Seeing Red

Written by Steven S. DeKnight
Directed by Michael Gershman

Perri's Review | Chris's Rant | SunSpeak

Perri's Review

Previously on Buffy: Spike wants Buffy back, Willow wants Tara back, Anya and Spike had a moment of rampant stupidity and got caught, Xander had a fit, Spike spilled the beans, and Willow got Tara back. At least someone's love life is improving -- but then, that's always a bad sign.

Morning breaks on the aftermath of what would appear to be an all-nighter (the fun kind). Willow and Tara snuggle together in the sheets (as Joss proves once again that UPN is lots looser about the lesbian love than the WB) and resist the getting up process. Willow takes a moment from bliss to worry about Buffy, and Tara fills in the last person left in Sunnydale who doesn't know about the whole Buffy/Spike thing. (Oh, and Tara? I wouldn't qualify Buffy and Spike as 'sleeping together,' sleep very rarely being involved.) Willow has a minor freak-out, mostly caused by Buffy not telling her: "I'm just trying to understand." Tara: "So's she." Concluding Buffy might need someone to talk to, Willow drags herself out of bed to check on her friend. Buffy isn't around, but Dawn pops out of her room, also worried about big sis -- and about big sis hurting Spike, and the general screwed-upness of it all. Willow (after having it confirmed that yes, she *was* the only person who didn't know about Spike and Buffy, and attempting desperately to assert that sure, she'd known) tries to reassure Dawn, but Tara's appearance -- clad in only a sheet -- distracts Dawn from any thought of worrying about anything. Squealing and bouncing in happiness, Dawn urges the blushing Tara and grinning Willow to go back to what they were doing. "I'll go watch TV. Real loud! Downstairs! In the basement! Where I can't hear anything! I love you guys!"

Dawn's morning has been made, but Buffy's working on a bad day, following a bad night. She breaks down the door to the LoD's new hideout, only to find that they've already fled like the little weasels they are. She pokes around calling out threats and investigating what they left behind; there are printouts and computer disks everywhere, which she pockets. But as she turns over the white board, she sees only two words: "Too late." "Well, that can't be good," Buffy realizes, as a giant buzzsaw begins cutting through the white board, on its way to her. Two more appear from the sides of the room, and close in. Buffy ducks and rolls and finally dives out the door, the only damage done to her red leather jacket. But that damage is fatal. "Okay," she says, in her best pissed-off Slayer voice, "that's gonna cost you."

[Yes, that is Amber in the credits at last. No, I am not mollified. Damn it.]

The lovers finally emerge downstairs, giggly, kissy and high on life, to join a group think with Buffy and Dawn. Buffy fills them in on the lack of goodness at the LoD, and hands over her haul of papers and disks for analysis. Buffy nixes the idea of calling Xander (Willow) and Spike (Dawn). As for Anya, "I'm guessing she's not feeling real researchy right now." What she is feeling, is vengeful. Sitting next to a weeping girl in a bar, Anya offers sympathy and booze, and tries to make suggestions for vengeance wishes, but keeps getting sidetracked from her main goal by much more 'human' observations. In fact, a (fully justified) Xander-done-me-wrong rant distracts her so much she actually misses three or four attempts by the other girl to wish.

Things aren't going to well for anyone this morning, actually. Andrew plays bait for a BigUglyDemon guarding a sacred chamber, until Warren and Jonathan finally manage to take him down. Understandably, Andrew's not happy, and takes it out on the corpse for a while, until Warren reminds him that they need it "fresh". Spike isn't real happy either; he's busy drinking himself as insensate as possible, with little success, when Dawn shows up at his door. "Does it help?" she asks. "Doesn't hurt," Spike answers after a moment's thought. Dawn's on her way to a sleepover at a friend's house, to give Willow and Tara time alone. "So the lovebirds are flying again," Spike says, looking almost pleased. Then bitter. "Ain't love grand." Dawn wanted to stop in to confirm her unhappy belief that Spike isn't going to be coming around anymore. He gives her the same answer Buffy did: "It's complicated." Dawn: "Everyone's been saying that." Spike: "Must be true then." She confronts him about his tryst with Anya, filling him in on the cameras in the process. "Do you love her?" Dawn asks seriously; Spike sputters out a 'it was just one of those things' denial. "No, not Anya. Buffy. Do you really love her?" Spike's silence is enough of an answer for Dawn. "Then how could you do that to her?" she demands. Spike goes on the defensive: "Oh, right, 'cause big sis was treating me so well up to that point. Still a bit of evil left in me after all." Dawn gives him the big, serious eyes. "I don't know what happened between the two of you, but what happened last night? If you wanted to hurt Buffy, congratulations." She turns and leaves Spike to his drinking and regrets.

