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The Slow Path to Hell of AtS Season 5: The Importance of Justice (spoil. Just Rewards 5.02) -- Diana, 09:49:56 10/09/03 Thu

Power corrupts. Is the corollary to this lack of power can redeem? That is the question that goes through my mind as I figure out what aspect of corruption "Just Rewards" dealt with. I have to admit I am beyond impressed as ME managed to bring back Spike in a manner that both validated his sacrifice in "Chosen," but didn't denigrate the amends and growth Angel has made over the course of 4+3 seasons. First I am going to gush about that. Then I will get into power/control's role and finally I will get into what the episode is really about, justice's role in corruption.

Some of Angel and Spike's interactions looked like they were taken from message boards. The exchange in the mansion summed things up so well.

Angel: What is your problem?
Spike: You are, you ponce. You're my problem. You got it too good. You're king of a 30 floor castle with all the cars, comfort, power and glory you could ever want, and here I save the world throw myself on the proverbial hand grenade for love, honor and all the right reasons and what do I get? Bloody well toasted the ghost is it. It just isn't fair.
Angel: Fair? You asked for a soul. I didn't! It almost killed me! I spent a hundred years trying to come to terms with infinite remorse. You spent three weeks moaning in a basement and then and then you were fine. What's fair about that!?!

Then Spike fades out only to come back when Angel needs him.

Let the shipper wars continue, or not. Hopefully not. At the end of the episode, we find out that Spike isn't "fine." As he tells Fred, he needs her help.

Spike: I'm slipping.
Fred: What?
Spike: I don't want to go, but it's...it's like the ground underneath me is splitting open and my legs are straddling both sides of this bloody big chasm. It's getting wider...pulling me in.
Fred:: Is that...is that what is happening when you keep vanishing?
Spike: I know what is down there and it's trying to take me and it's not the place heroes go, not by a bloody long shot. It's the other one...full of fire...and torment...and it's happening...and I'm terrified. Help me.

We have seen two other creatures that needed redemption die by throwing themselves on the proverbial hand grenade and thus possibly redeem themselves. The first was Doyle. We never got to see him again, and with GQs death we never will. The second was Darla. We have seen her and based on "Inside Out," it appears that she has been fully redeemed. Darla's redemption consisted of two parts. The first is in "The Trial" when she experiences being loved and is willing to die the death she was meant to. The second is in "Lullaby" where her death is motivated by her love for her child. We can compare why Darla's arc was enough to fully redeem her and why Spike's wasn't, but for me the important thing is not that they died, but what drove their death. Not necessarily that Darla died for love, but that Darla's death resolved her particular issue.

Spike's death in "Chosen" did not resolve his issues. It was heroic and earned him a CHANCE to be fully redeemed rather than go to that other place. That is what Spike has now, a chance. By watching when he fades, which is when he is being pulled into Hell and when he returns, we can see where his issues and redemption are. I have to say that sending Spike to limbo/Earth rather than Heaven or Hell was brilliant.

This is a natural evolution of the mythos. The promises God made to Abraham were about this life. The promises made to Angel through the Scroll of Aberjian were about this life. The promise God made through Jesus were about an afterlife. What Spike is now facing deals with that afterlife. How this can be reconciled in the atheist Buffyverse is interesting and will be dealt with in later posts.

Side note: This is just how I see what happened. Until it shows up in the show, it isn't canon. This could be completely off base. As I see it, what happened S7 on BtVS was not enough to fully redeem Spike. It was enough that he earned a chance at full redemption. That redemption will be earned by dealing with his issues. What those issues are is not the topic of this post and I'll deal with eventually. :-D

(continued as I write it)


[> Brilliant (continued spoilers for 5.2) -- Random, 11:23:21 10/09/03 Thu

Spike throwing himself on the grenade was an act of self-sacrifice, a means to save the world. Now he is struggling to learn how to save his soul too. He's a hero, no doubt. Anyone who dies to save humanity from an army of uber-vamps and whatever else the mouth of Hell can spew forth is a hero. But heroes, as Spike is learning, aren't always rewarded for their acts. Some die ugly, some are condemned by those ignorant of the details of a solitary act of heroism, some suffer the trials of the damned. What Spike's heroism did was give him a second chance, a chance he didn't really have before the war agains the FE swept him up into the fray again. But now...he has, as you note, a real chance. If this is Spike's story, I am now a little less worried about how the show will suffer from his presence.

