectification is crucial to the functioning of the patriarchal order ‘for without the exploitation of the body-matter of women what would become of the symbolic processes that govern society?’ (Irigaray,1985:85)" Creed, 163-64

    But there have also been subversive uses of the monstrous-feminine in film. In Vera Chytilova's stunning feminist classic, the 1966 Daisies, a gem of the Czech New Wave (which theorist Bliss Cua Lim views as a feminist allegory), we witness a climactic scene in which the two young fashion models, Marie I and Marie II, sneak into a banquet hall laden with delicacies. As Katarina Soukup describes, they use scissors and forks to pick at and devour "all manner of phallus-shaped foods: sausages, rolls, pickles, bananas", as they circle the platter like vultures. (Soukup, 40)

    Chytilova's heroines are monstrous man-eating daisies, which are, after all, beautiful flowers whose petals resemble teeth. They are literally ****s with fangs, vaginae dentatae, as the phallic-food scene would indicate. They devour everything in their path, a grotesque exaggeration of stereotypical femininity.

    ——Katarina Soukup, "A Banquet of Profanities: Food and Subversion in Vera Chytilova' Daisies"
    But this spectacle of "devouring" takes on a subversive meaning in Chytilova's film: as Soukup argues, we see that for the two protagonists, eating/devouring is a means of subverting the patriarchal order. They devour so as not to be devoured themselves in a world that ignores them unless they are displayed as objects of desire. (51)


    The closing chapter of James Joyce’s Ulysses features Leopold Bloom receiving heavily symbolic seed cake passed into his mouth directly from the mouth of Molly (another name for Mary). The form and content of its prior chapters signalled the breakdown of Western culture and language on a cosmic as well as a comically prosaic level, and this seems to speak to season seven's preoccupations, which go beyond gender (and the monstrous-feminine) and to me seem concerned with the project of dissolving previously established structures of meaning. In Lessons, The First Evil (in the form of misogynist Warren) refers to women as sugar and spice and everything “useless” except, you know, for “baking”. Giles in End of Days lunges for Jaffa cakes and Andrew defines himself as a “guestage” who “occasionally bakes”. In Chosen, Buffy herself states she’s in the process of baking.

    Food is a constant, recurring metaphor, and the motif of consumption relates not only to the darker implications of a patriarchal order that sees women as monstrous (exemplified by Caleb), but to a more all-encompassing metaphor of renewal, death and rebirth, like the snake that emerges from Willow's mouth in Bargaining. Giles announces in season one and seven, that the "earth is doomed" and Willow speaks of its "teeth" in both Lessons and Beneath You, and there's a sense of "going back to the beginning" even as the end draws nearer.


    If we isolatedly look at some of the dialogue spoken by the characters in season seven, a lot of it sounds improbable, but placed together, a pattern begins to emerge. In fact, I've compiled some instances from all the episodes at random and when placed them together, it sounds like the characters are engaged in all kinds of processes of devouring, and the variegated themes of baking, consumption (with its psychoanalytic implications) and personal development seem enmeshed:


    “That’s because you’re part of something larger. Like being swallowed – by something larger.”
    “If I’d known you were coming I’d have baked a cake.”
    “I’m not done baking! I’m not finished becoming…whatever the hell it is I’m going to turn out to be.”
    ”This funnel cake is kicking my ass.” ”Yeah, I hear they’re tricky.”
    "Jaffa cakes!"
    “Well, he was evil, and people got killed, and now he…bakes.”
    “She’s a girl. Sugar and spice and everything useless – unless you’re baking. I’m more than that. More than flesh –”
    “Am I flesh? Am I flesh to you? Feed on flesh!”
    “They’re just animals. Feeding off each other’s flesh. It’s nauseating.”
    “I’m standing on the mouth of hell and it is going to swallow me whole. And it’ll choke on me.”
    “And if they do return, where will they find you? Inside me, you’ll already be.
    "Sunnydale, come for the food, stay for the dismemberment."
    "It slices, dices, and makes julienne preacher."
    “…my fear’s a big, obnoxious blabbermouth.”
    "An arm can be as lethal as a mouth."
    "I saved the world with talking. My mouth saved the world."
    “It eats you starting with your bottom.”
    “His slut ate him up.”
    “Trust me, you open that door and these students will eat you alive!”
    He eats them. That's why he's a parasite. It's like his natural food.”
    “That might be the best thing I’ve ever had in my mouth!”
    “Don’t fancy sticking my head in there.” – Spike
    “Well, if something bites it off it’d be a clue.” – Buffy
    “Something’s eating Xander’s head.”
    “Plus the salivating hellmouth underneath her feet and the whole—"
    "I saw the earth, Giles. I saw it's teeth."
    “I could use a cookie."
    “It's the talk of the order. They're calling you "Miss Softserve."
    “To Serve Man is a cookbook.”
    You wish it I dish it, I thought we were clear,”
    This big evil that's been promising to devour us—well I think it's started chomping.
    "Buffy, he's been feeding... on human blood."
    "I'm fine, Buffy. Really. I'm just...feeling a bit peckish, I suppose."
    "You took a good bite out of Andrew."
    MOLLY "Fair enough. I'm a bit peckish meself. (exits)"
    BUFFY "They're trapped in here. Terrified. Meat for the beast."
    DEMON "Spike! Long time. Nice of you to bring snacks."
    BUFFY It's not a body. It's leftovers.
    First catch of the day.
    MOLLY "Brill! Biscuits! You don't mind do you?"
    DAWN (opens a box of cookies) "Knock yourself out. I feel a cookie problem coming on, myself."
    DRUSILLA/FIRST "Choose our side. You know that it's delicious (feigns licking his face)
    CALEB: You were born dirty. Born without a soul. With that gaping maw that wants to open up, suck out a man’s marrow.
    ”You better not hog the covers.” “Does she want to eat?”
    "I'm having a wicked shoe craving."
    From beneath you, it devours.
    Andrew simultaneously provides comic relief as the "guestage" who bakes but his function in oven mitts also serves to negotiate themes of gender. There is also a more elevated, personal association with the theme of baking. The Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi saw "baking" as a spiritual process of personal growth and development, and Rumi's poetry has been linked with many Jungian preoccupations. Marti Noxon also sees baking as an activity that signifies personal growth. Amy Halloran reveals in her book The New Bread Basket that: "Marti Noxon is a screenwriter with credits like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and each year she undertakes a study of a single theme. The year of pie. The year of bread. Nan regrets missing the sweet fallout she could have enjoyed as Marti baked her way through the year of cake." (Halloran 14)


    This speech about cookies was originally pitched – not cookies exactly, but I believe baking was in there—by Marti Noxon early in the season.
    —— Joss Whedon
    The first line we hear in this episode is from the teaser, as Spike says: “If I knew you were coming, I'd've baked a cake.” It’s a line taken from the 1950s Elieen Barton song "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake", and it forms another sort of intertext:

    Well, well, well, look who's here.
    I haven't seen you in many a year.
    If I knew you were comin' I'd 've baked a cake,
    baked a cake, baked a cake.
    If I knew you were comin' I'd 've baked a cake.
    How-ja do. How-ja do, How-ja do.
    ...
    Now I don't know where you came from
    'cause I don't know where you've been.
    But it really doesn't matter
    grab a chair and fill your platter
    and dig dig dig right in.

    ——Elieen Barton "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake"
    The baking of cakes is something of a running theme in the Buffyverse. It was first brought up as a metaphor for what constitutes harmless feminine activity in the eyes of three bullies masquerading as alpha males in The Zeppo, who use the phrase “baking a cake” as a euphemism for setting off a ticking bomb. The lead bully—Jack—named his knife “Katie”, a fact which Xander comments on (“You gave it a girl’s name. How very serial killer of you.”) The Zeppo explored masculinist notions of cool and investigated the insecure rhythms behind machismo: when Xander runs into Cordelia at a coffee shop, she mocks him for being entrusted with the “daredevil mission” of buying donuts. In S7, Buffy says self-deprecatingly “We have an army of girls with nothing to hit, a wicca who won’t-a and the brains of our operation wears oven mitts.”

    Baking, and the symbolic connotations of the “stove” are deeply significant this season, especially in light of the Cartesian duality of being (stoves have a distinctly Cartesian connotation). In S3’s Gingerbread (a Buffy-twist on the tale of Hansel and Gretel) the title is an allusion to the folk tale “The Gingerbread Man” which, in its 1875 version, ended with the fox eating the gingerbread man who cried as he was devoured, "I'm quarter gone...I'm half gone...I'm three-quarters gone...I'm all gone!"


    Candy, confectionary and other culinary metaphors are often used as a metaphor signifying growth and development (or its lack). In Band Candy Xander laments “I don't get this. The candy's supposed to make you feel all immature and stuff, but I've had a ton and I don't feel any diff- never mind.” In I Was Made to Love You, Xander exposits to Anya that factory-made cookies are exactly alike before they run into April, a robot made to please Warren.


    The implications of "baking" as a metaphor signal a journey of going from a state of being emotionally raw to reaching a space of spiritual growth, especially through the symbolism of fire. Ghalib wrote that love is a "spark", a triumphant fire (the word 'Ghalib' refers not just to the poet's name, but also to the fact that love is described as "an unconquerable fire.") Annemarie Schimmel in her book Rumi, wrote that the Persian poet drew on symbolism from the kitchen in particular, using various dishes as symbols for spiritual nourishment. (25) She wrote: “And of course Love is a cook, and thanks to its endeavours the raw becomes cooked; the ‘heart’ stands over its fire enabling the ingredients to become edible.” (89) Principal Wood quotes Alice in Lessons from the chapter in which she asks (because she's changed size so considerably), "But if I’m not the same, the next question is ‘Who in the world am I?’ Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” (Oxford Alice 18). It's a puzzle for Buffy too, and Rumi's poetry seems to offer an answer:

    Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.
    Help someone’s soul heal.
    Stay in the spiritual fire. Let it cook you.
    Be a well-baked loaf and lord of the table.
    [...]
    A mouth is not for talking.
    A mouth is for tasting this sweetness.

    Clifton Snider also references Rumi when he discusses Alice's journey in her search for selfhood (he calls her "uncooked") in his article "'Everything is Queer To-day': Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Jungian Looking-Glass":

    In Zuni myth, she would be described as “uncooked” (see Roscoe 219). Interestingly, Rumi, the Persian mystical poet, uses [the same trope] in one of his mystical poems: “There is a spiritual fire for the sake of cooking you. . . . If you do not flee from the fire, and become wholly cooked like well-baked bread, you will be a master and lord of the table” (Jalal al-Din al-Rumi 144). Alice’s journeys through Wonderland and in the Looking-Glass world are efforts to become “cooked,” that is to affirm her ego identity, to develop the functions of consciousness, to become as far as possible an integrated, whole person. Source: Through the Jungian Looking Glass



    "Ronnie", "Nancy" & "Sluggoth"—

    Brief thoughts on this before I jump back to the episode. I haven't said much about Nancy so far, but she's an interesting character. Some critics have said that Nancy's character was just a vehicle inserted by the writers to enable "exposition dumps", an excuse to have characters remind the audience of stuff that happened last season and served no purpose of her own. But there seemed to be a deliberate, textual emphasis on gender politics foregrounded by her character throughout the episode. In fact, "Nancy", "Ronnie" and even the "Sluggoth" demon are all interestingly named characters. One could read Nancy as an innocent victim—she might on the surface resemble the stereotyped "victim" of the horror film: after all, she's first introduced running from danger, she runs straight into Xander who gallantly takes her back to Buffy's house and to apparent safety; Buffy instructs Xander in a future scene to "take Nancy home" in his car, Xander mentions later how she's "all alone and worm-bait", later Nancy is rescued from her captive position by Buffy in a style reminiscent of the swashbuckling Eroll Flynn (explicitly referenced in Petrie's script). Buffy's leadership traits, by contrast, are underscored by Nancy who comments on them as unusual qualities for a "girl" or a girlfriend for that matter—"Is your girlfriend always this commanding?"

    And yet, on the other hand, we get repeated reasons not to see Nancy as a typical victim. She is written to possess traits that aren't stereotypical: she appears unemotional about the death of her dog (more so than even Anya, who comments in dismay "Ooh, puppy!"); she takes the initiative with Xander ("And I'm really pushy, so that works out well then!"), and while she never meant for them to come true, apparently, she still did voice feelings of vengeance towards her ex (Buffy is briefly surprised: "You wished your ex was a worm?") Importantly, she suffered abuse at the hands of her ex, a fact which, in itself, colours her character with a certain depth and motivation.

    There are several possible origins to her name: one obvious connection is to the former First Lady of the US, Nancy Reagan (1921-2016), who was as the Guardian Weekly put it, "best known for her love for her husband, the man she knew as her ‘Ronnie’." The other association is Nancy and Sluggo, which goes with the sound of the "Sluggoth" demon. In fact, the comic strips seem to place Sluggo as Nancy's boyfriend. Sluggo (in how he is portrayed), is lazy and his favourite pastime is apparently napping. In a possible coincidence, the character of "Spike" in the comics (also known as Butch), frequently knocks out Sluggo (though Sluggo occasionally gets one over on Spike.) From the ABC/NBC sitcom Taxi, Marilu Henner's character Elaine O'Connor laments during an episode: "I don't even need Cathy and Heathcliff. I'd settle for Nancy and Sluggo!"


    The character of Nancy was originally created by Ernie Bushmiller to be a precocious eight year old girl. Sluggo Smith, her pal/beau/nemesis, was introduced in 1938 as the same age as Nancy, from the "wrong side of the tracks". Nancy appeared initially in a 1940s comic strip from United Features, then St. John Publications and later in a Dell comic written by John Stanley, titled Nancy and Sluggo. In 1971, several newly created Nancy and Sluggo cartoons apparently appeared on the Saturday morning cartoon series called Archie's TV Funnies, which starred the Archie characters running a television station. Nancy appeared along with seven other comic strip characters, and the series lasted one season. In 1978, she was also featured in several segments of Filmation's animated show The Fabulous Funnies, a repackaging of Archie's TV Funnies material but without the Archie characters.


    Nancy was also the subject of Andy Warhol's 1961 painting, Nancy. Paul Karasik and Mark Newgarden in How To Read Nancy: The Elements of Comics in Three Easy Panels write that she was not only "an early punk rocker" but hugely important as a protofeminist. In fact, Nancy and Sluggo consistently are associated with themes of gender and feminist concerns. Don Harrison wrote that she was: “omnipresent in popular culture—in the art of Andy Warhol [...] as an icon of punk rock including popular Sid and Nancy T-shirts." (Deconstructing Nancy.)


    In fact, if Spike is in any way linked to Ronnie or the "Sluggoth" demon (he stakes the monster in this episode), then Nancy and Sid Vicious also come into the picture, although this is less of an obvious connection. As is probably known, Spike and Drusilla were modelled on Sid Vicious and his girlfriend Nancy. The punk scene of London apparently used the moniker "Nauseating Nancy" for Nancy Spungen, seeing her as a bad influence on John Ritchie (aka Sid Vicious). Nancy was said to possess a histrionic personality disorder while Sid apparently suffered from dependent personality disorder, and the two disorders (viewed as co-morbid), might possibly explain their intense relationship. Sid was arrested for murdering Nancy in the fall of 1978; he died the next year owing to a heroin overdose. Years after his death, his image appeared on T-shirts and posters worn over leather jackets of punks, idolized for his "edgy, rebellious persona" and "self-destructive tendencies." (Apparently, the story of his involvement with Sex Pistols and Nancy launched the Hollywood career of Oscar winner Gary Oldman.) (“A Vicious Story–Sid and Nancy’s Doomed Punk Rock Love that Remains a Mystery”)


    Jessica Stark writes that much of what she calls the “adorable camp humour" of Bushmiller’s work reveals "discordant fringes" as Nancy’s repeated misunderstanding of gender rules destabilise established behavioural codes and norms.


    Stark explains, referring to the above strip in her article "Nancy and the Queer Adorable in the Serial Comics Form":

    [...] [I]Nancy assumes a “ladylike” posture that defies Fritzi’s ideas of female gender restrictions. In a corrected “feminine” posture, while rebelliously sliding down the banister again, Nancy performs the lady in a typically rambunctious or “unladylike” action. The humor in this posture lies in Nancy ’s immediate correction of her posture to obey femininity, while remaining disobedient to the expectations from the authority figure of Aunt Fritzi. Nancy understands some gender conventions but opts to deny others. She wants to slide down the banister again, and she manipulates the gendered script in order to do so, while still submitting to the correction. As a precocious young girl adorable in her tenacious misinterpretations—Nancy accesses a subtle defiance of gender normativity, which mocks behavioral codes strip after strip for a humorous gag, while precluding direct punishment.
    There are several other strips that foreground such gender subversion:




    Nancy was also the subject of several "pop art" works by Joe Brainard, compiled in The Nancy Book (2008), which include the piece "If Nancy Was a Boy" (1972.) Continuing the legacy of Bushmiller’s playful subversion of gender in his comic strips, the tongue-in-cheek exposé reveals the ways that Brainard's Nancy “transforms, destabilizes, and subverts the existing balance of acceptance of sexual identity and sexual roles." (Ross 1999:324)


    A fourth correlation comes from the movie: The Attack of the 50 Foot Woman (1958) directed by Nathan Hertz. The wealthy heiress Nancy Archer encounters an alien monster and grows into a murderous giantess after she's hit by some alien ray burns, seeking vengeance against her husband, Harry Archer, who cheats on her with another woman. Swathed in sheets worn bikini-like over her 50 foot figure, she eventually "picked up" and squeezed her husband to death and was killed herself when a power line transformer nearby blew up.


    Veronica Lodge—another "Ronnie"— also grew to be a giantess in Archie’s Weird Mysteries (a French/American animated TV) in the episode titled "The Attack of The 50 Foot Veronica", a direct reference to Hertz's film. Like "Nancy" from the original movie, "Ronnie" is hit by Dilton's growth rays and turns into a giant but refuses to shrink back. Just wanted to get some of these possible associations out before turning back to the episode—

    ~~~



    2.6: Anya at the Bronze—

    Back to the episode. We cut to the Bronze, where Anya is apparently at work with one of "clients".

    She is stirring a mixed drink, sharing a table with a young woman that the script tells us she "met at the club." (It's interesting to consider that there's apparently a plethora of women willing to reveal their personal histories and vengeful wishes to a perfect stranger.)


    The girl is speaking to Anya, detailing her history of having been cheated on: "And it's not the fact that he cheated, it's the way he cheated, you know? I mean, we could have talked. I could have handled it."


    Anya doesn't seem particularly engrossed by this history, she's eager to get to the vengeance part. Perhaps she's had a surfeit of hearing tales of personal woes from the number of women she's been listening to, or maybe this particular client has been taking extra long to outline her troubles. "Uh-huh. Uh-huh," she murmurs, "I get it. Go on." The girl continues: "You know what he is? He's spineless. Yeah, that's it. He's—he's like this spineless little pig." And she leans forward, getting to the part Anya has been waiting for. "And you know what I wish?" Anya breathes a sigh of relief. "God, do I want to."






    End of Act 2






    Brief note :

    Spoiler:
    Very sorry for the delay— I'm really looking forward to HowiMetdaSlayer's review next! I have a really bad case of the flu at the moment and am pretty unwell--but I also really don't want the next episode delayed so
    —as I've told MetDa—the space is free for her to post her review (now or anytime.)

    She has kindly told me she's fine waiting and has been busy herself, and I've been encouraged to continue posting in the meantime (and I'm eager to finish as some of my favourite BY scenes are ahead!), but I just want to reiterate: as soon as MetDa wants to post, I will place a few empty posts ahead and finish mine under spoiler tags instead (I'll remove the spoilers later) as I don't want to disrupt the next review.

    Really looking fwd to the rest of the season!