The LoD approaches a chamber guarded by a shimmering curtain of light, which disintegrates anything non-demon. Which is why Jonathan appears wearing the skin of the demon they just killed. And it's gross. But Warren ignores the other boy's hesitation and throws him bodily through the barrier. He emerges in one piece, to Warren's satisfaction. "Wasn't sure that would work." Jonathan manages a baleful glare even through demon skin. "Jackass." He goes off in search of whatever it is they're after, as Andrew and Warren hold a whispered conference on whether Jonathan knows that he's no longer a trusted part of the LoD. "By the end of the evening, "Warren assures his sidekick, "he won't be a problem." Jonathan emerges, prize in hand, and Warren grabs it instantly. He uses a gadget to break the seal, and spills two globes out into his hands. Apparently, they convey strength and invulnerability -- and one hell of a high, judging from the rapturous expression on Warren's face as a purple glow spreads from his hands to his body. [I'm too tired and have too much dignity: insert your own globes/manhood/getting off joke here.] "Oh, they work," he gasps, as his eyes flare purple.

Warren stows the globes in a pouch on his belt as the LoD heads out of the caverns. He doesn't look any different, but he takes down one of the huge demons with the style, strength and speed of, well, Buffy. The other two gape and begin making plans for their turn. Which isn't going to be any time soon. "You'll each get a whirl... as soon as I'm done playing with it."

Buffy arrives on Xander's doorstep and they greet each other awkwardly. Buffy trails after him into the apartment, where he is apparently keeping company with two weeks of dirty laundry and the remains of about 10 six-packs. Well, no, it's not quite that bad, but he's definitely impaired. Buffy starts out trying to defend Anya, that she did something stupid because she was hurting. "with your boyfriend?" Xander shoots back. Buffy denies that with dignity, but Xander's not really listening. He understands the stuff with Anya -- more or less -- but Buffy's betrayal cuts deeper. "All the times I told Spike to get lost, that he didn't have a chance with a girl like you..." Buffy tries to explain but falls back fairly quickly on the standard, "You have no idea how hard it is just being here." Xander: "You could have told me." Buffy: "You didn't want to know." Xander: "So you went to him instead." She doesn't bother denying it, but does (finally) point out that it's none of Xander's business. "It just happened, okay?" Xander laughs bitterly. "Oh, like, 'Say, you're evil! Get on me?'" Buffy stares at him in hurt shock. "You fought side-by-side with him while I was gone. You let him take care of Dawn." Xander: "But I never forgot what he really is! God, what were you thinking?" The conversation degrades rapidly after that, with attacks on each other's decision-making skills and Spike's generally non-chipped trustworthiness. Xander ends by slamming out of the room. Cue gloomy montage of Xander and Anya wandering around aimlessly; he stops to look in on Anya at the Magic Box, but retreats before she can catch him.

Meanwhile, the non-heartbroken types (aka the LustBunnies, now just going by Tara and Willow) are back in bed. Willow is, at least nominally, working away on the computer to figure out what the LoD is planning next, as Tara offers encouragement. The disks Buffy stole hold blueprints and schematics; Tara suggests cross-referencing them with the county clerk's office. "Would that involve getting up?" Willow groans. Tara answers lazily, "Eventually." Willow shakes her head. "Then I'm coming out firmly against it." Tara: "What about the Trio's evil scheme?" Willow abandons the computer with what is, for her, an evil grin. "Well, I'm kind of busy working on my own..." And the lustbunnies are back at it, as we mercifully change scenes to where Xander is trying to drown his sorrows at the Bronze (which has undergone a major facelift, by the way). Strangely, he sounds almost exactly like Anya at her bar earlier; he's exceptionally cute with the girl who tries to pick him up, but clearly out of the dating pool. "Sorry, I'm just looking to curl up with the quiet alone tonight."

