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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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    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.



    ~~~~
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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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    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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    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; Today 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!

    flow
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