    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 14-11-19 at 02:21 PM.
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  9. #125
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    Regarding Sid Vicious.
    His own mother was the one who fed him the drugs (she was an addict too) who killed him. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, his body had been off the Heron in prison so he wasn't used to that dose and it killed him.
    He also had another girlfriend by that point (when he was out on bail awaiting trial) so this whole eternal love thing seems hard to believe. We know he had also gotten into a violent confrontation with Patti Smith's brother at a gig. So this gentle guy who was only led astray by Nancy is equally hard to believe.

    There's also lots of conspiracies about Nancy's murder/death. But she had one small stab wound which she had bled to death from. There is no doubt if that had been seen to sje wouldve survived but they were both to off there heads for that. Theories (put forward by Sids friends) that a drug dealer they owed money too had done it just don't add up. If that had been the case the dealer would've stabbed her far deeper and far more times. Most likely they'd gotten into a heroin fueled argument and Sid had stabbed her once then forgotten about it. The other theory that it was a suicide pact he'd got cold feet on doesn't work either as they most likely would've done there wrists in that case.

    John Lydon aka Johnny Rotten also hated the Sid and Nancy movie. He considered it ridiculous i.e eating beans and champagne and he hated the portrayal of him and how the actor looked compared to him. He is correct on both points imo
    At the same time while the movie over played the England scenes they felt they underplayed the New York Hotel scenes as that Hotel was even far worse in real life than as shown in the movie

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  11. #126
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    As we're heading into some overlapping I checked with SpuffyGlitz if she'd prefer me to continue gathering responses for the end of the review or start posting and she felt the latter would work best. So here are my thoughts up to the last post of the review so far.

    A huge thanks for fighting through the flu to keep posting SpuffyGlitz, loving reading your thoughts.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    I'm a very hard-line, angry atheist.
    Yet I am fascinated by the concept of devotion.

    ——— Joss Whedon

    We are, all of us, incoherent text,
    and just knowing that - knowing that
    no matter how much you say, 'I am this'
    and part of you is not that -
    means that you can say it.

    ——— Joss Whedon

    Laura Mulvey famously wrote in her original essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" in Screen: "It is said that analysing pleasure, or beauty, destroys it. That is the intention of this article." (1975) That is emphatically not the intention of this review though! :P
    Really great intro SpuffyGlitz to an episode that looks a lot at self-identity and that notion of trying to explore who you are, who you feel you are and who you want to be. It's such a reoccurring theme. You say that there is a cynical edge to the episode, whilst also being moving, and I think it is perhaps because there is a sense of potential and hope that holds despite our failings and misjudgements. When Buffy tells Spike that she can see he has changed but is unsure of what he has changed into it is like she has reached inside and pulled out the very fear and insecurity that plagues him. Yet it becomes something that she positively influences, something that they face together. How the episode pulls this alongside Spike's wish to positively affect her life, to come and help and find a way to find himself and prove himself in action combines really well for an overall sense of how the season will have them affecting each other. But at these early stages there is a lot of uncertainty and the past hangs heavily.

    I rarely ever read reviews or listen to commentaries, am pretty poorly read generally and haven't seen many of the shows or films people reference. I've often not even heard of them. So I found all the insights you gave to the known and possible influences on Joss and the other writers really interesting and loved the numerous comparisons you made to so many other texts. Like you I find the reviews offer such richness and explore the show's layers and draw fascinating connections. It really enhances my enjoyment and consideration of the show. Your review is most certainly contributing in this way and it has been a delightful read for analysing such an excellent episode, with more to come! An analysis which is serving to better appreciate it's beauty and what it offers, and is not in any way destroying it through doing so.

    Beneath You and to an extent, season seven as a whole, abounds in frames and matters of space —interiors, exteriors, doorways, grids, arches, passages, windows —spaces through which we “see”, navigate and mediate the world. Windows and doors help mediate between regions, help segregate “space” to contain or demarcate opposing worlds, all of which leads me to the creative potential of the “frame” and its cinematic potency. The frame can be both didactic and self-effacing (the Hollywood “classic narrative” film), it may be aware of its own constructed-ness (the self-reflexivity of a Sirkian melodrama, for instance), it may hold the capacity to represent the unfiltered truth (the “window” that frames a natural world that we look out onto—in contrast to the frame of a painting or work of art which marks its constructed-ness.)
    This is such an excellent point to raise and I instantly had scenes and shots fly to mind from the episode itself and through the season when I read your thoughts here. It works brilliantly of course with the theme of seeing as you say, awareness or lack thereof, with exploring our place and potential within the world around us. It actually reminded me of a discussion we had once about the framed pictures of doorways that runs down the stairs at Revello. The stairway symbolic of both positive or negative journeys, doorways as potential and symbolic of transition. To consider the perspective of the character, of the moment presented and this sense of interaction, self-reflection and truth through the framing is just excellent.

    I love that you are giving focus to the length of the teaser and how it frames the episode to follow. The way it starts with snapshots which show the negative moments in various relationships, break ups and senses of loss really pulls the influence of what has been to the fore. But it also then focuses on the moments that head out of it. Xander and Willow reconnecting, Spike getting his soul, Willow's retreat and training. The transition from S6's struggles into S7's exploration of what happens next. And this then sits against Anya being warned that it isn't a good time to be a good guy before we see the context of the challenges ahead with the opening of the school, Buffy's new role and Spike's struggles in the basement. The uncertainty of what Buffy is seeing and how he's changed, why he has, relating again to where they have come from and where they are going to, transitions and journeys. I'm really looking forward to reading your thoughts on the run through of these and the meaning and emphasis you draw from them.

    Your consideration to the symbolism and use of windows, to both see the world and separate from it drawn against both Xander's role as the observer and his actions in fixing the windows is great. The tie to Hell's Bells and crossing the threshold of outside/inside with his visions and this repeated theme with Restless of boundaries and structure you drew was really thought-provoking. I've never seen Rear Window (no shock there ) but it sounds really interesting and visually rich. And spatial metaphor is perfect alongside an episode which positions the characters against each other, the world they operate within and the challenge to come in its title too.

    The "family" is a site of revelation and every detail of the mise en scène, in fact everything that is in front of the camera, carries significance. Whedon incorporates these elements into Buffy in a seamless way, explaining that "part of what made the show work was my not knowing how a TV show works, because I kept being overly ambitious. And I was told at least once by an executive that, "You're putting too much visual information on a page." It's like, well, you know I'm not going to be sad about that. Let's reach for that. Because I wanted Buffy to be cinematic." (Whedon, Wired, 2012)
    This is really interesting and really underscores why Joss feels Buffy should only be viewed in the 4:3 aspect ratio it was shot to be seen in. Everything viewed is a choice against other choices and how the shots and moments are framed gives emphasis in deliberate ways. But whilst wanting cinematic meaning in the choices of what was in front of the camera he didn't want cinematic structure and the clash of those elements hit when the remastering was happening. Joss was quoted saying, "Adding space to the sides simply for the sake of trying to look more cinematic would betray the very exact mise-en-scene I was trying to create. I am a purist, and this is the purest way to watch Buffy. I have resisted the effort to letterbox Buffy from the start and always will, because that is not the show we shot." (AV Club, 15/12/14)

    Consideration to the importance of all of this in presenting meaning alongside incoherent text and the use of the breakdown of structure in the season, of how Spike's breakdown on the street in BY pushes the idea of performance whilst signalling structural collapse, is great.

    All your points concerning home and space were really very interesting reading. I adore the symbolism that runs with the significance of 'home' and how it is used through BtVS. The home, so connected to Joyce and security, became a place that was unfamiliar, changed and unnerving to Buffy when she first came back in S6. The interaction with the house as representative of internal balance and challenges continues in this season and the presence of the basement, where problems and fears have been faced before (such as Flooded and Normal Again), returns repeatedly again too. The family structure being challenged with the use of the house as others arrive and add strains through the season works with Nancy being invited in as they work out the plan here. This is the hub now and a place where plans and relationships are defined. Your point about the dismantling of words in the season as Xander looks to define his relationship with Buffy to Nancy following the familial scenes of Lessons works to both the breakdown of structure and the definition of boundaries in a way that really appeals to me.

    But we are not this protagonist/student, we are watching her/him and have been given this scene to watch in a movie theatre, and we're one of many watching it. And the screen is not in our peripheral vision, but is centrally positioned before us. As explored in sixties and seventies film theory: the screen is both a mirror and not a mirror.
    This reminded me of Gillian Rose's text exploring visual methodologies where the social, the compositional and technological modalities are all considered in terms of the sites of production, the image itself and the audience for interpreting visual materials. A photograph presents a visual to read, a possible snapshot or moment of truth, but interaction with visual materials, our understanding, is influenced and informed by so many factors and the intention for it to be looked at is part of that. Presentation of self and how that sits against how others perceive them is raised repeatedly for the characters, Spike in particular as you say (identity being such an important part of his overall arc). It is fascinating to raise also the deliberate interaction with the audience through inclusions such as the 'not' Buffy's in the credits as a way to connect with the character's plight and with the topic of personas, acting 'like' and the mirror exploration and confrontation of self. I love this.

    The idea of the connections, the rhizomatic system as you presented it also reminded me of StateofSiege's consideration to the importance in the connections of our past along with how the repressed can return, and openness to be affected by the world. These aspects where there aren't strictly linear paths is interesting against the leadership aspects of this season and how the empowerment of others somewhat disperses hierarchy but came from it. I don't think that this dispenses the significance of progression and verticality either though, it just doesn't limit connections to only that and I think this works with you quoting Deleuze and Guattari as saying they aren't actually opposed models.

    Thank you for some really interesting introductory information that I'm sure will come to mind beyond just this episode and into our further exploration of S7 too. I will particularly be looking at the framing throughout with increased consideration now.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    As I mentioned, I wanted to go through these repeated scenes for the light they shed on what has happened so far and where we find the characters in Beneath You. Considering this is the second episode of the season, one would have expected the first episode to have a longer “previously on”, but it makes sense that it's being laid out here: we’re exploring a number of shifts in relationships and transformations. And the teaser does a thorough job of juxtaposing certain moments together to create clusters of meanings, both from the past season as well as flashbacks from S7's premiere Lessons.
    Huge kudos for seeing the repeated declarations made in the flashbacks where the authenticity, depth and meaning around what is said can be questioned. The connection between Buffy's request in AYW and Spike's programming of the bot is something we've discussed and I think the tie really underlined that Buffy was looking for a role to be performed at that point and the disconnection was stark as it sat against the misunderstood greater connection Spike felt through her having made the request. Excellent catch on the tie between Spike's response to Buffy when she goes to break up with him and he's assuming she's playing a part, just going through the usual hot/cold motions of their relationship, to the words The First as Dru speaks to him in Lessons. A lot of the trouble with Spike's inability to see what was wrong in his relationship with Buffy in S6 was because he was totally accepting of the mutual abuse within it and that link back to Dru you've identified between the two really underscores that influence before he was souled and able to view it differently.

    Spike seems to view his relation to the Slayer as a kind of musical pattern, a leitmotif or unique melody that punctuates the rhythms of his un-life, the first indication comes in Real Me when he tells Harmony in a proprietary tone the conquest of the Slayer is his song: “Singing my song now, are we? You should pay me royalties for that, or at least get your own tune”; in Checkpoint he repeats the association (“Sing me a new one sometime, eh? That bit's gone stale”); in As You Were he once again makes a connection to music: "I've memorised this tune, luv. Think I have the sheet music"; in Touched: "I've hummed along to your pity-ditty."

    Music, numbers and submersion (he speaks of 'drowning' in season five) are some of the metaphors he’s chosen to define his relationship with Buffy as well as to quantify his love (“I47 days yesterday, 148 today”) and I think this is significant as music does seem to trigger associations for Spike (quite literally as we get to the later part of season seven!) There is an interesting passage from Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines that speaks to this association of love with musical rhythms and numbers, it's much longer but I'll quote only a bit: here the narrator recounts how he would always hum a specific tune thinking of Ila, the woman he loved:
    It would appear unannounced, for no apparent reason, and though it was always the same tune there were times when it sounded quite different. At times it was a happy, lilting kind of tune [...] But there were times when the tune became eerily sombre [...] As I walked, to drown the buzzing of that tune, I would play with numbers in my head. I would try to work out how many miles I had walked and how much time it had taken me […]
    This is just fantastic! I don't think I've ever seen the repetition of music in Spike's associations before and the link to love works so well. I'm sure there are a myriad of examples of Victorian romantic poetry that would support the idea that these connections would be strong for William and so too for Spike. Drawing this influence into his wish to be souled to become 'attuned to the object of his desire' is incredible. Really excellent.

    The First in Drusilla’s form taunts him with the same phraseology he’s used for Buffy, there is clearly an internalisation of guilt at not just his actions but also his words in season six. It would be easy for the First to sense this; it's obvious there's a wealth of guilt and self-loathing Spike experiences newly souled, which the First can utilise to its full advantage. Perhaps he sees Dru now through a cloud of his own fears at what he must have seemed like when he spoke of "belonging to darkness"; or perhaps he's seeing Dru for the first time through the prism of William with the background and context of over a century of having been soulless; or maybe it's a reflection of his own view of himself; that he is always going to be mired in darkness.
    Spike's changed perception when souled is a fascinating aspect but he doesn't openly share his feelings often, tending to be more defensive about his own perceived vulnerabilities. Looking to how The First utilises Dru and others against him is a great way of gaining some more insight. It is interesting to consider (without spoiling the context for you) that in AtS Spike says he and Angel were innocent victims once. It is a world away from having felt saved by being sired and this idea that he sees himself soulless reflected in what Dru says, is punished/tormented by it, and it also reflects his fears of what may not have changed within too is great.

    Drawing the connection of declarations and performance by the outfits that Anya and Xander are wearing at key moments is superb. And linking the goading and dominance of D'Hoffryn to Anya as Lloyd mocks Spike is excellent.

    As redemptive arcs for the three figures of Willow, Spike and Anya are set up for this season, there's an intersection between punishment/ reward.
    And in seeing the AR, Warren's death and Anya's attempt to punish Xander I think we also have the connection of how each has abused power emphasised. There to inform how they change, how they will change, and choose to address their inner conflicts and contrast with their interactions with those around them from here too.

    DS: You know, there's Buffy right there. You see a hole, you jump in it.
    JW: Exactly. I was going to say, I love the rhythm of that. It's just like, "Oh! Oh, a big gaping hole into Hell. Doot!" That's just the definition of a hero.
    ...
    DS: Look here now, Xander finds the hole, he does not jump into it.
    JW: He wants to fix it, and make money. Yes, you can learn a lot about a person by how they deal with a hole. Can we edit that?

    ---Commentary, Lessons
    That's great. It almost makes me sorry I've never listened to the commentaries.

    I really like the symbolism you raise of the clock, spiral and shattering glass for ripple effects of actions. Season 6 followed the consequences of actions and the avoidance of them closely from the very start; the desire to resurrect Buffy, to Buffy clawing her way out her grave and then the hitchhiker demon they faced all come at the very beginning. Consequences has significance throughout the show of course as the past is always relevant, but with the emphasis in S6 and then the direct continuation from 6 to 7 for the characters, consequences as a main focus again is particularly strong. The key question, as you connected again to Carroll's Alice of, 'Who in the world am I?' is logical to feel with the internal challenges and changes to be faced, the re-discovering of themselves that follows.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    The song "In the Depths" from the German darkwave band Stillste Stunde (Stillest Hour) plays as the Prologue opens... The German vocals of the song "Von der Tiefe / es verschlingt", translates to mean, "From beneath you it devours" (although it should probably be 'Aus der Tiefe' to be most accurate, according to some sources.) And it's in Beneath You that this recurring catchphrase is first spoken.
    Ah that's fantastic! Thank you for this and a great breakdown of the prologue. I'd never have thought to check the music choice of that opening scene, although I know from the times when I do that the choices are as deliberate as all other aspects so I really should pay more attention. I look forward to the further music/narrative ties you mention there are.

    Season seven repeatedly strips words of their immediate context to form new connections: the "girl" in the dream, Dawn and Buffy are interchangeable.
    A really interesting point that I'll try to remember to look out for.

    As far as Buffy-dreams go (and Buffy tends to have really zany dreams!), this was one of her most realistic, which I think was deliberate. It adds to the sense of not knowing which reality is "really real".
    It also gives the sense that part of the purpose of the dream being to see beyond the immediate in a different way, to see elsewhere. The dreams Buffy has work as another example of 'sight' being key of course, but that uncertainty of what is real leaves her both trying to interpret but also with an immediate sense of 'knowing', despite the cryptic aspect remaining too, "There's more like her, Dawn. Out there somewhere." The slayer line felt. The importance of a sense of connection was something Willow was emphasising in Lessons and is returned to thematically pretty immediately again, underlined even further by that sense of interchangeable references between Dawn, Buffy and the potential you noted too. The focus on the window looking out that follows again is connecting Buffy to the world beyond her, outside.

    I think it's nice to consider a visual rhyme here too perhaps. The shots you have chosen of Buffy and Dawn at the window really emphasises lines; the curtains and the play of light and shadows, the shot of them in a pane from the outside with the frame surround, the cut of shadow over Buffy's face. This is somewhat reminiscent of the emphasis on lines, shadows and light that reoccurred in the dream, connecting them yet again. You've really brought such a deeper appreciation for this scene and the themes, meaning and visual communication within it.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    Then there's the symbolism of water—heavily connotative in its meaning—washing away the signification of language and words (“the chalk all ran”). If this is about the dissolution of language, then it's equally about washing away or dissolving a prior identity, shaping it into something new—the way Spike's admission in Crush that he was "drowning" in her was the start of a kind of unravelling.
    I love that. I think unravelling is a good way to see Spike in the early part of the season, breaking down before he rebuilds, his thoughts often fractured and his control fluctuating greatly. I think being souled is definitely a traumatic experience because of the overwhelming emotional shift in how he views his past actions and himself. That feeling of separation, he would never have done those acts as he now is, but remaining connection when he has the memories of doing them and still has the drives for blood and violence as part of himself too, must be exceptionally difficult to come to terms with at first. As with Willow's control there is a degree to which this comes back to power because it is about control and balance and an internal acceptance of self. Spike is very much a new person, distinct and meaningfully different, unsure of who he is and what he can be. But not entirely separate to who he was. Either as human William, who he's now more connected to than ever since being sired, or soulless Spike, with that demonic side still within him too.

    As you say, dealing with the rush of images/voices, the memories of the deaths he's caused, is joined with his feelings about Buffy and what happened between them, what he did to her. And then there is the deliberate torment The First is adding in as well. I really like the bombardment described in the passage you quoted. Gaining equilibrium enough to be capable of even starting to work out a direction and intention would be a mammoth task. I would imagine the sense of separation and very negative feelings about who he was is why he doesn't return to his crypt. Associations he doesn't welcome as you suggested, and which were covered in canon in S10. His identity is in the air, he's deeply troubled and I think fears what hasn't changed in himself too, which would probably just increase the desire for distance. He doesn't want to return to what he was, isn't who he was, and, like a milder version of wearing the coat, going back to his former home and all the memories/connections it holds just isn't welcome.

    Interesting thoughts on the timeline for Spike's trip to Africa. I had always just assumed the cave paintings seen to be of Warren's flaying were drawn precognitively, but I can see that with the travel time it makes some sense to place those events actually after Willow has killed Warren despite when they are shown against each other within the eps.