Fat chance, 'cause look who just walked in. Yup, it's the LoD, Warren still clearly feeling the buzz and looking for some payback against every bigger guy who ever messed with his pathetic loserboy self. Jonathan chafes at the delay, since they have a timetable, but Warren is smooth and living large. He sets his sights on a girl and moves across the room. Meanwhile, Buffy is busy disposing of a vampires, who annoys her by getting in one last kick as he's in the process of dusting. She lies on the ground in pain, then finally stumbles home. Clad in a bathrobe and moving stiffly, she runs water for a nice hot bath and prepares to get comfy -- then turns around and sees Spike standing there. He tells her he's only gone to Anya for a spell -- for him, not her, to make him stop loving her. "you should have let him kill me," he says with quiet, despairing bitterness. She tells him she couldn't let Xander do that; he demands why. "Because you love me. Why do you keep lying to yourself." Buffy starts to shout, then reins herself back in. "I have feelings for you," she admits. "I do. But it's not love. I could never trust you enough for it to be love."

"Trust is for old marrieds, Buffy," Spike laughs. "Great love is wild and passionate and dangerous. It burns and consumes until there's nothing left." He advances on here, intent on getting her back and has no intention of taking no for an answer. About anything. Like old times, he grabs her, telling her to let herself feel it. She fights him off, like old times, but in deadly earnest now, crying and begging him to stop. He looms over her tugging her back under him as she tries to escape. Finally, she gets some leverage and kicks him off of her, across the room. He slams against the wall and stares at her, staggered, as she stumbles to her feet, clutching her robe around her and glaring at him in hatred. "Ask me again why I could never love you," she half growls, half sobs. Spike stares at her, his eyes wide in shocked realization.

Back at the Bronze, the LoD is cruising for trouble; Andrew concentrates on a fancy drink ($10 says it's virgin, since no bartender in his right mind it going to serve that boy alcohol), and Jonathan continues to kvetch about wasting time while Warren tries to pick up a girl. He tentatively suggests that maybe he and Andrew should-- "Warren's the boss," Andrew cuts him off, looking stressed, but determined. "He's Picard, you're Deanna Troi. Get used to the feeling, Betazoid." He scuttles off as we're treated to Warren's idea of a pick-up line. Again mercifully, it's cut off by the arrival of the girl's very big boyfriend, who was apparently one of the jocks who bullies Warren in high school. Warren is delighted, since it was never about the girl. Bruiser boyfriend threatens little guy, little guys shoots his mouth off, big guys tries to throw little guy across the room, little guy knocks him across the room with a smug smirk and a crack of, "This ain't high school." The big guy's friend's are disposed of in the same way, and Warren exults, "Let's party!" as he swaggers through the room and begins to raid the cash register. Which is when Xander emerges from the men's room and sees what's going on. Yeah, this is gonna be ugly.

Of course he goes over and tries to stop Warren ("Oh crap," Jonathan moans); Warren leans in and asks, "You think maybe you could put in a word for me with that Anya chick? Because if she's taking it from a vamp, I think I might have a chance." Xander, bless him, hauls off and punches Warren, but Warren barely blinks. As Xander nurses his bruises knuckles, Warren says smugly, "No wonder she's screwing a dead guy. You hit like a girl." Xander shoots back, "Well, at least I know how to get one." Dead hit -- Warren punches him across the room. He lands painfully and stays down, his nose bloodied and battered, but before Warren can finish the job, Jonathan intervenes, reminding him of their timetable. "We're just going to leave him there?" Andrew asks nervously. "What if he sics the Slayer on us?" Warren turns and strides out. "Bring her on."

Xander heads directly for Casa Summers, and is shouting for Buffy before he clears the door. He finds her upstairs, still in the bathroom, still in shock. Xander sees the tears in her eyes and the bruise on her leg; between that, the leather coat Spike left downstairs, and the wreckage of the bathroom, he figures things out pretty fast (he can be taught! And you thought it was impossible....). But Buffy stops him before he can go on a Spike-hunt; face with exhaustion and tears, he stays. Willow and Tara arrive then anyway, triumphant -- they've deciphered everything in the LoD's notes (except for a few pages which Xander identifies as Klingon love poetry; they wisely let that pass). The blueprints were to banks, armored car routes, corporate vaults -- money stuff. But the time-sensitive one is scheduled for tonight. "Be careful," Xander warns, "Warren's gone all Mighty Mouse. Emphasis on the 'might'." Buffy responds grimly, "Then I won't have to hold back."