    This is actually a great early signpost for a central question Buffy's character faces. She still feels fuzzy about her "job description".
    There's also the balance for Buffy too of her internal selves, sister/friend/ex/mentor/counsellor/slayer, that works so well alongside the switch from Spike's fragmented conversation to Dawn's multiple identity in the car that you drew ties between. And of course Buffy's aspect of being 'the law' that will come up, being the Chosen One, and that side of leadership and authority that explores using power and how you connect to others with it. Does it always hold you apart or can you sometimes use it to support others and empower them in a way that lessens or negates differences? How and where Buffy's duty as a slayer overlaps or overrides her other roles or her job features regularly too, so this notion of her having a 'fuzzy' job description is great when the boundaries of it will always be questionable anyway depending on the challenge being faced and which 'role' is prioritised. Great catch on the repeated references to her job and how that falls to emphasise connections as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    But Buffy is still a little nervous. She's less convinced that anyone will want to show up. Wood is quick to reassure her: "You'll be surprised, Buffy. You're the youngest, and, uh, least stuffy member of this faculty." I guess this is Wood's indirect way of saying he's noticed Buffy's a hottie.
    I'll add in a vote that it was about Buffy being younger. I think the idea of having someone they could go to who wasn't decades away from them in terms of age, and importantly also wasn't a teacher, allows her to have a different dynamic with the students where they could feel freer to talk openly. I have to say as a parent though I'd be very unhappy about another adult being given a position of authority to the eye of the students with no qualifications to be dealing with a lot of the potential emotional/social problems being brought to them. But I think it is either a distinct change in times or always was just an aspect to suspend disbelief over.

    I agree the charm tactic with Wood works. He's an interesting character and I really like the ambiguity around him, I think it works well. The morality of wielding power covered in their exchange about detentions and then beatings as punishments is an interesting aspect to include in their initial exchanges when they are both in truth leaders.

    "I'm a vegetarian," Wood announces.
    Which is a reference that also calls to mind that how things appear on the surface isn't necessarily the truth as we know that being a vegetarian in no way should stop Robin from eating at the Doublemeat Palace where in reality no meat is used.

    It seems possible, in fact likely, that he doesn't want to meet in the confines of the basement again, instead he wants to meet her above on ground level. Buffy tries one more time, not willing to give up yet. "Spike?" But there is no answer, and the basement seems truly empty now.
    Yes, as I've suggested in a general post about the fluctuating control Spike shows through the episode, I think we can link his attempt to put on a costume and control the next meeting with Buffy, looking to prove himself in action rather than attempt words, very much with his distress at how it went the first time they met in Lessons and the taunting he received from The First at the end. It makes sense then, as you suggest here, that this seeming avoidance of Buffy is about not wanting to have another failed speech and uncontrolled conversation occur. Of course his revised plan still won't go as he wished either.

    It's an interesting shot: A threshold signals two directions, it simultaneously connects and separates. She is framed but also looking at a frame (she surveys the landscape before her.) Additionally, she's in a transitional, liminal space: the threshold is the midpoint between the darkness inside and the light outside.
    It is a fantastically evocative image. Having her sat on the suitcase rather than stood too shows that sense of reluctance to go, despite being prepared to leave and packed. She's literally resting on her baggage rather than lifting it and moving. The contents representative of her as it contains what she takes with her, so it includes her longings, her worries, beliefs and insecurities connected to the journey ahead. It's such a well-set moment to glimpse her inner feelings without words. And the rain (just our typical UK weather for so much of the year of course), is such a perfect addition. Rain can be symbolic to cleansing after hardship, for rebirth, renewal, as a giver of life. But it is also symbolic for a coming storm, trouble ahead, and of sadness and loneliness too.

    Giles leans one arm on the doorjamb over her head and they both look ahead in the same direction, with Giles standing over her. It's a protective pose, at the same time there's something kind of authoritative about it.
    I can see that. But I also think their clothing feels in tune to each other as they wear the same calming natural browns, linked to nature and reliability. Even though, as you say, like the scene in general the sense of calm is somewhat of an illusion, I still think it speaks of understanding and support. Of connection. So like you I read the scene overall as Giles' genuine support and care being shown.

    I really like Willow from Buffy's suggestion too that the colour choice for Willow also links her to the surrounding colour and reiterates her reluctance to leave and the wish to continue to rest and blend in here.

    Or perhaps he wants Willow to get over her fears on her own. This seems the case: as he picks up her suitcase and opens an umbrella, he offers her this encouragement: "Trust yourself, and the others might follow."

    They walk out in a beautiful shot: Giles, protectively holding an umbrella over their heads as they head towards the taxi.
    It's a lovely scene between them I think because he doesn't offer her false assurances he can't possibly guarantee but tries to encourage her to brave what is ahead and does assert that she can add value. His support underlined not only as he shelters her from the rain to get to the taxi with the umbrella but as he helps her carry all her concerns her suitcase too.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    Blue is an interesting colour choice for Spike. Unlike black or red (colours Spike typically wore in prior seasons- see below), blue is a serene colour, it evokes trust, loyalty, honesty and responsibility. In prior seasons, there's been an encoded clash between their costume choices: in the finale to season five, Buffy was in white, signalling her purity and goodness, reinforced in season six's Afterlife, compared to Spike who is in black in both scenes. In this respect, it's significant that Spike has chosen to wear blue in his first "real" meeting with Buffy since becoming souled (one that he has prepared himself for, unlike the sudden meeting in the basement which caught him off-guard.)
    I like the idea of the blue as reflective of Spike's wish to change the dynamic they have. Buffy and Spike have often worn contrasting colours, most typically white against his black as you say, but at times when they have broken the barriers between them they have worn matching hues. Most notably, outside black, in OMWF when they were both wearing passionate reds. Then in Smashed Spike did wear a blue shirt when he confronted Buffy (although arguable with a very slight purplish lilt) and they started their destructive sexual relationship. Again then he was looking to change their relationship, but on that occasion the blue actually held a visual rhyme to her blue jacket, the hard denim she wore protecting/covering her white shirt.

    In Smashed the blue seemed appropriate too that in his intent to assert himself and reveal truth to her there is also a connected coldness in meaning for the colour. Particularly relevant when they both go on to hit out at each other plenty, verbally as well as physically. Here the cold association could be seen to reflect, in contrast, the wish to keep some things concealed. The power of having a believed truth to tell worked then with the colour's links to confidence and intelligence, the brightness of the blue with the sense of exhilaration he was feeling. Now the truth/knowledge he's offering comes with a very different agenda. The brighter shade, more comprehensively wrapped around him now, feels a dramatic choice that works with this attempt to come and make a difference, attempt to help and present himself as changed. The almost over the top intensity of the hue linking to wanting to show change in his demeanour and the dramatic note speaking of the performance it is taking from him to seem on the outside very different to how he feels on the inside. But here and now Buffy's outfit holds no matching hues, emphasising the separation currently between them.

    There's also something different about Spike's hair. Spike's made a genuine effort to revert back to his usual slicked back style, but the hair still looks a little curlier than it typically does, even under the gel, especially when you compare it to season six, where it looked really platinum and helmet like:

    In the image below, his hair still looks a little curlier than the norm (or maybe that's just me), along with the fact that he looks a little less pale. Vampires can't tan, obviously, or they'd dust, so I assume this was a choice to have Spike look less "vampiric", now that he has a soul (in season four, he was made to look really pale, for instance.)
    Ah Spike's hair, his mood barometer. It works so well that he has tried to return to a harder, slicker, re-bleached look. It's very in keeping with the idea of shielding himself, protecting his vulnerabilities through his image and outward appearance, as he always has tried to do. I agree though that it feels like there is a subtly looser look to the styling though. It could also be that it is in combination with the slight but meaningful differences in Spike's general manner and attitude JM presents a lot of the time in S7 adding together with the subtle styling change to create the feeling he seems different somehow, softer perhaps. Spike loses a lot of his brash attitude once souled. Not all the time, but how his general attitude shift shows outwardly in his manner and expressions is one of the most consistent ways his depiction in S7 reflects the internal change in him I think.

    Despite having opted to just walk into Buffy's house uninvited, which clearly isn't appropriate given what happened between them, there is a gentleness I think in how he watches her and waits for her cues. He wants to prove himself but clearly is wary of how to go about it, whilst also attempting to shield himself and the truth of what has happened to him. The confidence is a performance I agree, and he is actually primed for his offer of help to be rejected.

    Nancy reads between the lines and deduces there's a lot more to it than what either of them is telling her. "And I'm thinking it's a little more complicated than just that." And we get confirmation that Xander is thinking about Anya, as he responds by saying: "Always is."

    ...She now takes in Spike's appearance more closely, her eyes flitting over the clothing choices, the hair, and his demeanour. "You've changed." It's both a statement and an implied question. She's asking if he has really changed.

    "I have."
    I love this group of short exchanges for communicating so much more than just what is said. And each small moment is so well delivered by them all too.

    The reactions between everyone really just reinforces that this season is dealing with the consequences of what happened in the previous season and why there is a sudden increase in tension in the room. I do understand Dawn's wariness when the new dynamic between her and Buffy is only so recently established, why her resentment of feeling lied to and pushed out again flares. Plus she is feeling a great deal of resentment and anger towards Spike too as we'll see. But I do think she is unfairly judgmental here, even if her concern and upset is understandable. Buffy hasn't been hiding her relationship with Spike in the same way as before. She needs space to work out her own response to her attacker's return. Something not made easier when Spike is constantly appearing where she doesn't expect him, isn't where she does, and is acting so strangely. Plus, as Buffy made it clear when taking Dawn to his crypt at the end of S6 and will again when Spike is raised in the argument in Selfless, his chipped state clearly makes her still ready to dismiss him as a general threat. Accepting all that, her choice to not immediately mention having seen him, especially when she needs to take time to process it a little, is struggling to deal with it, is something I feel very sympathetic towards.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    Here, on the other hand, he's in dead earnest and allowing a little of it to show: even his demeanour has shifted to a softer tone as he tries to invite Buffy to trust him (or at least, to trust the truth of what he's telling her.) Perhaps he found it difficult to voice his offer of help without resorting to brash performance before (keeping a tight leash on the various factors causing him to dissolve into madness is difficult—all of it must be suppressed in order to maintain his collected persona, his front before Buffy and the others). Or perhaps he had no idea, once he walked in, as to what he was going to say to her alone.
    It is interesting that you describe his original approach as brash as this is the personality trait I think he has most clearly shed since becoming souled and whilst we know he is trying to present as his past self to gain some coherent control and protect his truth, it is that edge that I think he outwardly lacks. His intrusion into the house and confident manner in asserting he's needed I think is how he tries to seemingly present it still. But to me there is a loss of cockiness in his expressions, a challenging that verges to being disrespectful and hostile at times, as he holds back a little now waiting to gauge Buffy's reactions. That more brash, rude and hostile manner is something he draws back to far more when his act becomes even more extreme in the bronze later, but for me that aspect is missing when he enters Revello. It feels like he is trying to keep a respectful distance whilst also trying to press he can be useful. There's a tension in him he is trying to cover with seeming confidence and slight smiles at first, but that turns more to a quiet awkwardness and hints of self-reproach when they talk together.

    Great catch on how much Buffy using the notion of something being inherently 'wrong' in him would resonate and impact him. And in his ready willingness to take the dismissal without responding in frustrated aggression and move to leave, he again shows a little glimpse of the change in himself.

    I really like the comparison you drew with the song Something's Coming for the tones of uncertainty that hang over between the two of them as important changes remain concealed.

    Spike is staggered and taken aback. His expression says it all. I think he both understands and appreciates the threat, and the fierce love it shows for Buffy, and takes it with utter seriousness.
    I agree there is a note of acceptance and appreciation and I actually felt there could even be a flash of respect shown for her choosing to stand up to him and say something. It makes a lot of sense to me that it takes a great deal of time before they are able to rebuild a relationship and reconnect, that neither are ready to do it any time soon. I think it worked well when it eventually came in the canon comic continuation and it's something I would have loved to have seen played out on screen.

    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    Why does Spike want this truth hidden from her? If Buffy were aware of the enormity of his change, this would put a spotlight on the act, and he no longer feels he deserves any attention on himself, no longer deserves forgiveness.
    I very much agree that Spike's perception of himself now and all that he has done means his unsouled belief that becoming souled would fix things is shattered. That his remorse and struggle with all of his past, including what happened between him and Buffy, has him questioning if he should be forgiven, has him feel he doesn't deserve it. We see several examples in these early episodes of his self-loathing and self-punishment.

    Back in Grave, his initial impetus for the soul stemmed from a selfish desire to "be with her" or to "fix" things, but this way of thinking is utterly repugnant to him now. Not only has his conception of love entirely changed, but he doesn't feel he deserves or can even expect any kind of forgiveness. And so he tries to divert attention on himself as a changed person, to keep up the pretence that he's just the same as before...
    Yes his souled view is very different and of course he had no idea how it would change him. The feeling of separation and connection must be very hard to reason through, particularly when first souled. I think I've said before that there is possibly also a worry that in revealing he has become souled it will seem to be dismissive of the hurt he has caused, as if he is trying to brush it aside easily, and he doesn't look at becoming souled as that ready fix now.

    This moment may seem contradictory if we recall that in Lessons, Spike did touch her, and she didn't flinch at his touch then, but here the situation is very different. Spike is real to her here, his "performance" of "old Spike" (and the toxic relationship she associates him with) make her memories of the AR rise closer to the surface.
    Yes, her comment just before this moment that she had hoped he was a mirage emphasises the difference. Finding him as she did, where she did, threw her and of course when she tried to return to see him again he was no longer around which could have made that feeling of unreality stronger. This moment now, when he is trying to look and behave more akin to 'old Spike', will feel very different.

    The soundtrack rises to a crescendo as the flashbacks play, and as they end, Buffy looks down, her lips pursed tightly, remembering. And Spike moves back, as if scalded, seeing her reaction to his touch, looking at her in concern. (Which is consistent with the script, which indicates she is revolted at the memory and Spike looks in concern at her.)

    ...Spike looks at her searchingly, seeing her defensiveness and agitation, absorbing the fact that his touch has had a terrible effect on her. Some of the layers of shame and disgust he feels at himself subtly come through in his expression, despite his trying valiantly to maintain a soulless demeanour. And he knows, beyond a trace of any doubt, that he can never, ever atone for what he did.
    It is interesting to consider both how he expresses now that he doesn't feel that he can offer words along with him saying earlier in Revello that he isn't coming to try to atone. That difficult combination of separation and connection between his souled and soulless selves makes the notions complicated and layered. To feel responsible for something, to have the memories of doing it, when you as you now are would never have acted that way. How to respond to that. For me it makes Spike's tendency to want to look forward to what he can do now, to perhaps try to define and mark how he's changed and who he is now rather than focussing back on things he can't undo, make sense. But this moment, in how he is affected by Buffy's response, is one of the times you can clearly see how his past does weigh on him, raises guilt that he feels is an impossibility to repair. His assertion he doesn't have the words matches this choice to try to help in action and not try to explain.

    Of course he has changed and in wanting to show that he is showing a response and judgment of his past. His assertion he wouldn't try to offer words now has a tone to it that he understands it would always be inadequate as a response. Like Willow he fears rejection, fears himself and feels he should be punished, but also wants to move on too and become himself. Even if he isn't wanted he is focussing on the fact that he might be needed. So he isn't looking to try to 'fix' things easily any longer but put himself on the line to help. As you say, he wants to draw a line. And that works well at this point when Buffy is looking to make it clear how limiting her acceptance of help is between them. It isn't a way for them to get back together. And this presents yet another point in the episode where someone is defining their boundaries and expectations to someone.

    Before walking away from the scene, he says to her "Whatever our beastie is, he's gone." He walks off alone, down the street in the direction from which they came, and his parting shot now takes on a double-sided meaning: if she'd been searching for the "beast" in him, it seems to have gone for now.
    Yes, once again it is a moment where additional meaning hangs and it underlines how much redefinition and change is happening between people.

    Buffy's pendant stood out to me in the scenes in Revello and here when she and Spike are patrolling. I'm totally happy to accept this could just be an 'eye of the beholder' thing, but it interests me in the context of these two scenes because I find the cross design very reminiscent of a jigsaw piece in it's general look. It feels really appropriate seen as such when she's trying to work out both Nancy's mystery and what has changed in Spike and is missing specific pieces of information. It also fits alongside the earlier consideration that the group is reduced/aren't all there at the moment and matches with Spike describing what is coming as making them, "look like little bitty puzzle pieces." in a way that really appeals to me. It shows clearly in this pic that you gave earlier when Spike first arrives at Revello...


    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    Nancy is heard screaming as they both race down the hallway, further into the building as the monstrous presence underneath leaves a trail of destruction in its wake...
    They wait it out together, until suddenly — and somewhat conveniently — the monster retreats back into the ground, leaving them both alone.
    Whenever I see a monster that drives through the ground and emerges like this it always reminds me of the film Tremors, I loved that movie in my teens. Then the monster has emerging tendrils with teeth to help grab and draw in its prey but the sluggoth seems limited to what it can grab off the surface. So, in trying to find a reason for it's retreat, I've decided that there's some barrier underground due to the construction of the building and it just can't get any closer.

    Nancy looks at the wreckage of the floor of her apartment building and shakes her head, disbelieving. "Ronnie? He couldn't." Apparently, this isn't the "trouble" she usually associates him with. "He just... " She decides to be direct. " "He was an abusive bastard" is the catchy headline. And he'd just show up, even after..." Her voice trails away. Ronnie was apparently a stalker who continued to follow Nancy even after they broke up. There's a moment of genuine empathy and connection between both characters in this scene.
    There's a good insight in this perhaps to how Buffy must be feeling too I think, particularly the 'even after...' comment. Although we can assume a difference of intent between Ronnie and Spike, that Ronnie was looking to continue the abusive dynamic of before, that weariness of not just being able to move on that Nancy feels is probably very similar to elements of Buffy's mixed feelings. This wish to not have a complicated relationship remerging into your life again possibly having played a part in why Buffy hadn't brought up seeing Spike again. Xander's empathy at not being able to move on too really underlines though that similar feelings can have very different details behind them. But at this moment, albeit not for much longer, Buffy is in the dark about what has changed in Spike.

    Thank you for the overview about the monstrous feminine. It's really interesting, particularly how it represents women but framed within male fears and the ties with food, consumption and devouring are great. I can see how this will reoccur through the season and look forward to discussing it when it does. The use of food as symbolic for development (often the idea of what we 'consume' representing the experiences that feed into who we are), of baking as a journey, coupled with ties to social expectations for the genders is intriguing as well and something else that I'll try to remember to look for.

    BY goes to great lengths to obscure which gender deserves "blame", and it seems like an endless loop at times—is Ronnie a victim or a monster? Is Nancy a damsel in distress/ a victim/ or another representative of the monstrous-feminine, as is Anya? Is the worm monster phallic or feminine? Creed writes in the introduction to her book, "The presence of the monstrous-feminine in the popular horror film speaks to us more about male fears than about female desire or feminine subjectivity."
    This is excellent and that loop of victim and perpetrator reminds me a lot of Hell's Bells and the cycle of abuse in that as Anya's past victim comes in vengeance, looking to tear her life to pieces this time. This sits really nicely against the contrast of breaking a cycle that can link with the theme of empowerment and what we see in the shifting dynamics in the season, particularly between Buffy and Spike. It really works against the Rumi poetry you quoted, to:
    Be a lamp, or a lifeboat, or a ladder.
    Help someone’s soul heal.
    Stay in the spiritual fire. Let it cook you.
    Be a well-baked loaf and lord of the table.
    [...]
    A mouth is not for talking.
    A mouth is for tasting this sweetness.

    The other association is Nancy and Sluggo, which goes with the sound of the "Sluggoth" demon. In fact, the comic strips seem to place Sluggo as Nancy's boyfriend. Sluggo (in how he is portrayed), is lazy and his favourite pastime is apparently napping. In a possible coincidence, the character of "Spike" in the comics (also known as Butch), frequently knocks out Sluggo (though Sluggo occasionally gets one over on Spike.)
    That's so bizarre if it is a coincidence, and pretty bizarre if it isn't. The possible associations with The 50ft women too. I have to say I loved the simultaneous submission and defiance to gender normativity in the Nancy bannister slide comic strip.