Spike staggers into his crypt in his own kind of shock, Buffy's pleading voice ringing in his ears. He reaches for a bottle, but throws the glass across the room instead of drinking it. Clem arrives, bearing hot wings, just in time to see Spike have a little breakdown. "What did I do?" he asks no one in particular. "What has she done to me?" Clem knows this subject. "Oh, the Slayer. Did you break up with her again?" Spike: "We were never together. She'd never lower herself that far." Clem is ready to do the friend thing, but lacks context to be helpful. "Why do I feel this way?" Spike demands, and Clem can only answer, in Spike's old words, "Love's a funny thing." Spike goes off onto a chip tangent that isn't. "Everything always used to be so clear. Slayer, vampire. Vampire kills Slayer, sucks her dry, picks his teeth with her bones. I've tasted the life of two Slayers. But Buffy.... It wasn't supposed to be this way! It's the chip! Steel and wires and silicone. Won't let me be a monster. And I can't be a man. I'm nothing." Clem tries to console him with the thought that things change. "that they do," Spike says. then he turns, and you can almost see the Grinchy smile start curling up the corners of his mouth. "If you make them." Oh god. Spike's got a Plan.

So does the LoD, and it involves opening day at an amusement park. As the armored car guys load the haul, and begin to leave, Warren lifts the back wheels off the ground. "I can't wait to get my hands on his orbs," Andrew bounces as he watches. "Yeah, I'm sure he'll give them up any second now," Jonathan responds with great sarcasm. (All three are, by the way, dressed in the latest all-black designer evening wear for thieves, scoundrels and other creatures of the night. Do I need to comment that they look silly? Or can we take that as given?) But as Warren rips off the door, a voice from the top of the car stops him. "Hey, is this your bank?" The Slayer looks down at him calmly. "'Cause if not, there's gonna be a fee for that." She jumps down and the fight begins. The fight is even to begin with; they're evenly matched in strength and witty repartee, but Buffy's got moves he never dreamed of. Still, the invulnerable thing is a big help -- even dropping a stone arch on Warren doesn't keep him down. He emerges from the rubble in one piece. "What's the matter, baby? You never fight a real man before?"

Buffy stares at him; it's hard to tell if she's more appalled by his survival, or the cheesy line. Warren starts throwing punches again and gets in some good ones, before Buffy recovers and starts in with her own moves. But they're just not doing any damage; Warren, on the other hand, is beating her down, as Andrew yells, "Kill her!" Warren stands over as she sprawls on the ground, demanding, "You know who I am...? I'm the guy that beat you. And it's not the muscles, baby. It's the brains." Buffy's back on her feet, and shoots back: "I'll remember that when I knock 'em clean out of your--" The comeback is cut off when Jonathan suddenly leaps on her back from behind. As she staggers under the unexpected assault, he whispers urgently, "His orbs. Smash his orbs!" She throws Jonathan off, and renews her assault on Warren, this time keeping her eyes open. "Say good night, bitch," he says, pulling his fist back -- and revealing the pouch on his belt. Buffy grabs and smashes the pouch, and the orbs within, in one blow. Purple flows from the suddenly shocked Warren, and Buffy stands. "Good night, bitch," she says calmly, before she kicks him into next week. "She advances on him, but he throws off his coat, revealing something shiny and metallic on his back. "I swear to god, I'm gonna take you down," he vows, wild-eyed, before his jetpack ignites and sends him soaring into the sky.

"Oh, come on," Buffy groans in utter exasperation as he goes, then she turns on the two idiots left. "Well played, Slayer," Andrew says in his best Bond villain imitation, before throwing off his jacket to revel his own jetpack. "I didn't get one of those," Jonathan complains. Unfortunately, Andrew's too stupid to get out from cover, and bounces off the roof of the kiosk to the ground. The Sunnydale police wind up escorting both of them into the police station, as Jonathan objects to being set up, and Andrew deals with Warren leaving him. ("He promised we'd be together, but he was just using me.") They sit alone on a bench, waiting to be booked.

Outside of town, Spike's motorcycle purrs to a halt as he takes one last look around Sunnydale. ""Get nice and comfy, Slayer. I'll be back. And when I do, things are gonna chance." He squeals away into the darkness in a cloud of dust and exhaust.

The next morning, Willow and Tara resume the kissing upstairs, as Xander arrives downstairs. He approaches Buffy in the backyard, where she's searching for cameras; she's still worried about Warren coming back. They sit together on a weathered bench, awkwardly. Xander finally asks, "How did we get here?" Buffy shrugs. "Scenic route. Long drive." Xander confesses that it hurt that she didn't trust him enough to tell him about Spike; she apologizes, and means it. "I should have told you." Xander looks down. "Maybe you would have, if I hadn't given you so many reasons to think I'd be an ass about it." (He can be taught -- and I say that without sarcasm this time. Yay.) "I don't know what I'd do without you and Will," Xander admit shakily. "Let's not find out," Buffy says gently, and they hug for a long time. "I love you. You know that, right?" Buffy says, before Xander jolts out of her arms and to his feet. Buffy whirls to see Warren standing in her yard, in broad daylight. "You think you can just do that to me?" he demands, clearly on the edge of sanity. "You think I'd let you get away with that?" he laughs and gestures wildly. "Think again." Then he lifts the gun he was holding and fires. Once at Buffy, twice, then a third time, wildly, s he runs away.