    As I've run us back through to where we were hopefully this will have just worked as a post within your review. I'm very much looking forward to reading more.
    Last edited by Stoney; 17-11-19 at 06:34 AM.

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    Just a quick thread update to say that I've moved the review due dates on a slot each. So please check the new revised date next to your review on the first post of the thread and let me know if there are any problems caused by the change. Each date is now two weeks after the original date posted.

    I know we said we weren't going to alter the dates again but I think in the circumstances it's justified. SpuffyGlitz has been posting the review through her illness and is expecting to finish it in the next few days, but to give a fair time to read and discuss the next review too really needs everything to bump one along.

    It's great to have posts and discussions going again and I look forward to continuing to go through the season together.

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    I am perfectly happy with changing the dates if it allows us more time to discuss SpuffyGlitz's insightful and truly inspiring review!

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    Hi all, First, really, really sorry about the delay. It's genuinely been a difficult week and I'm really grateful for everyone's patience. Thank you all so much for the extremely kind words. I'm eager to finish and will post the rest asap. Please feel free to discuss or respond to anything at all in the meanwhile.






    ACT THREE

    Scene 1: At the Bronze—



    We left off at Anya and the young woman—who doesn't know she's become another one of Anya's many "clients"—conversing at the Bronze. Judging by the number of empty glasses on the table, they've been there a while. Anya prods her with: "You were saying..." She seems to have lost the thread of their conversation. "Um, I want more quesadillas?" Anya persists. "Before that." "A margarita?" "After that."


    And now she remembers her rant about her cheating partner: "Oh, yeah. God, my boyfriend's spineless, he should just—you know, he should just be spineless for real!" It's a casual aside, but she seems to fervently wish for it. She doesn't know that Anya can actualise this wish of course.


    Her line of "reasoning" (he's spineless so he should be made literally spineless) reminds me of how Anya, back in season six, seemed to think Xander was gutless for leaving her at the altar, then proceeded to wish for his intestines to be "tied in knots and ripped apart inside" his "lousy gut", in a grossly disproportionate form of warped vengeance "logic". Anya clutches at her statement eagerly, hope filling her face. Maybe she can finally get this client to inadvertently commit vengeance. Maybe D'Hoffryn and the others will be pleased with her. "No spine. Got it! I can do that."


    Baffled, the woman looks at Anya in confusion. "What do you mean?" It always makes me wonder how Anya initiates these conversations. She seems pretty unworried about dropping massive hints about her vengeance gig ("I can do that!") and doesn't seem all that emotionally invested in listening either. Especially if her tactic is to sidle up to women with a friendly, "let's gripe about guys in general" tone to her voice.


    It's interesting to speculate: does Anya offer these women free meals or drinks as she gets them to open up? Or does she just launch into a man-hating tirade and they enthusiastically join in, relating their own personal experiences with guys? Or does she provide personal glimpses into her own life? Maybe not so much, but Anya has been known to sometimes get lost in a rant even while she's got her professional "vengeance" hat on. She tries to direct their conversation back to vengeance before the woman loses track again: "See, honey, what I'm driving us towards here is sometimes, don't you just wish that—" At exactly this point, Anya sees someone enter the Bronze and rolls her eyes. "Oh, penis."


    It's Xander. As he had said before in his car, he has seen Anya a couple of times here at the Bronze. He walks in with Nancy, Buffy, and Spike following behind him in tow. There's an air of resigned frustration in his expression—It's as if he's been living in a perpetual state of dread over what Anya's going to do next.
    I actually really feel for Xander here: it can't be easy when your ex is a vengeance demon but you're still battling the guilt of having left her at the altar. We don't know if he still carries the weight of that, but he probably does, and it doesn't seem fair to him. But it may be one reason why he feels he's been unable to move on, as he related to Buffy earlier, and hasn't actively tried to stop Anya from trying to rebuild her "vengeance empire." He may feel it's not his place to interfere in her life now that they're broken up.


    Buffy may feel, as a friend of Xander's, that she doesn't want to appear to be "taking sides", especially since there is still a lingering (albeit shaky) friendship she shares with Anya. At the same time, as the Slayer, she also has a duty to carry out protecting people's lives—and Anya's vengeance is getting dangerous, taking its toll on the safety of Sunnydale, which is unsafe enough as is. (Willow is still away right now and Dawn can't do much in stopping Anya from getting back into vengeance.) As for Anya, it's hard not to feel somewhat sympathetic for her as well, despite the spectacularly wrong choices she's making here, when she's clearly miserable even as she attempts to bounce back into her old persona. Xander turns to Nancy and asks in a low voice: "Is this the one you talked to?" Nancy nods her head, a little disdainfully. Anya has probably picked up on the note of disdain.


    The group crowds around Anya's table. She can see what they've come for, and turns to the woman at her table with a plastered-on smile: "I tell you what—why don't we put a pin in it? Why don't you get yourself a drink, and we'll pick it up in a few, OK?" To “Put a pin in it” obviously means “hold onto that thought and we'll come back to it later”. As a slang term, it sounds like it refers to thumb-tacking an idea to a bulletin board, but it actually originates from World War II—putting a "pin" back in a hand grenade so it won't go off!


    Anya's abrupt dismissal of the girl only emphasises how their chat has the feel of an "appointment". In fact, despite her hoop earrings, there's something different about Anya's clothing choices here as well: there's a definite contrast to some of her outfits at the Bronze from earlier seasons which seemed more celebratory and "party-esque". Maybe this underscores how she sees the Bronze now more as a "work" zone or professional space.


    In the present moment, Anya is far from being in a partying mood. She looks at Xander, Nancy and Buffy, even Spike, who are all radiating disapproval as they stand. It's as if the police have arrived. Xander, as he indicated in his car earlier, is well aware of Anya's vengeance-activity at the Bronze ("lots of scorned women there making vengeance wishes on their exes"), but the gang (by which I mean, at this point mainly him and Buffy) had stayed away so far because of all the personal history between him and Anya. But now the situation isn't one they can choose to ignore.


    They're all clad in jackets, signalling that they've just entered from the outside. Ironically, Spike is the only exception: as a vampire, he doesn't need one, but it emphasises the absence of his perennial leather jacket and his past persona. He stands in the background, not speaking but backing the others silently, almost like a bodyguard. "You guys, I'm working here..." Anya says this in a tone that's half indignant, half pleading.


    And Buffy holds up her sword, as if to remind Anya of her vocation. (And also to indicate that trouble is afoot because of her vengeance.) "We noticed." She pointedly places the sword on the table. "That's why we're here," Spike explains. But it's Xander who confronts her directly. In some ways, there's a sense one gets that despite their historic not-wedding, they're still like a bickering couple.

    "Riiight," Xander begins, his tone sarcastic, "Did you turn this nice lady's ex into a giant worm-monster?" Xander clearly already knows the answer, but Anya seems to enjoy answering, looking pleased with herself. "Yes" she grins gleefully, sticking her tongue out. And Nancy is disbelieving. "No way. Are you saying that thing was Ronnie?" And Anya responds with an interesting line. "You wish it, I dish it. I thought we were clear on this. I didn't think you were going to go all 'narc' on me."



    "Narc" is slang shorthand for "narcotics agent"—a police officer who deals with laws relating to illegal drugs. It also refers to a police "informant", someone who secretly reveals inside information to the police, telling them about people engaged in illegal activity. While I think Nancy was probably completely unaware of the fallout and consequences of her wish, Anya's line throws in a little ambiguity about just how minor or accidental their little "talk" was. Either way, Buffy is taken aback at the intent. "You wished your ex was a worm?"


    For her, this is incomprehensible, despite having had some pretty difficult experiences in her own history with guys. Nancy quickly contextualises, defending herself. "We were just talking," she clarifies. Xander wryly lets her know that Anya has a way of "making things happen". Maybe he's also remembering his exchange with Anya in the painful aftermath of their "not wedding" when she wished for him to be unborn, internally relieved that he's still alive. Still, there's a sense that he's used to Anya's ways as he explains her actions to Nancy.


    Anya matter-of-factly attempts to explain vengeance-demon logic: "I had a quota; the guy had it coming. What's the big?" Nancy claims she's going to be sick, but Buffy turns to the most pressing issue at hand: Rocky was swallowed and now a dangerous worm monster is on the loose. "Anya, that thing you created burst through solid pavement and ate her dog!"


    "Ooh, puppy!" Anya squeals, sad. (It's actually a pretty daring move for a tv show to allow for the death of a dog. They seemed to play around with this in season two when Drusilla offered Spike "Sunshine" to eat, which thankfully he didn't!) Upon seeing her sympathy for the dog, Xander finds Anya's irrationality too much to comprehend. He openly gives voice to his wonder. "Wait, that gets your sad noise? People's lives are in danger, and you give it up for the Yorkie?!" Anya rolls her eyes. "You never understood me, Xander."


    Their personal history seems to keep getting in the way of their interactions. Nancy turns conspiratorially to Xander, frowning: "Who is this woman?" Nancy may not know Anya well, but this seems a little strange. They've clearly chatted (more than Nancy seems to be letting on.) Anya knew instantly that her "dog" was a puppy and not, say, an Alsatian. She must have mentioned her pup at some point in the midst of wishing Ronnie would become a worm, all of which suggests, at the very least, a cordial conversation.
    If Anya is really that much of a stranger to her, it begs the question: does Nancy really go about telling perfect strangers she wishes her ex would turn into a worm? Perhaps she's on edge all the time, traumatised by her abusive ex to the point of not being able to hold it in, even with strangers.


    Xander, with deep self-consciousness, tells Nancy: "Anya? She's, um, Anya. My ex." The last bit is spoken almost in a whisper. "Oh." The wealth of implied disdain in Nancy's response is the last straw for Anya. Vengeance demon or not, she has feelings. "Hey, nobody's bragging here!" Indignantly, she gets up from the table to go.

    But Spike is quick to prevent her. Knowing her departure will mean she won't undo the spell, he wastes no time and tries to stop her by grabbing her upper arms. Anya is already pissed at this point, and tells Spike to back off. "Hey, hands off the merchandise!" It's interesting that she refers to herself as "merchandise", particularly after she's referred to Xander a short while ago as "penis". She seems to see everything between the sexes in a pretty cynical light. Gathering herself together, she adds "Spike, you don't get to go there again." She's obviously referring to their brief hookup last season at the Magic Box, when they drunkenly commiserated with each other's heartbreak (Spike's despair over Buffy, hers over Xander) and engaged in meaningless comfort sex.


    Spike, who isn't interested in Anya, makes it clear: "Please. I've already forgotten about our little time together," he scoffs. There's a slight shift from the mutual empathy they displayed for the other's plight in Entropy, and it's unclear whether the memory itself has spontaneously brought on a sense of distaste, or if he's making things doubly clear in the presence of the others.


    It's also interesting that Anya hasn't displayed the slightest hint of surprise at seeing Spike back in Sunnydale. (Buffy at this point hadn't told anyone about having seen him in the basement, so there's no way Anya could have known he was in Sunnydale again.) In Same Time, Same Place, Anya informs Willow that Spike is now "insane" living in the basement, but this has to be the first time she's seeing Spike after a long while. Maybe Anya doesn't know what happened between Buffy and Spike since their encounter at the Magic Box; maybe all she knows is that he and Buffy had a secret relationship. Or perhaps she didn't know he'd even left Sunnydale. Either way, she's not surprised at his presence at the Bronze.

    Nancy is confused again at the mention of Anya and Spike's "time together". The exchange that follows is a bit like the verbal ballet of Something Blue back in season four, and I'm even reminded a little of this monologue from Woody Allen's 1975 Love and Death (link here) Turning to Anya, and trying to wrap her head around their complicated histories, Nancy asks: "I thought you were Xander's ex-girlfriend." "I am," Anya rolls her eyes. "But you and Spike..." "Had a thing," Anya finishes. Spike adds firmly, in a conclusive tone: "Didn't last."



    But Nancy's still wondering—wasn't Spike Buffy's ex? All that tension in the room when he'd entered Buffy's house clearly meant something, and Xander had confirmed he was Buffy's ex.

    "But weren't you Buffy's—" Before Nancy can finish her sentence (or anyone else can say anything), Spike answers very quickly in a staccato voice: "Briefly." There's a hint of mild panic on his face as the subject of their relationship is brought up, but he schools his face back to a neutral expression quickly.



    Buffy adds a resolute: "Never serious." She seems equally unnerved at the subject coming up and swats it down immediately as something unimportant, in Spike's hearing.
    Nancy seems to think they're all a bit bizarre. She asks one final question. "Is there anyone here that hasn't slept together?" And Xander and Spike catch each other's eye in a classic (and I think deliberate?) Spander moment, exchanging a glance and then looking away from each other quickly. It seems to follow in the tradition of a previous Spander moment from Season Four. Spike rolls his eyes and turns the other way. (Incidentally, Xander and Buffy also haven't slept together, but the writers for whatever reason didn't go there.) Anya pipes up: "Look, at least we're all bipeds, which is more than I can say for Ronnie, the worm boy." She gives a small, derisive chuckle.


    Buffy steps in again, eager to bring the subject back to their focus and away from their personal histories. "OK, guys, can we focus here for just a second? Anya, this is Ronnie. OK? He wasn't a worm. Worms are like this big—" She motions three inches with her thumb and forefinger—"This... thing was like—"


    She seems at a loss and Spike offers a helpful definition: "Sluggoth demon." He turns to Anya. "Am I right?" Sighing, Anya agrees. "Maybe." And Nancy is increasingly uncomfortable being mixed up in all this and tries to make her role in it clear: "Wait, I didn't wish for that! I mean, I don't even know what this whatchamacallit demon thing is." "Sluggoth demon," Spike repeats.


    He seems to know about it and supplies information: "It's a very large, very nasty, natural predator who died around the crusades." Anya shrugs, a little defensive. "Same phylum. It's not cheating, I just embellished." Sarcastically, Xander tells her she can "un-embellish" now, and Anya positively bristles in fiery indignation. "Bite me, Harris! I have rules to work with! Vengeance demon codes of conduct!"

    She continues: "But you'll never understand 'cause you're all still so—" She looks around at the group and suddenly, in a moment of clarity, sees them all as fundamentally different from her... "—human!" She's a demon, and feels they couldn't possible understand. And she's struck by this realisation, looking from one to the other. She doesn't realise just how close she's come to unravelling a certain souled vampire's truth.


    And Spike can't let this go by— Anya has just, inadvertently, clubbed him with the others as human. And in light of his present need to cling to a performance of his old self, the last thing he wants is any foregrounding of "human-ness" in his character. He steps up to Anya and gets in her face. "I'm not." He attempts a casual voice, but he's clearly trying to establish that he's the same, dangerous Spike of old. "Demon, just like yourself."


    In his desperation to prove that he's just the same in front of the others (and in Buffy's hearing), Spike makes a rash, split-second decision here. If he'd just kept quiet, maybe he could have continued with the restrained performance he'd kept up so far. But as he speaks, Anya starts looking at him very intently. "Now, you're gonna turn the spell around like a good little vengeance demon or I—" He notices her intent stare and gets uncomfortable. "—what?"


    Anya continues to gaze into Spike's eyes with a look of wonder and fascination. "Oh, my god!" Her tone is filled with a hushed sense of excitement over her monumental discovery...She sees he has a soul! Spike frowns, his nervousness mounting at Anya's antics, terrified that she will broadcast what he's been valiantly trying to hide, not sure exactly what she knows yet. "What are you staring at?" he asks brusquely.


    "Oh my god!" Anya repeats. And Spike panics. She knows. "Right, let's go.' He realises it's time to either leave immediately or direct focus elsewhere to distract the others, or his cover will be blown any second—right in the public arena of the Bronze and right in front of Buffy. He's in a panic, desperation showing on his face but Anya isn't about to stop—her excitement getting the better of her. Maybe this is a novelty to her and she has never seen a "re-soulment" before of this kind...As a vengeance demon she apparently possesses the ability to see souls in vampires, and it's something Spike hadn't accounted for. It certainly didn't occur to him when he came to the Bronze or he wouldn't have risked it.

    And now Buffy's attention has been caught —she moves towards them, seeing their heated exchange, looking at him questioningly. And she asks Spike to explain, not Anya: "Spike, what is she talking about?" She senses there's something hugely important about to be revealed. In previous scenes she had already sensed there was something different about him, that she couldn't find answers for...Maybe now, she thinks she will—


    It's Spike's greatest fear. As he grapples with Anya, he turns to Buffy, frantically trying to direct attention away from himself back to anything but what Anya is currently saying: "Nothing, let's go. Got some worm hunting to do." He reminds her of what they came for in a bid to distract her, but Anya is persistent and won't drop the subject. She grabs hold of his forearm to prevent him from backing away.


    There’s a passage from The Shadow Lines which I'll briefly quote from again, which speaks to some of the tensions of this moment as the narrator recalls a climactic moment of emotional exposure before Ila:

    She had given me away, she had made public, then and for ever, the inequality of our needs; she had given Ila the knowledge of her power and she had left me defenceless; naked, in the face of that unthinkable, adult truth, that need is not transitive, that one may need without oneself being needed. (44)
    Spike tries to walk away, but Anya continues to clutch onto his forearm. "How did you do it?!" She's eager for details and won't let go. "I can see you!" She says this as if she can't quite believe what she's discovered and the revelation stuns her.


    Once upon a time, William Pratt had begged Cecily to try to "see" him, but here, in this arbitrary moment, in the impersonal surround of the Bronze, wholly unprepared for Buffy to know (especially in this way and moreover, through an intermediary), Spike is desperate to turn the attention away from what Anya is about to reveal. He can't allow the news of his soul to be made public here in front of the others. We don't know the weeks or months he may have been tormentedly going over the question of whether to tell Buffy, but he has evidently decided not to share this change with her, and he doesn't want anyone else to know.

    His reasons for not wanting Buffy to know are probably numerous. To quote him from Lessons, maybe "she won't understand", or he doesn't want to highlight it as a redemptive act because he feels he is beyond forgiveness, especially in how he newly views all of his soulless actions. But another possible reason (which seems likely as part of the mix) is that if she were to know that he got his soul back, she would probe further, would want to know why, may come to know of the trials he underwent, and may guess at what motivated him to do it, how the inspiration for it lay in her (I'm trying to see this from Spike's interiority, not necessarily saying that is how Buffy would react but I can see why these may be further reasons for Spike's reservations.) In other words, it would put a spotlight on the lengths he was willing to go to, the depth of his love, and this is not something he is prepared to have exposed publicly. With the new self-awareness of his soul, he does not want that "burden" placed on Buffy: exposing that depth of love is terrifying to him. As he will reveal in a later episode, holding her silently constituted the "best night of his life" and just revealing that to her was terrifying to him ("Terrified. And if you poke fun at me, you'd bloody well better use that 'cause I couldn't bear it." End of Days) So in the present moment, squirming under Anya's scrutiny and aware that the others are watching, he makes another attempt to leave. But Anya still won't let go. "How did you do it?!"


    Through gritted teeth, Spike instructs her to "Shut up" but her steady stream of comments are getting increasingly revealing. "You shouldn't be allowed to"— Here, Anya is probably referring to how difficult it is for a vampire to win back his soul (as Spike would well know, given the trials he underwent.) The more she speaks, the more terrified Spike becomes that his secret will be made plainly clear in front of the others. "Shut your mouth!" There's a note of terror in his voice that Anya doesn't pay heed to, she's too interested to learn how he pulled this off—and her questions keep coming, one after the other... "I mean, how did you get it?" "I said you shut up!"


    In one final, desperate motion, Spike punches her in the face with his free arm, and she falls to the ground. Nancy, seeing the outbreak of violence and deciding once and for all that she's better off by herself than hanging around this group of weirdos, hastily turns to leave, not looking back.