Upstairs, red suddenly slashes across Willow. Tara looks at her, oblivious to the spreading red on her own chest. "Your shirt," she says, confused, before she collapses to the floor. Xander comes to his feet cursing, until he sees Buffy laying on the ground, a red stain spreading across her chest. He falls to her side as Willow cradles Tara, calling her name wildly. Buffy's eyes stare blankly up at the sky, as Willow's wails reach a peak and her head flies up, her eyes black and glowing red with magic. Continuity:
The Legion of Dorkness has been broken, two of the members jailed. But Warren remains on the loose, and took his revenge, shooting both Buffy and Tara.

Following an attempted rape of Buffy, Spike has left town, vowing to return, and that things will be different. and not in a good way.

Xander has finally come to realization of dorkiness, and all secrets are finally out. But his reconciliation with Buffy didn't really have time to sink in...

Spike and Buffy can be said to be definitively over. Oh yeah.

I've done hard synopses before, but this one was probably the worst ever (aside from Passion, which I still am too chicken to do). Part of that comes from the sheer awfulness of the events in the episode; the rest comes from my bone-deep disgust that those things ever happened. This was not what I signed on for, people; ugliness may be a fact of life, but it's not what I want to see characters I like and care about inflicting on each other.

That said, I'll jump right into what is going to get me the most flames -- Buffy and Spike. Was it an attempted rape? Oh, yeah. No question. Was Buffy to blame? Hell, no -- no one is ever to blame for something that awful happening.

Was Buffy responsible? Well, that's a different question, and my answer is yes, partly. Call it 80-20. Maybe 90-10. No does mean no, absolutely -- unless you've said no so many times before, without meaning it, that it has lost all meaning. It kills me that when Buffy finally sits down and says, clearly and succinctly, just why she doesn't love Spike and can never, despite any other feelings she may have, it's way too late for him to hear her. He's gotten out of the habit of listening, since she never says anything he wants to hear, and rarely says anything that she means.

Does that give Spike the right to assault her? Not only no, but hell no; he was badly, badly in the wrong. But Buffy went into this thing with Spike knowing what he is, that his idea of dealing with getting back with Dru was to "tie her up and torture her until she loves me again." I don't think she could possibly have handled the whole Spike thing worse, from beginning to end. He doesn't have an excuse, but he does have a reason -- he's a vampire. This is how he operates, and he's never made excuses for it (that being one of the things that makes him more-or-less evil). When you deliberately place yourself in a situation you *know* to be dangerous, and do it over and over, you have to take some of the responsibility when you get in trouble. Which, to her credit, Buffy seems to realize; she let Spike leave, and she didn't let Xander go after him. So she gets some grown-up points allotted to her for now. We'll see if she gets to keep them.

< sigh > I wish I could get more seriously worked up about this -- I'm probably betraying the sisterhood six ways from Sunday. It's all bad and wrong and horrible... and it didn't have to be like this. That's all my tired, numb little mind can keep circling back to, that it didn't have to be like this. There are 12,000 other ways this 'relationship' could have gone, some of them good, many of them bad, several of them traumatic. But this was just about the worst case scenario, and it simply didn't have to be written to this level of badness. It doesn't feel inevitable to me; it feels like the writers inflicting as much pain as possible on the characters and, through them, on us, and calling it drama and art instead of smug sadism on the level of 'look what we can do'. And I'm consequently still having trouble working up the energy to care anymore.

By the way, I 'm not particularly pissed at Spike. I refuse to hold the sins of the writers against him, and his sheer horror after he realized what he'd almost done allows him to keep a fairly good grip on my affections. I'm appalled at the thought of what he seems to be headed out to do, but I don't hate him. And Kiki goes into this a hell of a lot better than I do, so go read her rant. Or better yet, go read Domestic Abuse and Gender Role Reversal in Season 6: My Letter to Mutant Enemy by Kristen Smirnov, an eloquent stating of everything I would have said had I been a good enough writer and had enough guts.

And I'm glad to be able to like Xander again, now that he's gotten his head out of his ass. I haven't done the review for Entropy yet, so I'll keep my rant for there, where it's much more appropriate. But he sucks it up, he admits that he screwed up, and he takes the first step towards making things right with Buffy. That's the Xander we love, even when we want to slap him so hard....

Tara. I can't deal with Tara. I'm not going to deal with Tara. I can't. In less than half-an-hour, Mutant Enemy vilified one of my favorite characters, and killed off the other. I'm tired, I'm disgusted, and I simply refuse to deal. Rest in peace, sweetie; I'll write you a nice AU where you get to live the life you deserve.

Warren needs to die; I'm unsurprised that he finally snapped. Jonathan comes through, and I officially still love him. Andrew needs therapy, and to get over this thing he's got for Warren (and the subtext is now big honking red headline text. We get it, guys. Move on).

Best Moments:
Dawn's delirious giggles as she realizes Tara and Willow are back together. Even foreboding couldn't make that any less adorable.

Anya getting distracted from work by her own rants -- Emma Caulfield continues to make Anya deeper and more human as a demon than she was as a human.

Dawn confronting Spike. We finally get a good Dawn/Spike scene for the first time in months and it's this, and it's now. Mutant Enemy officially sucks.

Willow and Tara trying to drag themselves out of bed. Very sweet, and Amber Benson is truly gorgeous.

Xander and the Klingon love poems -- a badly needed giggle.

Jonathan jumping Buffy with the way to beat Warren. Even with all of his screw-ups, I still occasionally get to be proud of him. That makes me happy.

Xander and Buffy's reconciliation. Ah, the good old days... before the shooting starts.

Questions and Comments:
The big portrait of Dawn on the wall is one of the publicity shots from last season. I'm trying to decide whether to be amused that I know where it came from, or appalled that I know where it came from. I need to get me a life.

Rating: Crap. On a storytelling/directing/acting level, probably a 4.5 out of 5. On a level of how willing I am to accept this as part of the Buffyverse, something down around a 2. I am not happy.

Chris's Rant

First, all the stuff I want to print out on a little card and just show to people when discussions of this episode come up. Let's get it out of the way so everyone knows where I stand and we can go on from there, or you can bail if you find yourself disagreeing with me. Your call. It's a loaded topic, and I'm not going to force anyone to see it my way if they don't want to.

Did Spike really try to rape Buffy in the bathroom? Yes. Even though he just wanted to make her understand and make her love him? YES. Did she deserve it? Hell no. Did she drive him to it and make him crazy? Again, no. Even though they've been having 'weird' violent sex? Uh, no. A taste for the bizarre or exotic during sex doesn't mean you want to really get hurt, or made to feel like your feelings, wishes, or *self* are being ignored or used. Even though she beat him up in "Dead Things"? No, definitely no. Those are separate events with separate consequences and therefore, what should be separate punishments. But isn't it her fault that he was so confused that he tried to force her? No, no, and no. They broke up very definitely over a month ago; Buffy is under no obligation to return Spike's feelings for her or continue a relationship she feels is wrong for her, no matter *how* much he loves her and says so; and their past painful relationship history and attenuated break-up may have contributed to Spike's view of the situation as 'not over', but no means no, people.

No matter how foolish or self-destructive Buffy may have been before this in having sex with someone who was incapable of truly understanding the difference between right and wrong; or how great the sex used to be; or the genuine caring on both sides; or how sincerely Spike wants to be with her and make her happy, and how confused and upset he was afterward... the attempted sexual assault in Buffy's bathroom was wrong, it was unjustified, it was Spike's fault, not Buffy's, and it was *not* okay. The fact that there are people out there who are confused about this saddens me as much as it angers me.

Having said that, and also saying that I think the scene was handled as tastefully, non-exploitatively, simply and clearly as possible.... I hated this for any number of reasons. The episode made me feel like I'd been played, like gratuitous shock value was inserted to make a point and for an effect; and I don't know that it was necessary. I felt like a victim of sweeps-months syndrome for a variety of reasons which may or may not be justified.