    Spike knows that if he stops here, then it is going to look like exactly what it is: an attempt to cover up something. His punching Anya would stand out as a singular action, distinct from the rest of his behaviour since he walked into Buffy's living room. He had been attempting some sort of consistency and this would stand out as an act of violence with the purpose of getting Anya to shut up about something, something important— and would confirm that he does in fact have a secret, that this was why he punched her—to stop her from what she was just about to reveal. So instead of stopping there, Spike goes back to where Anya lays on the ground, continuing to fight in a seeming gratuitous excess of violence.


    And now he must "perform" violence as if he enjoys it, must act every part soulless; must not seem pointed or strategic in his actions; everything must appear arbitrary and accidental—as if this is all just for the fun of it, a lark. And there's a distinct shift in his demeanour as he tries to make it appear as if it is something he enjoys just as before—a casual brawl that a soulless demon periodically engages in for no rhyme or reason, "a decent spot of violence". In saying this, I emphatically don't mean to imply that all this is being deliberately worked out and plotted by Spike in cold blooded calculation: events have been happening in rapid succession and it's his desperate way of coping with circumstances he couldn't have predicted would happen. There is an element of blind, unreasoning panic that colour his actions.

    He hadn't anticipated the attention that would turn on him, and his fragmented mental state, alongside the continually hovering presence of the First (very possibly taunting him throughout and amplifying his torment), may suggest that the fight offers some kind of release from all the tension, but I don't think his mode of posturing (that he's just enjoying a casual brawl) is anything other than a sustained performance, designed to draw everyone's attention away from what he has just narrowly escaped: the public broadcast of his soul.


    And Anya is seriously pissed off now. All said and done — she's a powerful vengeance demon — and she doesn't take kindly to being punched and flung about. This has interrupted her fascinated discovery of what she thought she clearly saw in his eyes, but she now gets up, furious, and forcefully kicks Spike, sending him flying all the way across the room to where he lands on the pool table.


    As he lands on it, he realises that the fight has now become spectacle. The image is reminiscent of how he was framed on his sarcophagus in Once More, With Feeling as he lay on it during the "Rest in Peace" sequence. Anya gets up and we see that she is in full demon face. "I am so gonna kick your ass!" she hisses.


    And it's worked—he has averted the danger of his soul being publicly revealed, all through the avenue of this fight, which has now become a staged thing. And Spike takes it on now, committed to a full-time performance. He is aware of everyone watching, especially aware of Buffy's presence and while still in human face, he springs up from the pool table as if enjoying all the commotion. "Right, bitch," he addresses Anya with a smirk, "Round and round we—"


    But Buffy interrupts. I don't think this surprises Spike, who has been aware of her presence all the while. Grimly, she utters exactly what he wanted her to think: "You haven't changed, Spike." She says it with anger but also a hint of disappointment and disillusionment. It's almost as if she's upset at herself for having believed otherwise.


    And as Spike turns around to face her, he has switched back into demon face. Unlike with Anya, I don't think he can believably sustain this performance with Buffy in human face as his emotions run too deep with her and the stakes are too enormous for him if the act fails. At all costs, she must believe he is the same.


    As she utters the words "You haven't changed," there's a brief flicker of something in his face, and he tilts his head as he takes in the fact that his performance has, so far, worked on her.


    Then, in a split-second shift, he hammily portrays soulless Spike, scrunching up his face at her in a deft mimicry of his season two pre-chip brashness, as if he is irritated or bored by her interruption of his fight with Anya, as if she is merely spoiling his "fun".


    And Buffy has had it. Her anger is amplified because she had only just admitted to him—during their recent patrol together when they were alone—that she believed he had changed, accepting his word and his (implied) apology, and now here he is, apparently the same as before and perhaps even enjoying how "gullible" she was in believing him (she might be thinking).


    Having witnessed his brawl with Anya and deciding he hasn't changed at all, Buffy punches him, hard. And he is prepared for her blow. It's almost as if he's been expecting it, desiring it. His head goes flying with the impact, but he turns and punches her right back. Her head goes flying too, and she remains stunned and open mouthed for a few seconds.


    This seems to do the trick in unleashing her pent up fury at him. If she had been holding back Slayer strength, she now allows it to manifest with full force. We see her expression as she prepares to hit out at him with all her strength—


    And she delivers three infinitely more forceful blows in rapid succession, sending his whole body staggering backwards.


    Spike has now stopped fighting back. He instead stands before her, anticipating her next move, grinning, jeering at her. He turns now to deliberate baiting, inviting her to lash out at him. His physical stance is reminiscent of the scene in the alley from Season Six's Dead Things when Spike invited Buffy to "Put it all on me". But here there is a crucial difference: If soulless Spike wanted to convince Buffy that a "man can change", souled Spike seems to want to prove the opposite. He is presenting his worst, his ugliest possible face to her. In season one, souled Angel invited Buffy to kill him in a climactic scene from the episode Angel, but he stayed in human face, which perhaps made it more difficult for Buffy to see him as a monster, but here Spike does not even allow that, there is no part of him he allows her to see as human.



    One might wonder why he acts this way. Why is he sabotaging any chance or hope for his own forgiveness, especially when he went and sought out his soul precisely to achieve the opposite? Leaving aside the obvious fact that newly souled Spike is different from his past self, it's also worthwhile to consider that souled Spike and season six Buffy may, in some respects, share a similarly uncompromising attitude towards self-forgiveness. While Spike believed the soul would make a difference to Buffy towards the end of season six, souled Spike seems adamant that there is no redemption for him, no worthy reason for Buffy to accept him. And this wars with his need to still be in her life as an ally. In a mode of self punishment, he is inviting her to detest him because he believes he deserves it. In the devastating closing scene of Dead Things, Buffy's expressive face contorted as she wept before Tara, as she pleaded with her not to be forgiven: "Tell me that I'm wrong! Please— please don't forgive me!"


    It was an agonised, heartrending cry from the depths of her being that she saw herself as unforgivable, deviant, wrong. In Buffy's case, she was undergoing a tremendously difficult period in her life, struggling against a deep depression, and misguidedly, harshly judging herself as "wrong" when in fact she wasn't (she was slowly coming to accept life in all its complexities and possibilities, as well as herself.) But in the case of souled Spike, confronted with the endless horror of his past actions—the nameless multitude of his past victims but more personally, his past actions towards Buffy, the love of his un-life, it seems believable he would experience such self loathing. That he would be resistant to the idea of forgiveness towards himself, that certain scenes, images, would keep playing over in his head, gnawing at him, that he would feel Buffy's wrath, feel a disconnection within himself in an engulfing empathy he newly feels towards her.


    This, to me, is souled Spike's version of Buffy's "please don't forgive me". Underneath the brash, insulting performance of cruelty, he foregrounds the very things he does not want forgiven or forgotten—
    There are a few specific sections from Barthes A Lover's Discourse (a book I encountered as an undergrad that I still adore) that seem to speak to what follows in the next section. (I have broken up this scene into two segments, the first segment is the one above, the second comes next, because I think it's complex enough to warrant it.)






    Interlude

    I thought it was worth briefly commenting on the choice of music that sets the tone for this scene (especially since music frames Spike's character throughout the series.) In Season Two, Spike was announced as "punk" from the moment his car entered the frame through the use of music; and in Season Six's Villains, Spike quoted the Nirvana song "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with his line "Here we are now, entertain us" as he underwent his trials.


    In this episode, when Spike swivels to face Buffy in demon face, the Von Bondies’ It Came from Japan plays as the soundtrack for this scene. It's a song inspired by the Japanese band Guitar Wolf and featured in their first album titled "Lack of Communication". In an interview Simon Bar conducted with Guitar Wolf, “bass wolf” Billy jokingly told Bar: "You don’t look delicious, but I could use your bones for stock and call it “igirisu [English] ramen", a throwaway line that seems to recall Spike’s similarly hyperbolic threats in his introductory episode School Hard. In fact, the lyrics of this song deliberately evoke Spike’s S2 persona as well his “punk” roots, as seen in the excerpt below:

    Put away your cigarettes
    And your high class attitude
    Turn emotion to devotion
    Baby I can see it in you too
    We all hail, hail from rock and roll
    From behind a glass case
    We all hail, hail from rock and roll
    From behind a glass case
    Put away your cigarettes
    And your high class attitude
    Turn emotion to devotion
    Baby I can see it in you too
    A garage rock revival band, the Von Bondies' It Came from Japan was inspired by the Japanese rock group Guitar Wolf, described as an “energetic mix” between garage rock, 77 punk and the Ramones. The song seems to hint at a costumed persona, at something carefully constructed coming apart ("Put away your cigarettes and your high class attitude"), abandoned in favour of transformation ("Turn emotion into devotion"), as well as a recognition of something: ("Baby I can see it in you too".) The reference to devotion in the lyrics is interesting (Joss has said the concept of devotion fascinates him.) The Von Bondies mixed romance with raw emotion and this song was apparently inspired by actual anecdotes about the band members of Guitar Wolf — who were known to try and “preserve” their leather jackets and guitars inside glass cases so that their rock ‘n’ roll "spirits" would not “escape”:


    Interviewer
    : Most of the lyrics on Lack Of Communication are pretty straightforward, with the notable exception of It Came From Japan. [...] what is the meaning of "We all hail, hail from rock 'n' roll / From behind the glass case"?

    Jason: "Ever heard of the Japanese band Guitar Wolf? Those mother****ers keep their guitars and leather jackets in glass cases when they're not on stage so the rock n roll spirit can't escape."

    link
    Just placed this bit on the music in a separate segment before the next post so it doesn't interfere with the scene.






    I will post the rest as soon as possible, but a buffer would be great. Thanks truly for your patience and sorry again.
    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 20-11-19 at 03:21 PM.
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    This is great, I'm really looking forward to reading more on Beneath You and appreciate that you're happy for discussion on the parts to continue alongside your final posts. I'm going to be around on and off as usual so I'll try to look out for them going up to help provide buffers and I'm sure others will be able to do so too. Really excited to read the rest of your thoughts on the episode.

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    Hey SpuffyGlitz,

    I am sorry you had a difficult week and I sincerely hope things are already looking better for you now.

    This part of your review is excellent. The others were too, of Course, but this part particularily helped me understand why Spike acts so detestable in the scene in The Bronze. Anya's line "I can see you" is reminding him of how he as a human begged a woman to see him and how he was humiliated instead. It has completely escaped my notice before and the picture of William sitting on the couch with his eyes closed is a great visual. The same applies to the similarities - and differences - between the alley scene in Dead Things and the scene in The Bronze in Beneath You. Spike seeking punishment as an explanation for his behaviour has never ocurred to me before. I am looking forward to the next part of your review but please take your time and don't feel in any way pressured or hurried.


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    All said regarding writers, producers, actors, directors, viewers, readers, etc. are what I remember, my opinions, etc.




    BENEATH YOU (B 7.02) - Buffy/Spike


    * Spike is somehow mentally better than he was in "Lessons" (B 7.01). He decides to 'force the issue' with Buffy. He arrives at her house when Xander and Dawn are there. He essentially gives Buffy an ultimatum to either literally let him back in to her life or literally shut him out of her life. If she immediately lets him back in, he'll stay and help her and be around her. If she shuts him out, he'll not help her, not be around her, and maybe even leave town.

    Spike seemingly deliberately has her touch him to see her reaction.

    His forcing the 'balcony sex' and AR reminders is simply getting those issues 'out there'. But that's largely forced by Anya's knowing Spike has his soul back.

    Not killing Anya means she'll soon tell Buffy about Spike's soul; so, Spike decides to tell Buffy and tell her why he got his soul back. And he heavily implies he wants to die and be in Heaven with her. And he seemed to imply he hopes she'll forgive him for the AR because he got his soul back.


    * Buffy is put on an emotional roller coaster. She goes to Spike in her 'sex with Spike outfit' of white blouse/black skirt ("Smashed" (B 6.09), "Dead Things" (B 6.13)). He shows up at her house and is very professional with her and calls her Slayer. His dialog with her at her front door has him acting as if they never had a relationship. She's hurt and disappointed. She patrols with him largely to ask him what happened after "Seeing Red" (B 6.19), where he was, etc. He purposefully misinterprets her as her asking why he was acting crazy in the basement.

    Buffy is angered by Spike's beating on Anya, beating on Buffy, casually mentioning the balcony sex and the AR, etc. She's miffed by his craziness until he casually mentions hers dumping him.

    The Church Scene is so powerful because Buffy was in love with Spike in BtVS S6 and Spike got his soul back because he considered she didn't love him. And Spike wants to die and go to Heaven.

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  25. #133
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    Wonderful. I truly appreciate these reviews, Glitzy. Thank you for continuing with them when you’re below par. I’m tremendously excited as you’re closing in on the church scene. One of my favourites in all the show, with all its pain and humiliation. Yes, twisted is me.

    Thanks again. Hugs and keep the medicine flowing.

    As a PS also thank you for explaining the soundtrack that plays during the fight at the Bronze. I’m always interested in the music on the show, as it’s always relevant to the story but I’d never been able to make out what the relevant track or band was.
    Last edited by debbicles; 21-11-19 at 09:36 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by SpuffyGlitz View Post
    I actually feel for Xander here: it can't be easy when your ex is a vengeance demon but you're still battling the guilt of having left her at the altar. We don't know if he still carries the weight of that, but he probably does. It may be one obvious reason why he hasn't actively tried to do anything to stop Anya from trying to rebuild her "vengeance empire." He may feel it's not his place to interfere in her life now that they're broken up.
    The interactions between Xander and Anya in this episode are really interesting. It works to the repeated consideration of how complicated feelings can be when relationships end or change. Something that will come up soon again in Selfless of course and Him, really through the season. They rarely simply stop but working out what they change into isn't always easy.

    I really like your observation about the difference in Anya's old self at the bronze against her professionally attired 'at work' persona now.

    They've clearly chatted (more than Nancy seems to be letting on.) Anya knew instantly that Nancy's "dog" was a puppy and not, say, an Alsatian. Nancy must have mentioned her pup at some point in the midst of wishing Ronnie would become a worm, all of which suggests, at the very least, a cordial conversation.
    Possibly, but not necessarily. I think generally calling dogs 'puppies', even when they aren't that young, is just a cutesy way of referencing them. Like calling rabbits 'bunnies'.

    It is interesting to consider how Anya approaches people. We saw with Hallie's targeting of Dawn and Anya's own targeting of Cordelia, that infiltrating their lives so that you are trusted is a used tactic. But, as you say, Nancy doesn't seem to feel she really knows Anya, so the chance she was posing as a co-worker or such is surely less likely. As Anya is feeling the pressure of her quota, perhaps she is just tending to use the social arena of the Bronze to initiate casual conversation and hope that a few drinks will loosen people's inhibitions about talking to a stranger if they are being interested/sympathetic.

    Nancy seems to think they're all a bit bizarre. She asks one final question. "Is there anyone here that hasn't slept together?" And Xander and Spike catch each other's eye in a classic (and I think deliberate?) Spander moment, exchanging a glance and then looking away from each other quickly. It seems to follow in the tradition of a previous Spander moment from Season Four. Spike rolls his eyes and turns the other way. (Incidentally, Xander and Buffy also haven't slept together, but the writers for whatever reason didn't go there.)
    Or Buffy and Anya too. It's obviously a joke, but it always feels a bit uncomfortable to me as it plays on heterosexual male fear of being seen as gay and they've gone here before plenty. It does work with the repeated consideration towards Xander's fears of failing to be masculine enough, but it just feels a little negative to me for male homosexuality to be so repeatedly played against that as a joke (such as it was with Spike and also Larry before too). And really especially when they were far from the only pairing that hadn't slept together there. I'm sure they just intended it as injecting some humour but I feel a bit frustrated by it. It makes me want to both smile at it as it is intended but I also share Spike's eye roll over it too.

    His reasons for not wanting Buffy to know are probably numerous. To quote him from Lessons, maybe "she won't understand", or he doesn't want to highlight it as a redemptive act because he feels he is beyond forgiveness, especially in how he newly views all of his soulless actions. But another possible reason (which seems likely as part of the mix) is that if she were to know that he got his soul back, she would probe further, would want to know why, may come to know of the trials he underwent, and may guess at what motivated him to do it, how the inspiration for it lay in her (I'm trying to see this from Spike's interiority, not necessarily saying that is how Buffy would react but I can see why these may be further reasons for Spike's reservations.) In other words, it would put a spotlight on the lengths he was willing to go to, the depth of his love, and this is not something he is prepared to have exposed publicly. With the new self-awareness of his soul, he does not want that "burden" placed on Buffy: exposing that depth of love is terrifying to him.
    This is an interesting idea, that he would see the act of questing for his soul, the depth of his fixation on her, his love, as placing a burden on her if he revealed it. That does work against his experience with Cecily and how badly it can go to place the weight of your emotions on someone, to let them see you. I think it also works well with my suggestion he might feel saying he is souled will appear he is trying to too easily brush aside his soullessness and all he did. As if he's suggesting she should instantly see him differently and despite feeling separate he still has the memories and feels connected too. It perhaps shows some awareness and appreciation that she will of course still link the experience to him too. He doesn't want to behave as if the soul is a quick fix, what he'd believed it would be when he was soulless. And yes, there is perhaps also a need to not walk into exposing his feelings and being rejected again, his emotional memory of how he felt at Cecily's rejection again affected by the return of his soul. As you say, we see this at later points when he outright states his worry that expressing his feelings will lead to mockery. There are just so many factors at play in addition to the trauma he's going through adjusting to being souled, the torture from the First, that I find how he tries to prove himself but also how badly he handles it with Buffy, his need for her to not know, to withdraw, and also to behave defensively a fascinating and tragic struggle.

    I completely agree that there is a blind panic to the response he has to Anya, a desperation in trying to hide himself and pulling the cloak of his soulless persona around him is his biggest attempt to hide his soul. It is a performance and an incredibly self-destructive one. I think it feels very in keeping with his belief he should be punished and the notion that it shouldn't be treated as if the soul fixes everything. He says some awful things to Buffy and it almost seems to be goading her, inviting condemnation and fury from her and welcoming it.

    What I really like in these first few episodes alongside all that we see of the results of this melee within Spike is the uncertainty that goes alongside it from Buffy. The mix of concern heavily affected by suspicion and some real dislike shows the struggle she is also dealing with now and all plays into the genuine emotional distress in the church to come too.

    Nancy, seeing the outbreak of violence and deciding once and for all that she's better off by herself than hanging around this group of weirdos, hastily turns to leave, not looking back.
    Of course we've no idea how closely that reminded her of interactions with Ronnie and being around physical violence may be something she needed to instantly turn from.

    Anya gets up and we see that she is in full demon face.
    I preferred her demon face in S3 to be honest but I reason that being human and then returning to being a vengeance demon anew can be seen to justify the visual change.

    If soulless Spike wanted to convince Buffy that a "man can change", souled Spike seems to want to prove the opposite. He is presenting his worst, his ugliest possible face to her. In season one, souled Angel invited Buffy to kill him in a climactic scene from the episode Angel, but he stayed in human face, which perhaps made it more difficult for Buffy to see him as a monster, but here Spike does not even allow that, there is no part of him he allows her to see as human.
    That's a great point, that as he steps up his performance in amplifying the attitude, adding that brash, rude front and vicious comments, he chooses to shield himself in every way by presenting his own demonic face. I agree it lends weight to the interpretation that this is in great part about self-punishment, self-loathing and feeling he deserves to feel her anger and hatred. Comparing that against Buffy's need to be rejected at the end of Dead Things, that notion again of feeling 'wrong', not wanting forgiveness whilst she also simultaneously sought comfort with Tara is fantastic. The warring desire to prove he's changed without revealing how hits the wall of fear that he'll fail, that he doesn't deserve forgiveness anyhow and results in the exaggerated cruelty he resorts to prove it.