I don't find it utterly out of character for Spike to have attempted to assault Buffy, at least not in the context of what we've been told over and over: he's a vampire, he doesn't really get empathy or conscience or the difference between right and wrong. He has a long history of violence, he enjoys it, he doesn't even mind Buffy beating him up as foreplay (much). He regrets nothing he's done, and sees no reason to (with the exception of this assault, which left him extremely unhappy--- but he still didn't get *why*). It's the subtext that's being trashed here: all the unselfish things he *has* done for Buffy, the real efforts he's made to connect with her, his genuine affection for Dawn, the emotional connection he made just the week before with a grieving Anya. Guys who can do that are not supposed to try to rape their girlfriends. Guys you *like* on TV are not supposed to try to rape the women they love.

We've had a real contradiction between text and subtext all season, and the writers decided to go with Text in bold letters: Bad Spike, Bad Vampire, Evil Man Who Can't *Really* Love Anyone. Leaving everyone who pinned their hopes on the subtext, on James Marsters' subtle and sweetly seductive performance--- feeling like idiots.It could have gone either way with his character - reform or ruin - and the writers went for shock value, and maybe the AfterSchool Special Moment: look, it's still rape even if the characters are really attractive, and even if they're emotionally messed up! You, the viewer, have to remember that Vampires are Bad no matter what, and trust us, the writers, to *not* cheat on that (despite multiple past contradictions on both Angel and Buffy).Do not try to second-guess the writers just because James Marsters is a cutie--- he's still playing the bad guy!

I'm not saying that AfterSchool Specials are devoid of value. I'm not even arguing with the point they're trying to make here: you can't ever be completely certain that the slightly-psycho-yet-attractive obsessive guy *won't* cross the line.I just *hate* that they did it with characters I love. Especially because I believe that on this subject, you are either preaching to the choir, or to those who go fishing on Sunday: the odds of convincing *anyone* of *anything* on the subject of acquaintance rape through what's shown on a TV show seem, to me, slim to none.I could be wrong here, of course. But the prejudices and biases of most people are far too personal and stridently held for most of the audience to benefit from this kind of psychodrama.

The list of questions that I gave answers to above? Are all opinions I've seen discussed on the Web after this episode. The answers, of course, are my own--- and no, they weren't influenced by what I saw during this ep; they were the opinions I held before I had to watch the confrontation between Spike and Buffy. Was I influenced at all by this depiction of the circumstances in question? No. Aside from being deeply grateful that I was spoiled on what was to come --- watching it without expecting it would have hit any number of emotional hot buttons and made me even more upset than I was.(Let's not even get into the discussion about whether this was an appropriate time slot for this, okay? Sigh.)

So, were the writers absolutely wrong in writing this? Are they betraying the show, or the fans, or the character, by having Spike assault Buffy? To a point... yeah, I think they went for the shock value, betrayed the character for ratings points. They could have had Spike do any number of other heinous things without having him attack Buffy, if they wanted him to have a reason to leave Sunnydale.But--- betraying a character is not the same as betraying the show. In terms of pain and angst and plot arcs, I have to admit that this brings up any number of possibilities that can be exploited to good effect in Season 7.What was terrible for Spike and his fans might be good for the show. (I say "might". "Might.")

Were they betraying the fans, not just of Spike, but of the show, in doing something so controversial, divisive, and shocking? Something that would spark so much discussion, in-fighting, so many feelings of betrayal and disgust?Ummm.... I don't know. Really, I don't. Maybe that's what the writers wanted. Maybe they'd claim that it's *good* we don't take anything for granted, even the limits on how much the characters can hurt each other. Maybe they're thrilled they got such a strong reaction out of the audience. Some would say Art (and I'm not being facetious here) is about pushing the boundaries and being honest, and that's one viewpoint on what they showed here. Another is that they went for the sucker-punch to a vulnerable area, and left the audience to decide if it was justified or not.I don't have to like them or the episode for achieving their goal, though, even if (again) I can intellectually see the writers' point.Neither do any other viewers have to think that the writers made a good choice in depicting the end of Buffy and Spike's relationship (this season, anyway) this way, whatever their opinion of the events depicted onscreen.

When I was in college, I had to attend a performance of Berthold Brecht's "Mother Courage and Her Children." It's a classic. The point of this classic is to leave you mentally exhausted and convinced that War is Hell. The play takes about four or so hours to sit through, depending on how the length of time required for the actors to sing the mid-act atonal little songs which are meant to alienate you from the action. When I saw this play, I was wearing new shoes that had worn blisters in my heels, which had then broken, leaving me with bloody feet (and shoes) and barely able to walk home over icy snow-covered streets. While emotionally numb and mentally drained of all happy thoughts.

The aftermath of this episode was kind of like that.