    Of course Spike's reference to Buffy trying to figure him out is another allusion to him being a puzzle and that missing jigsaw piece still being out of reach for her as he has successfully covered the momentary danger of Anya revealing his truth. I love the additional information about the music choice you gave here, that the soundtrack was inspired from a song within an album called 'Lack of Communication' in itself is so neat.

    Really looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts.

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    Spoiler:
    I'm placing this note both at the top and bottom of this post so no one misses it—

    I will post the Final Act in spoilers later but will leave two empty posts now, to make way for MetDa's review next which I'm really looking fwd to!!

    I don't want to disrupt it, so it would be great to have two buffers, so that the space is completely cleared for her! Once again, just want to say thanks to everyone for the fantastic responses and comments! And for all your patience! I am eager to respond to them all when this is over, and I'm truly sorry for the delay again.








    3:3 "I am odious/ monstreux"

    The subject suddenly realizes that he is
    imprisoning the loved object in a net of tyrannies:
    he has been pitiable, now he becomes monstrous.
    —— Barthes, A Lovers' Discourse: Fragments


    Thus: I imagined I had escaped
    from the crisis at last, when [...]
    a flood of language sweeps me away,
    I keep tormenting myself with the thought,
    desire, regret, and rage of the other; [...]
    no, this is not a relapse, only a last soubresaut,
    a final convulsion of the previous demon.
    —— Barthes, A Lovers' Discourse





    Back to the scene at the Bronze with Spike and Buffy. Since this scene is so crucial, I had split it into two: so, to pick up where we left off: Buffy had intercepted Spike's fight with Anya, and he had swung into a mode of deliberate performance that seemed designed to invite her to see him as monstrous. Continuing to goad her, Spike now selects some of the most vile, unimaginably hurtful things he can possibly muster himself to say. First, he makes an oblique reference to the AR: "Working out some personal issues, are we?" He grins tauntingly.


    Buffy looks as if she can't quite believe what Spike is saying to her. Stunned into silence, there's an interplay of shock, disbelief, horror and a certain bewilderment to her expression, as if she can't comprehend why he is saying this, particularly after their recent patrol. It's a fascinating performance by JM—who is playing souled Spike playing the part of soulless Spike, and where JM's performance conveys tremendous nuance, souled Spike's performance is overblown, unsubtle, hammy: he seems unwilling to allow for any ambiguity.


    Instead of responding in words, which she doesn't seem able to supply at this point—(he's rendered her speechless)—she punches him even harder, using her entire body to deliver a resounding kick that sends him staggering backwards, triggering a rage in her that he could even have the audacity to taunt her like this—


    But Spike springs back up again, as if lapping this up, skilfully uncorking more of her anger with every passing moment and gesture. Instead of mimicking the most recent version of his past soulless self (that self who left for Africa in search of his soul—perhaps because it triggers too much self loathing to even enact it here) he instead mimics an earlier, more hyperbolic version—collating all of his past soullessness into one loathsome performance. He grins as he continues to jeer at her and he's not about to stop.


    As if gluttonous for more, he reaches even lower, now making a direct reference to the AR: "I guess this'd be first contact since the "you-know-when" He's in her face as he says this, taunting, monstrous. It was pretty obvious that he noticed during their patrol that his touch had brought on traumatic memories for her when he had handed her the torch. So this is not only a heinous taunt to her but to himself, a humiliating reminder of what he did.


    Buffy blanches at this, making no response, still looking at him in stunned, horrified silence. She seems to be finding it difficult to believe what Spike is saying, his words are so insistently, bizarrely cruel. Does she sense there's something ersatz about his cruelty? So far, his words and actions have been a bewildering mix, difficult to decipher as there have been so many shifts in the successive times she has seen him: the basement, her living room, the foyer, during their patrol, and now at the Bronze.


    Back in season four's Harsh Light of Day, Spike taunted Buffy about Parker with insistently cruel words ("What exactly does it take to pry apart the Slayer's dimpled knees? Whatever, guess you're not worth a second go.") Even in those earlier iterations, there was an element of performance built into his bravado then. In a sense, this is souled Spike playing the part of soulless Spike, who was also, in a sense, playing a part throughout his un-life. And now he seems to be wrapping it all up in a monstrous melange: perhaps all of it is now haunting him, everything he ever said and did, in confusing disarray, from the immediacy of the AR to well before it.

    One can ask whether Spike's horrific, taunting behaviour here at the Bronze is fair to Buffy, whether his desire to torment himself with everything he hates himself for, results in her being subjected to this confusing and painful onslaught (that she shouldn't have had to endure.) But again, I don't think Spike is acting out of any semblance of deliberation or rationality here, everything he is doing and saying is an act of self-sabotage. Buffy looks at him as if he is momentarily out of his mind, and in a sense, he is, as he will tell her; driven mad by multiple forms of guilt as well as the perennially taunting voice of the First.


    And there's a conflict within him too: he may have been hoping for Buffy's acceptance of his help on the one hand, but on the other, her acceptance may feel to him premature and undeserved, when he is still haunted by what he did and when he feels that getting a soul doesn't wipe out his past actions and history with her as Stoney has beautifully foregrounded. Stoney had in fact originally put forward the brilliantly insightful interpretation that self-punishment is the driving force behind much of his behaviour here, driven by self loathing. Buffy indicated she was willing to put aside her suspicion of him to work together again, but one part of him may militate against what he sees as her ready acceptance, he may not want her to put aside her distrust. This is consistent with how, in Never Leave Me, he revealed things he did in his soulless past to foreground himself as beyond redemption, or how he told her earlier: "But we're not friends anymore so too bad for me, I'm not sharing." There's a conflicted sense within him that suggests he may find it wrong—after his past actions for which he feels such remorse—to still be accepted back into her life. So he acts as repugnant as he possibly can, to remind her of it.
    ~~~


    Back to the Bronze, having delivered his odious "you know when" line, he doesn't stop there either. Pointing his finger upwards, he now makes reference to another episode from his soulless past: "Ooh, up for another round of the balcony then?" Spike is obviously referring to the notorious balcony scene from Dead Things, a sexually charged scene in which Spike whispered to her that she "belonged in the shadows" with him, attempting to draw her into the dark, away from her friends into isolation, echoing some of her worst fears about herself. This is a scene that's obviously been haunting Spike terribly: even the taunts of the First as Dru seem coloured by the same phraseology ("You'll always be in the dark with me") It was an instance in season six where Spike used psychological manipulation to draw Buffy towards him using his powers of seduction on her, at the cost of her own isolation, neglectful of the effect it had on her. (This wasn't always consistent, in Entropy and Normal Again he insisted she tell her friends about them, then make a choice.) But his flip flopping behaviour nevertheless veered towards manipulation, as soulless Spike's focus seemed to be invested in having Buffy all to himself. (Interestingly enough, I hadn't actually made this connection back to Dead Things when I first watched, and it wasn't until I joined this forum and Stoney pointed it out to me that I noticed it.)


    Why does Spike do this, continually foreground these incidents, tormenting himself by reminding her of them too? Here, I'd like to make a connection to two key moments described in Barthes' 1977 volume A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, a fascinating book I discovered in my first year as an undergrad. The book is structured in a series of "fragments" (as the title suggests), each fragment contains a "sketch" of a particular state of being, a particular experience from the point of view of the protagonist/amorous subject. Barthes calls them "figures"—or gestures—of the lover. The goal of this dense albeit slim book, is to invent a discourse for love so as to enable us to love better. Functioning like a dictionary of emotional states, the book follows the protagonist through various stages of a relationship breaking down. In each "fragment", first we get a description of the lover's state, then a deconstruction of it for self-examination. There is an impactful moment towards the end of the book where the protagonist undergoes a sudden, violently painful realisation—it is noticeably different in tone from the previous fragments, and I give the full quote below:

    The subject suddenly realises that he is imprisoning the loved object in a net of tyrannies: he has been pitiable, now he becomes monstrous. [...] Sometimes, in terror, I become aware of this reversal: I who supposed myself to be pure subject (subjected subject: fragile, delicate, pitiable) find myself turned into an obtuse thing blindly moving onward, crushing everything beneath his discourse...I have monumentally deceived myself...Soliloquy makes me into a monster: one huge tongue. (165)



    Barthes sketches in this chapter (titled "I am odious") how the lover's previous view of himself ("I who supposed myself to be pure subject...delicate, pitiable..") changes from one of blinded self pity to one of stark self awareness: "find myself turned into an obtuse thing blindly moving onward, crushing everything beneath his discourse...one huge tongue". This crucial moment of realisation, and the devastation it entails ("I have monumentally deceived myself") causes the lover to look back and review all of his past actions from the point of view of the beloved, not himself. And here, at the Bronze, Spike performs this monstrous re-enactment of his past soullessness, yet behind this assumed front, behind the costumed persona he donned as he left the basement to face her, behind all of the myriad reasons for his reticence during their patrol, the true self underlying all this, raw and crude, beginning all over again, still remains hidden: he won't allow Buffy even a glimpse. In another fragment titled "Demons" (the French title for Beneath You incidentally is "Interior Demons"/"Démons intérieurs"), Barthes describes how the protagonist acts in self-sabotage:

    It occasionally seems to the amorous subject that he is possessed by a demon of language which impels him to injure himself and to expel himself...A specific force impels my language toward the harm I may do to myself: the motor system of my discourse is the wheel out 'of gear: language snowballs...I seek to harm myself, I expel myself...busily provoking within myself the images (of humiliation) which can injure me; and I keep the wound open, I feed it with other images, until another wound appears and produces a diversion...-a flood of language sweeps me away, I keep tormenting myself with the thought, desire, regret, and rage of the other; and I add to these wounds the discouragement of having to acknowledge that I am falling back, relapsing; but the French vocabulary is a veritable pharmacopoeia (poison on one side, antidote on the other): no, this is not a relapse, only a last soubresaut, a final convulsion of the previous demon. (80)


    During this "final convulsion", Spike may not be connected to himself but acting upon a wave of newfound identification with Buffy's point of view, he sees now in stark reality, stepping out of the fog of his previous soullessness, how their relationship unfolded: he is in effect, vindicating her point of view, enacting his monstrosity, stepping into the skin of the previous demon, inviting her to exorcise her anger at him, the aspects of him that he now sees so differently. This is why I suggested earlier that there may be a possible disconnection he feels to himself in this scene, an engulfing empathy for her which, destructive as it is both to himself and Buffy, stems from a loss of control brought on by panic. Barthes speaks in the same chapter of a demonic "plurality" which assails the protagonist all at once, which dialogues with Spike's unique predicament of being assailed both by his own guilt as well as the invasions of his mind by the First which continually visit him: Barthes also speaks of a volcanic crater (he calls it a "solfatara") in which the simultaneously erupting "bubbles" of ""Despair,"..."Exclusion," ..."Uncertainty of Behavior," "Fear of Losing Face" (the nastiest of all the demons) explode in an indeterminate order, one after the next...(80)"


    At Spike's mention of the balcony scene, Buffy punches him again, this time sending him flying back, landing on the floor. She looks down at him in absolute contempt, nostrils slightly flared in fury. Positioned beneath her again now, for the second time this episode (the first during their patrol), Spike now laughs.


    There's almost an air of mania mingled with enjoyment in his tone now, as he ups the performance further. He springs up once again, his lip slightly bloodied, and chuckles insolently. In having got this reaction from her, it's hard to say whether he feels privately rewarded at this unleashing of her anger at him (which is what he'd been seeking), but he dramatically announces, with soulless gusto: "Right you are, luv! I haven't changed. Not a lick." He struts as he speaks, and there's a cut to Buffy's face as he continues this insolent performance. She looks at him mutely with an expression of contempt mingling with something else, something hard to define, but she still doesn't speak.


    He moves closer, getting in her face again. "And watching your face trying to figure me out was absolutely delicious." His voice takes on an almost silken quality as he delivers the last part. Buffy looks at him aghast; this time she almost lets out a small gasp at this final attack.



    If Spike wanted to convince Buffy he was still evil, he is being truly thorough about it. This last blow references their recent patrol together, in which Buffy allowed her vulnerability to show, whether consciously or not: she battled emotions like suspicion, her own repressed concern for him, her need to know where he'd gone, her traumatic memories of how they'd left off, and her instinctual sensing that there was a certain difference in him. If there was any lingering doubt in Buffy's mind that he was hiding a secret, this final blow ought to effectively crush it in its cruelty. And the question remains, has Buffy bought his act? It's open to question, but I think she hasn't entirely fallen for it here. In his need to prove he hasn't changed, Spike has gone overboard, and there's a flicker of something in her face that suggests she can tell something's not right. As Barthes writes in the chapter "Dark Glasses", even while trying to hide, the amorous subject is betrayed by some aspect of his body or voice: "I can deliberately mould my message, not my voice. By my voice, whatever it says, the other will recognise "that something is wrong with me." I am a liar (by preterition), not an actor." (44)

    And it's interesting how Spike frames this: when Spike fought Buffy for the first time in School Hard, he declared bombastically “Fi, fie, foe, fum! I smell the blood of a nice, ripe, girl.” It was the voice of the predator, a sharp contrast to how he will later ask her brokenly in this episode: "Am I flesh? Am I flesh to you? Feed on flesh...my flesh." Here, he is attempting to cover his vulnerability by positioning himself as the predator once again, the one who devours: “Watching your face trying to figure me out was absolutely delicious.” He pretends to be unafraid, instead of the other way around. And as Buffy remains silent, they both almost seem to go into a kind of trance. Spike no longer speaks but seems lost in the moment. Xander's voice pierces through as he calls out Buffy's name and she turns. Through gritted teeth, she tensely tells him: "Not now, Xander."


    But Xander has a pretty good reason: "Nancy. She's gone. And out there all alone, she's worm bait." Xander's trying to think clearly. We don't see Anya in the frame at this point but we can assume she's there somewhere, having witnessed the fight between Spike and Buffy. Meanwhile, the crowds at the Bronze look faintly concerned at all these happenings. It always strikes me how incredibly forgiving public memory is at Sunnydale: everyone who frequents this club seems to take these public brawls in their stride for the most part. Maybe because it is after all Sunnydale.


    And there's an interplay of expressions on Buffy's face as she assesses the dangers of the situation. She knows Nancy can't protect herself and the worm monster is more challenging than the type of danger they usually face, as she said earlier at her house. For a moment she seems torn between Slayer duty and what she's attending to at present (which is taking everything out of her emotional reserves), but she realises Spike and his strange shifts in behaviour will have to wait.


    She whips back to look at Spike for a moment as Xander continues to speak, as if weighing the pros and cons of leaving, one final time. Then, decisively, having made up her mind, she turns back to Xander, issuing instructions in full Slayer mode: "I'll go find her. Stay with Anya. Get her to reverse that spell!" While Buffy talks to Xander, Spike stands where he is, silently and intently staring at Buffy as she speaks. Then, with one final look back at Spike, as if to announce to him "This isn't over..." Buffy runs towards the exit as the onlookers watch, heading off to search for wherever Nancy has gotten to.



    Spike calls out after her retreating figure: "Hey, is that it? A little touchy-feely, and then you're off to the bat poles?" Spike's line is a reference to Batman— Batman and Robin would slide down bat poles (similar in function to fire-station poles) to get to the bat cave, typically to fight crime. Any discovery of danger usually led to a cry of "To the batpoles!" But Buffy doesn't respond to Spike's final taunt and doesn't look back as she exits the Bronze.






    3.4: Ladders and Roofs—


    Up near the roof all our thoughts are clear.
    ——Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space




    We cut to Nancy, who is meanwhile alone on a deserted street, walking away from the Bronze. We saw her walk out of the club in the middle of Spike and Anya's violent brawl and she is apparently still processing all that she has seen. She mutters to herself "Freaks. Why do I always surround myself with freaks?" If she thought she had finally gotten away from weirdness, she was mistaken. In classic Sunnydale tradition, she hears a rumbling behind her and turns, poised for flight. There's no one else around, so this is especially worrisome.


    And sure enough, the worm monster that made its appearance before, has manifested once again and seems to be doggedly pursuing her, as before. Is her stalker ex boyfriend "Ronnie" specifically trailing Nancy, even in monster form? As a metaphor for stalking, a worm monster is certainly an interesting device. As Xander said earlier, "two attacks in one night" don't seem like coincidence, and this would constitute the third. But perhaps Ronnie's no longer conscious once transformed, and the monster's movements are taking on a form of their own. The street has begun to rupture, the asphalt crumbling from underneath as the monster moves after her.


    Nancy breathes a terrified "Oh god, oh god" to herself as she senses it, then she starts running from it in terror. It probably dawns on her now that she is alone, with no one around to help. She runs to the door of a building and finding it locked, then runs to another, screaming "Help! Somebody help me!" She then sees the building's fire escape ladder.


    As she attempts to climb it, she looks down and sees that the monster appears to have stopped its pursuit of her, as its movements have mercifully stilled. She breathes a sigh of relief, catching her breath. Maybe, like the last time it appeared, when she was with Xander in her apartment building, it will just go away again, and she can come down in safety eventually.


    But the moment is short-lived, for the monster now starts shaking the very foundations of the building, causing the ladder to disconnect from the building. Flailing in the air while still precariously hanging on to it, she realises the ladder is at risk of toppling over as the rumbling continues beneath her. And now she lets out a scream of helpless terror as she realises she is about to fall: "Oh, help me! Help me!"


    And as if on cue, we cut to Buffy, who is heroically positioned on the roof looking out for Nancy to save her. She looks down and sprints towards where Nancy's cry can be heard. I kind of love how this episode provides implicit architectural commentary on the characters' symbolic functioning, if we choose to read it this way—

    We began in the chaotic, murky depths of the basement with Spike; we glided in the car with Xander traversing space; various scenes followed on ground level, all of which foregrounded matters of interiority and exteriority, each flitting from the public to the private (the high school, the living room, the neighbourhood street—familiar yet public—like the interiority of Nancy's building, or the bustling, public space of the Bronze). And here, in this impersonal city street, horizontal metaphors are replaced with vertical—Nancy is desperate to climb the ladder to reach the "safety" of the roof's shelter so she can escape the chaotic danger of the monster beneath. There are so many moments studded through this episode where it's almost hard for me to see Nancy, the monster or a myriad other elements as anything other than purely symbolic.


    Following close behind her, also on the roof, is Spike. He apparently left the Bronze after Buffy exited, knowing she was in search of Nancy, and has followed after, intending to help. Despite his grotesque display at the Bronze that he was still "evil", he's going to do what he'd earlier promised.








    3.5: "I had the whole package until something fell apart"—


    Beloved sweetheart bastard. Not a day since then
    I haven't wished him dead, Prayed for it
    so hard I've dark green pebbles for eyes,
    ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.
    [...]
    Love's hate behind a white veil; a red balloon bursting
    in my face. Bang. I stabbed at a wedding-cake.
    Give me a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon.
    Don't think it's only the heart that b-b-b-breaks.

    ——Carol Ann Duffy, Havisham (1993)




    While Nancy dangles precariously on the ladder for dear life, Anya and Xander have meanwhile taken a table at a more intimate, secluded spot at the Bronze. Even the lighting is dimmer. I feel like we get to see a different angle to their relationship as we see them interact alone. The subject of the conversation is centered on getting Anya to reverse her most recent spell of course— her spell on Ronnie, but factors interspersing the personal come into play as Xander tries to persuade her that she can do it.