The only difference is, you could not pay me enough money to sit through "Mother Courage" again, ever. And I still love this show, even if my trust in the writers has taken a severe beating.I am putting *Buffy* on probation, mentally, and watching with a wary eye, with my hand on the TV remote just a little more hyper than before; just a little more ready to change the channel.If I can't trust my assessment of the characters, if at any moment the show could disappoint me like this--- well, I hear Gilmore Girls is pretty good. Which is the great thing about television: if you really don't like it, you *don't* have to watch.


"It occurs to me that if Buffy had just GONE to the prom with Jonathan, a lot of this might have been avoided." -- Deb

"And what the *hell* is up with putting Amber Benson in the credits, on the night she's supposed to get killed? Say *WHAT*? Nice credit shots. Why did they bother? [Val explained that this has always been a dream of Joss's: to put someone in the credits and kill them. He's not usually allowed to do that. So since it was Amber's last ep, the did it with her. What. Ever. :> ]" -- Chris

"Okay, I thought it was well done... but I don't know if I'd ever have wanted to see it. < shudder >" -- Lizbet

"Loved the scene with Dawn and Spike. Very much what I've been missing this season. Except of course that Dawn now seems more mature than Spike, which is just weird." -- Chris

"And a moment to be crude... what, they had to use up their alotment of Lesbo Sex Moments? I mean, it was cute, but if it was a het couple have this many Displays of Affection (public or private) we'd be throwing socks at the screen." -- Lizbet

"Xander and more alcohol and a brunette. Yeah, seen this scenario before. Last week, in fact. Wait I'm wrong. We saw it ten minutes ago--- only now he airs *his* issues in a bar. Between him and Anya, there are going to be a lot of confused and intimidated bar patrons this week." -- Chris

"She *finally* makes the point that she has feelings for him, but she doesn't trust him, and he totally fails to get why that's a problem. GAH. Their *entire* set of relationship problems in one two-line exchange." -- Chris

"I had worse problems with this than some people whom I talked to. Possibly because I always assume that an attackee is in genuine danger, Slayer or no. I am torn between wanting to rip Spike's arms off and feeling sorry for him. WHich is ridiculous on many levels, except that he is a character with whom I'm familiar enough to believe that he *is* very, very sorry, and that he honestly didn't get that what he was attempting to do was a *bad* thing until she smacked him into a wall. Buffy and Spike were in an BDSM, rough-sex relationship where there were no boundaries or 'safe' words to let either party know when to stop. He's obsessive-compulsive; she's been a depressed wreck. They're different species with different fundamental needs and different understandings of 'enough is enough'. I am *not* justifying what he tried. I still want to rip his arms off. I am merely stating... Hell, I don't know what I'm stating. I want to say that Buffy was playing with fire, but she was in no shape to appreciate the implications of that when they got involved. I want to say that he seduced her into this relationship and played with her head--- and he did--- but I also know that in his way, he loves her. He just lacks the empathy and perspective to realize that his isolation and taunting methods were hurting her emotionally. Because he is. A. Vampire. And yet, I still don't think this was inevitable, that this *had* to happen... More on that [above]. " -- Chris

"Yeah. SPIKE IS A VAMPIRE. Who pretty much has spent 118 of the last 120 years operating on, "Want. Take. Have." Who was going to get Dru to love him again by tying her up and torturing her into it, BECAUSE SHE WOULD HAVE LIKED IT. He isn't us. And both he, Buffy, and we have been insulated from the most grievous effects of that because he's been *trying* to operate within the bounds that the human world considers normal."-- Lizbet

"I think (in part) Buffy fell prey to a typical female-breakup thing. She acknowledged that his feelings for her were real, but she kept showing up to tell him because (assumption) she thought repetition would make it sink in. Whereas Spike's pretty much thinking that every time he sees her, it's another opportunity to talk her out of breaking up with him or to impress upon her his true devotion."
"I think you're dead-on here, although I'm not sure it's just a female thing. More often, probably, though. But yeah, the urge to comfort someone you've hurt when *you're* the one that did the hurting... is never fair to the dumpee in a relationship. I don't blame Buffy for not getting this, since her previous relationships all involved guys walking away from her, and she probably wished that they hadn't done that." -- Lizbet and Chris

"Someone I was reading elsewhere was upset because they felt that the assault was *not* a way for them to get their relationship issues worked out, or to have an epiphany--- and while I don't think that's what they were doing, or what happened, I am frustrated that they had a perfectly legit, smart talk--- that then got totally undercut by the following events." -- Chris

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