    Anya seems reluctant and weighed down by multiple work commitments. She asks defensively "What do you want me to do?" It's a conversation that's heavily freighted given their history. "Reverse the spell," comes Xander's ready answer. But the timbre of his voice has changed here, to me it seems less sarcastic and more earnest in tone. On the surface, Xander is asking Anya to do the honourable, proper thing: lift the spell on Ronnie. But his implied request is also for her to stop seeking vengeance in general (perhaps also stop seeing him as the one to blame for everything.) The solution seems straightforward and clear: she can reverse the spell and that will put people out of danger. ��


    But Anya isn’t receptive to this. She appears unmoved by the danger the worm monster presents or the peril it places the others (or even herself) in. “I had a quota, the guy had it coming” seems to be the vibe she gives off, as she'd explained before. It's interesting to consider whether Anya was momentarily fazed by Nancy’s knowledge of some of the relationship dynamics revealed at the Bronze. To Anya, Nancy’s passing knowledge of Spike's relationship with Buffy would have meant she had spent a bit more time with the Scoobies than a random victim who sought help. Does she also realise that Xander is interested in Nancy? Or does she just not care? Later this season, Anya hyperventilates over Xander's interest in Lissa in First Date.

    Perhaps Anya had made passing mention of her own ex to Nancy (without mentioning Xander's name) while working on her vengeance gig: Anya is, after all, known to occasionally digress into personal rants when at work—like when she couldn’t attend to her client’s wish because she was too busy listing Xander’s faults in a scene similar to Xander’s "fish hook" rant at the bar which American Aurora brilliantly analysed. Or maybe Anya didn’t share anything personal about herself at all and doesn't have any idea that Xander is interested in her, or that he's interested in getting back to dating at all.

    Either way, Anya seems reluctant to accede to Xander’s request to reverse the spell. Is it purely stubbornness? A wish to spite him by not agreeing immediately? She seems genuinely weighed down and preoccupied with vengeance work commitments. This seems like a contrast to her attitude in Grave when she chose to do the right thing unhesitatingly, but the circumstances were quite different then; an apocalypse had seemed likely in a matter of hours and Anya is a much more jaded person now than she was then, it's like everything has taken time to sink in.


    "It's not that easy, Xander." Her stance seems to concur with Xander’s weary, somewhat cynical attitude in the car. As he drove Buffy and Dawn to the school, Xander had seemed resigned himself to Anya's return to vengeance, explaining that they’d both “bounced back” to their respective origins: she was a vengeance demon again, and he was back to being a “dateless nerd” as he put it. Anya emphasises how difficult it is for her to turn her back to a centuries-long identity that she’d cherished, an identity that was once comforting but that now entraps her. And Xander responds by acknowledging her potential to change, and it's delivered in a tone that's slightly different from how he spoke about Anya around Nancy. "You can do it."

    It's still faintly impatient (and there's still a sense of tightly reined-in frustration as he speaks), but it's a clear avowal of his belief in her. It’s intriguing to consider which of the two is a front—Xander's weariness and bottled resentment when the topic of toxic "exes" came up with Nancy, or his stated faith in Anya here, his genuine belief in her. He encourages her without any overt cynicism. But the encouragement rings hollow for Anya, who remembers why she’s reverted back to vengeance in the first place.


    "Yeah, sure, the spell part," she agrees, "What about me? I'm in enough trouble as it is." Anya achieves redemption later this season precisely when she can overcome her "what's in it for me?!" attitude (in an episode appropriately titled Selfless no less), but for now, she's not quite there yet. Here, Anya seems to be opening up a lot more about her genuine troubles, in a contrast to her more snarky attitude earlier at the Bronze when she stuck her tongue out in glee as she saw how much her spell bothered Xander. She starts unpacking her woes: "Halfrek's all over my case. D'Hoffrin is not pleased with my work. You don't want to see him angry. Trust me." What's interesting is that not only does she speak of vengeance here as homework or an unpleasant chore, she speaks of her former “chums" as her bosses, as authority figures—as people who are on her case, collectively disapproving of her failures as a vengeance demon.


    And Xander looks at her with an expression that for a minute seems full of genuine feeling, there's a hint of sympathy and empathy mixed, as if he's really seeing the position she's placed in more clearly now. "Nice friends you got." Xander’s gentle jibe contains some amount of derision but also a sense of concern, like he's implying that she really does deserve better: a better life and better companions. It's one of those Xander moments I love because it shows his sensitivity, at least his awareness, of the factors that trouble Anya here, and Nicholas Brendon's delivery of it is really great


    But Anya is indignant and stung into a making a bitter retort— it's rich for him to comment on her life! "Nice friends I had!" she corrects. "Chums. Coworkers. Bridesmaids. Oh, I had the whole package until something fell apart. What could that be, Xander?"

    And yet, if one thinks about it, Anya’s “chums’” had never been particularly supportive of her engagement to Xander. Halfrek had tried to sew seeds of doubt in Anya's mind in Doublemeat Palace to give just one example:

    Halfrek: So, um...you’re marrying that man with the large upper arms?
    Anya: (smiling) Yes
    Halfrek: Why?
    Anya: Well, because I love him.
    Halfrek: Hmm.
    A persistent theme in self-renewal is negotiating the ties between an opposing past and a changed present. This dilemma of belonging and alignment, of identification and self-representation, is inexorably linked to the Buffyverse figure of redemption. And this internal conflict finds expression in attempts to resolve those contradictions of identity left behind after a climactic change. What counts for the present moment when, as Stuart Hall reminds us, “identity is not as transparent or unproblematic as we think…we should think, instead, of [it] as a ‘production’…never complete, always in process, and always...a matter of ‘becoming’ as well as of ‘being’...” (68-70) A further concern underlying this is the issue theorist Richard Dyer raises: that how we “think and feel we are, how we are treated, is bound up with how we are represented as being.” (1997) This tug of war is illustrated in a passage from Rushdie’s East, West, if we put aside its cultural tensions and view it as an allegorical metaphor:

    ...I, too, have ropes around my neck. I have them to this day, pulling me this way and that...the nooses tightening, commanding, choose, choose. I buck, I snort, I whinny, I rear, I kick. Ropes, I do not choose between you. Lassoes, lariats, I choose neither of you, and both. Do you hear? I refuse to choose.”[/I]

    ―― Rushdie, East, West (1995)
    But even if Anya is "refusing to choose", even if she is attempting to straddle both the vengeance world and her ties to humanity, she is unable to do so. She can’t reconcile the two and there is thus a necessary “falling apart” this conflict entails. Her statement: “I had the whole package until something fell apart” is significant. Anya's first moment of falling “apart” came in Entropy, an episode that addressed some of the aftermath of her not-a-wedding in Hell's Bells. Just as Willow experiences her first truly wrenching realisation that Buffy may never come back in Bargaining and grieves over her loss as if for the first time, Anya, too, experiences something similar in Entropy, an episode where Tara references Yeats' The Second Coming: "Things fall apart, they fall apart so hard." This 'falling apart' is a complex unravelling. Just as Spike refers to himself as fragmented pieces of a past identity in Lessons ("You try to wall up the bad parts, put your heart back in where it fell out. You call yourself finished but you're not", to say nothing of the missing piece he left in search of), Anya is a fragmented being, neither fully able to embrace being a vengeance demon again, nor get past her blame of Xander for everything that is going wrong in her life. And because she has experienced love, painful as it was in its conclusion, she cannot wholly reclaim her past identity, either. As Sosa Lola insightfully pointed out in the season six rewatch, Anya's being jilted at the altar is karmically linked to her past: she took vengeance on a man who in turn betrayed and cheated on a woman who in turn wished for his suffering and turned to Anya's vengeance granting skills in a vicious cycle of destruction.


    I'm not sure what the Buffyverse view of karma is, but there does seem to be some sort of continuity between past and present, a cause—and—effect relation that associates the state of a person's present to their past actions, particularly as it relates to Xander and Anya—it's even jokingly referenced a couple of times on the show:

    Willow: A good deed.
    Anya: Yes. I'm expecting a big karmic reward any second now.
    ——I Was Made to Love You

    Lissa: You said eight-thirty right? Think I was going to stand you up?
    Xander: Well, it would be kind of karmic
    —— First Date
    And so Anya is caught in a tug of war, placed between Xander's view of her associates, and D'Hoffryn and Halfrek's current view of her as an unsatisfactory, disappointing vengeance demon, inadequate at her job now that she has experienced and imbibed humanity. It reminds me of the Dean Jackson poem about transformation:


    But it's also hard to be sympathetic to Anya when she is assuming this perpetually victimised position, wherein she can lay the blame for all her own choices on Xander. It is a self defeating way to live, something she even subconsciously seems to recognise but seems incapable of breaking out of.


    And Xander calls her out on it: "You saying this was my fault?" And Anya retorts, but with less rancour, "All I'm saying is none of this happened until you dumped me at the altar." But even as she says this, Anya looks a tad defensive and squirms, and she can't quite meet Xander's eye. And Xander delivers what is probably the most liberating thing he's ever said, not just for himself but for Anya too: "And sooner or later, Anya, that excuse just stops working." And we see Anya deep in thought as she takes in the truth of what he's said.







    3.6: Staking the "monster"—

    Meanwhile Nancy still dangles from the ladder, looking down and screaming. She is paralysed with fear as she holds onto the ladder. The worm monster suddenly bursts from the ground as the pavement cracks open and it is fully visible as it shakes the building's foundation one more time. Petrie's shooting script describes this a bit graphically:

    The pavement below her BURSTS OPEN and we get a FULL VIEW of the Sluggoth Demon as it RIPS out from beneath the pavement. Its giant hole of a mouth opens, revealing its multiple rows of teeth. Nancy screams - just as BUFFY appears, swinging on a telephone line, spewing sparks out of its ripped-off end.
    And...we're back in symbolic territory again, reading that description of the monster. Sidenote, in the revised script and in the episode, Buffy obviously swings on a rope, not a telephone line.


    This time, Nancy is not so lucky and falls. But Buffy reaches her just in time, as she swings from the rooftops on a rope, catches hold of Nancy and then lets go when they reach a safe space to land, on some flattened cardboard boxes. Her mode of rescue makes sense given that in Petrie's script, Buffy's arrival is compared to the swashbuckler Errol Flynn who was popular in the 1940s and starred in many a Warner Brothers film:

    Buffy CATCHES Nancy, Errol Flynn-style. Together, the two of them swing back up, out of harm's way, when Buffy lets the sputtering cable go before they ground themselves ...They land hard, Buffy absorbing most of the impact.

    Now on the ground, Buffy walks around frowning, trying to see where the danger lies so that she can be prepared to attack the monster as soon as it appears. The atmosphere is deceptively calm for a moment as she walks around poised for attack. Nancy cowers on the side of the street, still trying to recover. Suddenly, from right behind Buffy, the monster rears itself, bursting out of the ground. As she turns and catches sight of it, she is a little horrified by the sight and she prepares herself to attack it when—


    — Right at that moment, Spike lands on the ground behind her, having jumped from the roof. He had been following her, but Buffy doesn't seem to have realised this fact. She looks at Spike in confusion and surprise. Why is he here? This is probably the fourth radical shift in his behaviour that she has witnessed.


    Spike swoops in, ripping a pipe off the wall as he talks to her. Given his seemingly hostile display at the Bronze, his attempt to segue back into his position as an ally of hers is bound to be awkward for him. But Spike once again tries to play this off nonchalantly, acting as if this is all just part of the whims of a "demon" who happens to enjoy violence. He's just here for a "spot of violence". None of this has anything to do with his being there to help Buffy, of course. "You've had your turn, luv," he tells Buffy, "Leave the real violence to the demons, yeah?"


    He steps back with the pipe in hand, swinging it around for a few moments in preparation and then beats the worm monster with it. His stance indicates that he's got this situation under control, all the while continuing to play this off as stemming from a casual love for violence: "That's right. Big bad's back, and looking for a little death!"


    Then he steps back dramatically, holding the pipe like a deadly spear— and this is the exact moment that the monster, the ambiguous symbol associated with vagina dentata in this episode, suddenly transforms to reveal— a man, not a woman: the vulnerable naked form of human Ronnie.

    Just as the Demon TRANSFORMS - back into the form of a human being. A man. RONNIE. Mid-twenties. Filthy, naked, and confused.

    And Spike, who had been gearing himself up to plunge the spear into the monster, shoves it right into the demon, only to realise a split second too late what he has done——(there's something Jossian about the irony here as it is both men who scream next)


    And Spike, unable to stop his momentum, STABS the helpless man STRAIGHT THROUGH his upper chest (through the SHOULDER area, not through the heart - painful not mortal).
    Both men scream at the terrible pain and Spike clutches his head in chip-induced agony.


    He then looks at Ronnie with a look of absolute horror on his face as he realises what he has inadvertently done.




    End of Act Three






    Brief note:
    Spoiler:
    I will post the Final Act in spoilers later but will leave two empty posts now, to make way for MetDa's review next which I'm really looking fwd to!!

    I don't want to disrupt it, so it would be great to have two buffers, so that the space is completely cleared for her! Once again, just want to say thanks to everyone for the fantastic responses and comments! And for all your patience! I am eager to respond to them all when this is over, and I'm truly sorry for the delay again.

    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 25-11-19 at 03:52 AM.
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    Bronze Party-Goer StateOfSiege97's Avatar
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    THE BEGINNING OF POETRY

    The best thing one can be is a horizon.
    And the others?
    Some will think you are the call
    others will think you are its echo.
    The best thing one can be is an alibi
    for light and darkness
    where the last words are your first.
    And the others?
    Some will see you as the foam of creation
    others will think you the creator.
    The best thing one can be is a target—
    a crossroad
    between silence and words.


    ———Adonis (1980)



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    Spoiler:
    Hi all, once again, I'm truly sorry for the long delay. There was a loss in my family recently and it's been a difficult time, but I wanted to continue to fill in the remaining parts of the review as soon as possible. I'll reiterate my thanks to SoS for her stunning and thoughtful selection of buffers that have graced each part and added so much beauty. And huge thanks to Stoney for her warmth and understanding








    ACT FOUR


    Scene 1: Unravelling—




    The Fourth Act (arguably the most important and compelling Act ) is split into two scenes: the scene on the street, in which we witness Spike's breakdown—and the scene at the church, which is much longer and which I've split into segments. They are both conjoined by two shorter mini-scenes, Anya and Xander's dialogue after Buffy and Nancy leave, and Buffy's entrance into the chapel. Joss loves Shakespeare and the scene on the street has a kind of Shakespearean feel to it— Spike's breakdown starts off in the form of what might be considered a soliloquy, turning into an impassioned monologue prophesying an impending apocalypse, and it effectively underscores the dramatic tension. Soliloquies and monologues both, of course, involve a solitary speaker, but while a monologue (from the Greek monos—"single"—and legein—"to say, to speak") is a speech made by a character delivered to an audience, sometimes to a crowd, a soliloquy (from the Latin solus ["alone"], and loqui ["to speak"]) involves a character talking to himself or thinking out loud — as Spike was doing in the basement. The Latin "soliloquium" ('talking to oneself'), was first used in The Soliloquies by St. Augustine (354-430), a two-book work in which the first book takes the form of an "inner dialogue" which seeks to know a soul, the second makes clear that the soul Augustine wants to get to know is his own.

    The Latin solus/ "alone" came from a root that combined with a suffix -bh, resulting in the German selbst ("self"), the Russian sebya ("self"), and the English self—after a few changes. And this connection to the 'self' is interesting when in fact, soliloquies involve a single character speaking their thoughts aloud and are a device dramatists use to allow a character to communicate their interiority: what they are really thinking and feeling, as the audience is made aware of thoughts or events that the other characters in the text are not. Shakespeare used it to great effect, showing complicated characters experiencing inner turmoil and conflicting thoughts. In fact, soliloquies often contain the most dramatic and revealing moments because through them, characters reveal what they are actually feeling. Here, we get glimpses into Spike's interiority more closely than we did in the basement. Spike's incoherent speeches may not neatly fit the mode of the soliloquy, perhaps because to a degree they are complicated by the existence of the First, but his mutterings, ramblings and asides seem to contain elements of both devices (the soliloquy and the monologue) or at least flit between one and the other.






    To pick up where we left off, Spike had just unwittingly staked Ronnie a split second before he transformed from worm-monster to man. He looks in stunned silence at the sight before him: first at the makeshift spear he has just stabbed Ronnie with, taking in the fact that he has seriously injured another human being, then back up at Ronnie's agonised face. Ronnie is wheezing and sputtering in agony.


    Still looking at the newly manifested Ronnie in shock, Spike tilts his head with the movements of someone in a daze, then speaks, sincerely: "I'm sorry." He says it with genuine remorse, then plucks the spear out and Ronnie falls to the ground.


    Despite his dazed state, his apology contains, for probably the first time in his un-life (I say 'probably' because I'm not 100% certain if this is the absolute first time), a sense of instant, empathic regret. And Spike's act is now beginning to unravel rapidly. He had arrived at the scene still trying to pass himself off as the old Spike (“Big Bad’s back, and looking for a little Death!”), an echo of his words in the opening of Wild at Heart back in season four when he was soulless, right before the chip was implanted in his brain.


    But here, any pretensions to his old self fall apart as he can’t hold back his spontaneous remorse, a feeling that has nothing to do with the chip firing. He stands as if still in a daze, holding the spear as Ronnie lies naked on the ground. Ronnie's "monstrous" outward form has been shed to reveal the naked vulnerable man underneath (in a perhaps not-so-subtle parallel to Spike's own unravelling.)


    Still processing what he’s accidentally done, Spike looks at the makeshift spear in his hands. “Right,” he says mechanically. For a second, it looks like he’s resisting the inevitable breakdown-to-come, trying to force it back, but it seems to occur to him how horribly incongruous the word is, it's the exact opposite of what he feels at this moment.


    Maybe he’s reminded of what Buffy said to him earlier this evening and his present action confirms it further, sending him spiralling back into a breakdown. His sense of inherent “wrong-ness” hits even deeper, paralleling Buffy’s despair in Dead Things but amplified by the myriad forms of guilt plaguing him and his performance ruptures. “Wrong,” he says, talking to himself, “All wrong. Wrong maneuver. Not hardly helpful.” As he berates himself further, he seems to have slipped back to his usage of the phrase “Not hardly”, a double-negation we heard in the basement during his rant (“Not hardly ready”). It's as if he's rebuking himself for even having attempted to help, when he feels all he's caused so far is yet more trouble and pain.


    Buffy, upon seeing Ronnie's collapse, runs to his aid with a blanket she resourcefully finds lying atop a bin (I wasn't sure it was a blanket at first but the script calls it one), and she uses it now to cover Ronnie's prone, bleeding body. Nancy moves cautiously towards him. And Spike continues to feverishly talk to himself.

    His next line is incredibly resonant, given what is to come: "God, please help me." And it's interesting that he turns to Buffy next, as if drawing an equivalence; he sees her protectively pulling the blanket over Ronnie and shouts in agonised desperation: "Help meee!" It's his first direct address to someone in the midst of his talking to himself, and it's Buffy he addresses, throughout this scene.



    Buffy's response is exasperated as she tries to deal with the urgency of the situation. "You're not the one who needs help! He's going into shock." Her words could easily parallel what is happening to Spike, who is also going into shock, but she doesn't see this yet.



    As more of Spike's performance unravels, we see how his desperate cry here ("Help me!") gives the lie to his composed opening gambit earlier ("What you need is help. Fortunately, you've got me.") Buffy senses there's something strange going on with Spike, something she feels puzzled about, but for the moment she pushes this back as she tries to gather her wits and direct her attention to Ronnie's urgent physical state. She has no way of knowing the torment Spike must be going through because she knows nothing about his soul at this point.


    As she dials 9-1-1, Spike starts pacing agitatedly as Buffy speaks urgently into her phone: "Yeah, I need an ambulance. Someone's been stabbed. Oh, god, uh, corner of Third and Fairview." Spike starts mumbling under his breath: "No. No. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much. Too much."

    Buffy turns to Ronnie as Spike's inaudible rambling continues, closing with "inside me all the way." He's obviously referring to his soul, but maybe she thinks he's talking about his chip or maybe she thinks he's just gone 'crazy' again. She tries to focus on reassuring Ronnie (I love how her compassionate nature as the Slayer comes through): "OK, help is coming. Try not to move." Spike begins tapping his chest, as if reaching within the depths of his being. "Deep, deep, deep inside me."


    The idiom "To go off the deep end" or to "lose control of oneself" was apparently recorded as slang by 1921, possibly in reference to the "deep end of a swimming pool". The Old English deop ("deep water") or the German tief ("low/deep") all generally refer to "that which is of great depth" as a noun. As an adverb it means "far down, deeply". From one online dictionary: "If you say that someone has gone off the deep end, you mean that their mind has stopped working in a normal way and their behaviour has become very strange as a result." (Collins) Not to drive home the point with a sledgehammer or anything, but if we return to the opening song's lyrics:

    In the depths lies the origin of all life.
    The depths - down!
    The depths -
    Therein lies the past, as well as the future.
    Once we all lived at the bottom of the deep.
    But we drifted upwards, bobbing aimlessly on the surface.
    Lost all knowledge about our origins
    This path leads back
    down, down into the depths.

    Von der Tiefe/ In the Depths
    The focus on surface and depth is interesting, as is the mention of past, present and future. The "deep waters" of the past must be traversed if one is to reach an understanding of the self. "Bobbing aimlessly on the surface" paints a picture of floating or drowning, certainly one of being lost, and Spike will continue to go through phases of "lost-ness" as he struggles to reconcile his past with his present newly souled self (in fact, the First literally attempts to 'drown' him in Bring On the Night though it knows that, as a vampire, he doesn't "need" to breathe. It was probably a gaffe in the writing, but I'll head-canon that seriously injured vampires might need air to recover, who knows.) American Aurora, in her outstanding review of Once More, With Feeling explored how water can be associated with death, chaos and oblivion as opposed to "the light of fire" which represents "life, passion, and sometimes out-of-control fury". PuckRobin in the introductory portion of his brilliant review of Dead Things also wrote about the symbolism of water and fire:

    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.
    Spike's behaviour since the premiere episode has not always been consistent and sometimes the inconsistency has invited critique: why is he acting the way he is at certain points yet at other points appears capable of control and lucidity? Is the First invading his mind in this very scene? And is it a sudden invasion? I've thought about this question before, been fascinated by it and I don't think it is sudden. I think the First has been a hovering presence in him throughout, but he has [mis]taken it as his own conscience taunting him, something he's learnt to suppress in the desperate need to pass himself off as his normal 'old' self. In future episodes like Sleeper and Never Leave Me, we see the First taunt him in his own likeness, but here I think there's a mess of voices and hallucinations wherein post-soul guilt are confusingly merged with the taunts of the First, which seems to appear at opportunistic moments, at moments of intense emotional vulnerability. I head-canon that the montage of Big Bads at the end of Lessons could well have been brought on by encountering Buffy in the basement when he was least prepared for it. The self-loathing it engendered was an ideal opportunity for the First to infiltrate his mind, each version vying with the other to belittle his attempts to change, playing with his mind as he sat huddled in a corner, assuming the voices were emanating from himself.


    So I think the trauma of accidentally injuring Ronnie here, an innocent man (well relatively innocent), sends him spiralling into a complete breakdown. One of three things could be happening (triggered by the way his attempt to help Buffy backfires in this scene): Either the voices he's managed to suppress so far, to keep at bay, now surge louder, becoming more urgent, powerful and hard to ignore. And the dividing line between the present moment and the voices he's been pushing back becomes impossible to sustain, leading to his breakdown. Perhaps he's hearing the First's taunts from memory as they are emblazoned in his head, even if the First isn't actually present. Or, he is negotiating a mix of messages between the First and the voices of his victims, reflecting his own guilt. And in the midst of this struggle, he tries to convey to Buffy the danger that lies ahead - something he instinctually senses to be true, even if he knows nothing about the First yet. Finally, a third option could be that the First Evil is perhaps using Spike as a medium during this emotional collapse (Spike does sound clairvoyant when he warns Buffy that this is just "the beginning".) After all, the First enjoys using terror as a handy weapon in its arsenal of psychological tactics. Is the First possessing/ using Spike to convey the same message the German potential did in Buffy's dream?

    It's hard to say, but Buffy feels she's had enough. Ronnie lies injured and she's up to the brim with Spike's shifting antics. "Look, Spike, whatever you're doing—" As she speaks, Spike begins addressing someone who isn't there and JM's acting is so astonishing that it feels like someone is actually there. "Get away. Get. Uhh—" "—do it somewhere else! I am through with this!" Buffy attempts a firm voice, and it pierces through some of Spike's breakdown.


    He turns, and the irony strikes him that she thinks he can actually help himself. His earlier performance of composure must have been more convincing than he'd thought, because she seems to imagine he actually has control over this breakdown, over the forces tormenting him....

    He begins speaking again, half to himself, half to her: "Oh, oh, lucky girl! Call it quits. Now, there's an option. If only it were so easy. If only— If only— If only—" As if trying to desperately suppress the next bout of voices, for a few seconds he seems like he's grappling with the hallucinations and trying to win over them. Then, a flood of voices seem to break out, seemingly deafening him..


    As she witnesses this struggle, Buffy gazes at Spike with a look of concern momentarily softening her face, as she sees Spike begin addressing someone not present. One of the voices has obviously become louder and more dominant than the others. "What the hell are you screaming about? I can hear you! No need to—"


    As he completes the sentence, his voice and face change into a scream of agony and he bends over in pain: "SHOOOUUT!" Concern, bafflement and alarm are reflected in her expression as Buffy witnesses this display. There's no way any of this could be an act. The genuine physical pain Spike appears to be undergoing (matching his scream of agony in the basement earlier) makes me lean towards the view that the First may actually be torturing/ possessing him at this point. Nancy observes his breakdown too, somewhat less sympathetically than Buffy as she raises her eyebrows at his obviously "insane" antics. Yet when the painful spell seems over, I think Spike goes back to being aware of, not disconnected from, his present surround.


    To the others, he knows he must seem like a crazy person. He seems lucidly conscious of exactly how he must appear and seems to sense that he has, once again, become an object of spectacle. As if aware of this, he straightens, stands and laughs, still holding the pipe in his hand, knowing he can't fight it: "I get it. The joke's on me. Lots of laughs." He grins suddenly, laughing at himself, at the irony.


    He twirls the pipe slowly like a baton, and continues, Gene Kelly-like: "Yeah. Hey, bring the wife and kiddies! Come see the show!" In a lower breath, he intones ominously: " 'Cause it's going to be a circus." I don't honestly know if this is Spike speaking with foreknowledge of what he has seen, or if it is the First itself using him as a medium. The reference to "circus" has echoes of Dru's phraesology in Crush when she suddenly showed up in Sunnydale, relating how trying to turn Angel soulless again was fun, like "lollipops at the circus."


    As I said, there are a whole bunch of options, probably far more nuanced than what I've outlined above, and I've already talked about the foregrounding of performance in my intro (and its ties to the crumbling of normative/ familial structures), but I want to highlight the ties to the opening song's lyrics in what he says next. I think there's a shift now in his tone and body language from before. He seems to switch from self-reflexive mockery to something far less ironical in his next words.

    "This..." He walks towards Buffy now, and kneels down directly in front of her. He's speaking earnestly now, his tone dead serious: "...just the beginning, luv. A warm-up act."


    He looks into her eyes and continues, still in earnest, trying to convey something extremely important: "The real headliner's coming, and when that band hits the stage, all of this..." Buffy listens, frowning, bewildered by him, but she's also listening with partial seriousness now, as if not quite certain whether to take his words to heart or just view them as the rantings of someone gone mad.


    And Spike stands at this point and gestures to the buildings around them: "all this... will come tumbling in death and screaming, horror and bloodshed."


    It's a Christ-like pose but it also reminds me of the mythical Phoenix bird, a bird associated with the sun and fire, which cyclically regenerates as it arises from its own ashes, which seems to mirror some of Spike's own journey as he is brought back on AtS after his final sacrifice burning up in Chosen. Of course, Whedon probably hadn't planned on Spike's resurrection at this point in the season, but I still like the association. Whether Spike knows what he is saying, is another question to consider. It's unlikely he does, because even if he's instinctually convinced of something earth-shattering coming ahead, at other times he may just assume that whatever the First has shown him or told him have been hallucinations, adding further to his reasons not to trust himself. And again, the focus on "surface" and "depth" is revealing if we think back to the lyrics:

    Therein lies the past, as well as the future.
    Once we all lived at the bottom of the deep.
    But we drifted upwards, bobbing aimlessly on the surface.
    Lost all knowledge about our origins
    This path leads back
    down, down into the depths.
    Spike points to the buildings - the "surface" of Sunnydale, warning that it is all going to come crashing down. And if the crater which represents the town of Sunnydale that we see at the end of the season is anything to go by, Spike was right—all of it will come "tumbling".


    It's another instance of foreshadowing (the episode seems full of these so far - Buffy's skeptical reference to a "champion of the people", Dawn's threat that Spike will wake up on fire, here, Spike's reference to how "all of this" will come tumbling.) Joss had apparently written the final scene of the season, the final episode, at the same time as Lessons. And it's interesting how Spike's journey begins this season — in the bottommost of spaces — the basement — a place he views as his starting point ("this is my home, always been here") and the way this connects to the future, in his heroic ascent to becoming someone who saves the world. It's something he can't get over when he lands in Sunnydale with Buffy in Season Eight's The Last Gleaming:


    Spike now points to Ronnie, seemingly under the spell of something larger, some force that seems to have taken hold of him, and repeats the line we first heard in the episode's prologue from the dead German potential, a phrase which has been haunting Buffy:

    From beneath you, it devours.

    "From beneath..." he continues, but suddenly, the spell seems to be broken, and Spike trails off mid-sentence. It seems as if he's suddenly come out of a fog, and a wealth of emotion overcomes him. This moment somewhat cements my hunch that he was, in fact, being toyed with, that the First was indeed psychically possessing him briefly for some seconds. And this comes with a heavy price for Spike as he comes crashing back to emotional reality and his feelings overwhelm him. He is once again reminded of what has just happened. "Poor Rocky." He says the dog's name in a private aside to himself, and starts to cry, looking away. The snuffing out of the innocent animal's life seems to strike him in this moment, and it's a final nudge that leads to his complete undoing. He chokes up as the collective burden of his remorse overwhelms him; it's all just too much. At first, he seems tearful, but then looks as if he's about to gag and is trying to control himself.


    And in a strange symmetrical reversal, it's also interesting to me that the name of the First's "agent", Caleb, actually means "dog; faithful": from the Hebrew word 'Kaleb' which literally translates to 'dog'. Rocky was swallowed when he disappeared through a small opening in the ground, devoured by the worm monster. Caleb, the misogynistic villain, will later make a speech to Sheila as I mentioned before, about a gaping hole that "wants to open up, suck out a man's marrow" in a rather more direct reference to the monstrous feminine.

    These are the parts of Beneath You I've always found the most cynical, but in hindsight, there's also a textual condemnation of viewing women as monstrous in the presentation of Caleb's misogyny later. (I'm going full-on symbolic here so please bear with me - as I said before, it's almost impossible for me to view Rocky, Ronnie and Nancy as anything other than symbolic constructs sometimes.) If Rocky the "dog" was meant to symbolically represent the constrained/ "lapdog" side of Ronnie, being placed on a leash and swallowed up by the "monstrous feminine", if in other words, "Rocky" was the symbolic counterpart to "Ronnie" (the abusive bastard ex-boyfriend), then the presentation of the character of Caleb denounces this premise pretty clearly, as does Spike's staking of Ronnie here. It's a viewpoint that stems from misogyny, the text seems to suggest. In the shooting script for Beneath You from Petrie's original version, the counterpart angle to Rocky and Ronnie seemed a bit more obvious, occurring right before Nancy comments on Buffy's "commanding-ness" as a girlfriend:

    SPIKE (to Nancy) This thing came from underground, yes?
    And took your dog. Which means it could have been lured.
    By scent, rhythm of motion ... what's your dog's name?
    NANCY Rocky.
    SPIKE Comes when called?
    NANCY Always does. Or, did ...
    Spike now runs away down the alley, leaving Buffy with Ronnie and Nancy. It's possible he couldn't bear to be seen breaking down any further. Buffy turns and looks after him as he goes. She's obviously concerned about him, but she doesn't have much time to process it. She hears a voice calling out her name.


    "Buffy!" She whips around to see who it is. Xander and Anya have evidently caught up with her. Xander obviously must have managed to convince Anya at some point at the Bronze to reverse the spell, leading to the monster's transformation back into Ronnie, and they must have been trying to locate where Buffy and Ronnie were. Perhaps Anya's powers enabled them to find her more quickly.


    Xander comes running, Anya following close behind him, sauntering slowly, looking pensive. They register the state Ronnie is in. The way everyone is positioned makes it somewhat stand out to me how Anya stands apart from everyone else. She stands processing what's happened, looking staggered and a little bit alone. Nancy, who is right beside Xander, takes this opportunity to confront her. "You. You did this. What are you?"


    Her phrasing of the question to Anya ("What are you?") seems to sharpen the parallel with Spike, who is another figure of redemption like Anya. When Giles stepped out of the bus in Chosen, he surveyed the crater that was Sunnydale after Spike saved the world, and asked Buffy "What did this?" She responded quietly "Spike." Back in the present moment, Buffy, who's taken off her jacket, is now on her knees folding it into a pillow which she places directly under Ronnie's head for support.


    She wants to make sure Ronnie is as safe as possible as she goes in search of Spike, something Xander isn't aware of at this point. After all, he arrived just when Spike ran away. Nancy, meanwhile, exits the scene. I had assumed Nancy would wait until at least the paramedics arrived, but she doesn't seem all that thankful to Buffy, either, who had in fact just saved her life! Maybe she feels resentful and decides that everything she's been through this evening is traceable back to this group of "weirdos". Although I still don't see how she can blame Buffy for anything. She gives Xander a look of death as she leaves, as if condemning him along with Anya.

    It's true that Ronnie's not her responsibility, but maybe she also feels freer in leaving now that she reasons Buffy and Xander are there to oversee things. As she walks away, Xander comments wryly to Buffy: "She's not calling me."


    Buffy doesn't respond to this and instead gets up and hands Xander her cell phone. "OK. Help is on the way. Look after him." She runs down the alley in the direction of where Spike went. She evidently thought it best leaving out telling Xander about Spike: maybe she feels he wouldn't understand her reasons for being concerned for him, or going after him, especially alone.


    Or maybe she was in too much of a hurry and decided to leave without explaining, lest she lose track of where Spike's gotten to. And Xander is confused at this sudden departure. He calls out after Buffy: "Where you goin?" But Buffy has already left.

    ~~~~



    Note—

    Spoiler:
    I'm leaving a space here for the section "Notes on the Title Beneath You" which I will post later. It's a section that's sort of long and I didn't want to break up the church scene with it. Editing it will cause further delay and in the interests of posting the rest sooner, I'm just going to leave this space for filling it later. Thanks so much for your patience.





    4.2: Xander and Anya—"Oh, it will be"—

    Anya and Xander are now alone. Anya, who is frowning, gingerly steps forward, moving cautiously towards Ronnie, taking in his supine state. He is still alive (and I'm assuming he will probably survive but I don't know if it's ever brought up again in canon), but he is obviously seriously injured. She takes this in wordlessly.


    Xander has already knelt before Ronnie. He looks up and sees Anya's silent, faintly shell-shocked stance. He rightly surmises by her body language that she is feeling overwhelmed. It's possible that she feels a pang of some kind of remorse or even concern over what she's done, and what it's unwittingly caused (after all, a dog was eaten and a man has now been gravely injured and it all ties back to her "job" of vengeance), yet at the same time, it's hard to say exactly what she feels here.

    We know that Anya goes on to disappointingly enact even more vengeance as will be discovered later. And the vengeance itself seems fruitless because if we take Ronnie for example, turning him into a monster certainly didn't constitute any kind of "justice", nor did it seem to halt his stalking of Nancy. It only perpetuated a cycle of violence. "You did the right thing here," Xander tells her quickly. His belief and faith in her is touching as he is obviously trying to encourage her to turn her back on vengeance again, to close that chapter of her life. "Tell him that," Anya dryly points out, looking at Ronnie.


    But Xander persists, continuing to commend her first attempt in turning away from vengeance. "You reversed the spell. It took guts." This is another moment displaying Xander's touching empathy for Anya. And as Anya still stands there, unmoving, surveying the injured body of Ronnie, looking dazed, Xander adds, trying to reassure her: "I know this is bad, but it could be worse." Maybe he's hinting that Ronnie could have actually died, pointing out that there's still the chance he will survive. And Anya responds darkly, ominously, "Oh, it will be."


    She may be thinking of all the trouble she'll be in with D'Hoffryn, but this is another line that foreshadows not only what is to come in Selfless, but also foreshadows Anya's own death in Chosen. In retrospect, it is quite a tragic and poignant moment between the two.







    Interlude—

    Robert Duncan's score for the church scene, titled "The Spark", is the first iteration of a haunting theme which will re-appear during key moments between Spike and Buffy in Touched and in Chosen. (It plays at the precise moment he tells her he loves her and later plays when she does the same in the finale.)


    It's an iteration of the same theme, reworked by Duncan, from composer Thomas Wander's "Elope" which played when Spike and Buffy came together in the alley at the end of Smashed.







    4.3: Buffy enters the chapel—

    Buffy walks through a moonlit cemetery alone, looking for Spike. I think it's valid to say that Buffy doesn't outwardly display much concern for Spike in the early part of this season, especially since she does have very important reasons to continue to be wary of him. This, to me, does seem like one instance of Buffy's possible concern for him though. It's the second time she has left to go in search of Spike without broadcasting it to anyone. As she walks, she peers around her intently, trying to see if she can spot him, or if she has lost track of him. Perhaps it's not surprising that Buffy doesn't think of going to Spike's crypt to look for him there, as she might have done in Season Six. Seeing him in the basement in Lessons, she may have worked out that he's no longer living there. Or she has instinctually sensed that he's changed.

    Spike's crypt was a monument in Restfield Cemetery that he had turned into his home from season four onwards; but originally it was just a mausoleum for the tombs of members of the Hawley family. Hawley's mausoleum, the last time she had visited, was being house-sat by Clem when she learnt of Spike's absence and departure as mentioned before. It had seemed then, like Spike had intended to return to it. But the crypt is another "costume" he's cast off. Buffy doesn't know this, but maybe she's instinctually sensed that he seems too changed to be living at his old place. (We also don't know if Buffy ever encountered Clem after that time she left Dawn with him.)


    Without a vampire's sense of smell, she has nothing to go on but her Slayer instincts. Having disposed of her jacket to cover Ronnie, she's now wearing just her singlet and jeans and the silver pendant of her necklace glints visibly in the dappled shadows. I have said nothing about Buffy's beautiful and auspicious-looking pendant so far because I had gone into a brief tangent about it ahead (I absolutely love Stoney's reading of it though!) Buffy now halts as she looks at what's before her.


    She sees the chapel, with lanterns lighting the front door. It might occur to Buffy that it's an unusual choice for Spike to head to a chapel. On the other hand, she has sensed instinctively that there's something different now— maybe he's seeking refuge in some subterranean passage, or it's connected to tunnels leading elsewhere. Buffy walks past the gate towards the entrance.







    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 08-12-19 at 01:26 PM.
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    /...A bird
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    And here's my final placeholder!

    Thank you for each of the exquisite buffers! Space cleared for HowiMetDaSlayer!
    Last edited by SpuffyGlitz; 25-11-19 at 03:59 AM.
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    Dear SpuffyGlitz,

    I have enjoyed your review so much.

    To be honest, my memory of the works you quote are a little rusty (it’s been a very long time since I opened an academic book) but I’ve enjoyed your insights and your deep analysis of the episode. I can imagine all the hard work that you’ve put into this piece and want you to know that it is very much appreciated!

    I hope you feel better soon.

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