Look forward to hearing more

[> Power and Control (spoilers 5.02) -- Diana, 13:41:11 10/09/03 Thu

The interplay of power and helplessness in this episode was interesting. Spike's impotence because of his lack of corporeality was mirrored wonderfully in the Necromancer's control over Angel through his corporeality. In this episode it was hard to tell who was the protagonist and who was the foil sometimes, which is fitting for an episode that asks how much ultimate control do we really have.

Spike's lack of control manifests on so many levels. He can't even control his emotions, but then again he was always their bitch. When he first sees Angel, he vamps out and charges him. He can't even strike Angel, until he is in the body of the necromancer. He can't control where he appears or even if he appears or disappears. He can't control whether Buffy loves him like he wants her to and he definitely can't go to her. He's upset that he isn't dead (which fits if it is only after his essence is released from the amulet that he is straddling the chasm to hell. In the amulet he was safe). He is upset about being attached to the amulet.

Angel isn't exactly in control either. Since Spike's isn't corporeal, he can't pound him either or even make him shut up. Angel's emotions are peak all episode, including his own guilt over Spike's predicament. Spike accuses Angel of chickening out in regards to the amulet, but Angel tells him "she made the call. It wasn't my choice." Gunn is the one who is on top of things at the firm and Angel even costs someone his life by not understanding the situation. The amulet worries Angel more in that it shows how much the Senior Partners are scheming behind the scenes. Lots of whys he has no power to answer yet. Is Angel really the one in charge of Wolfram and Hart? Fries and the Necromancer aren't the first clients that are going to test that, and there are always the Senior Partners and their schemes.

I like Angel's cars. Last time, as Angel is trying to do things the old way, he picks a classic car (which my husband informs me, that particular car should be yellow. He thinks it only came in yellow with black and red with black. Anything else is just wrong on that car). Now Angel goes for the modern Viper. Not a Jag, but it'll do. Because Spike is in the car, it forces him to take another car. "You and me together again." Not quite like old times, but based on FFL, not quite a new book yet. Neither Spike nor Angel are in total control here.

I also like the way the blinds made for shadow prison bars in Angel's bedroom, with those bars even going across Angel's half naked form (and Spike too) Spike thinks both that Angel has it so good and that he is being devoured by the Senior Partners. He doesn't realize how trapped Angel really is. Without knowing why Angel accepted Wolfram and Hart's offer, which people don't because of the memory wipe, Angel's motives aren't understood. Angel didn't take the offer because of the overall power it gave him. That he turned down. It was the very specific power to save his son that mattered to him. Because of that impotence that Angel faced back in Season 4, where he saved the world, but not his son, Wolfram and Hart now have a chance they didn't before.

With Gunn, a fired employee was caught smuggling out a little Gunn doll from the voodoo division. That would be an attempt to control him, but so far Gunn is the one in control. He is even the one that knows how to really hurt the Necromancer. When Gunn and Wesley form behind Angel, it is Gunn that is closer this time. Contrasted with Gunn, Wesley is pretty much a lame duck. He can't convince Angel not to go after Hainsely. Instead it is Gunn that gets Angel's attention.

The beauty of the episode comes in accepting this lack of control over our lives and exercising the control that we do have. Angel has Spike's fate in his hands. All he has to do is smash the amulet and Spike will be gone. Angel has no idea that he will be condemning him to hell. Even so, Angel has to sleep on it. This touches Spike, much like Angel touched Darla in "The Trials." The Necromancer offers Spike the power of choice, to put his destiny back in his own hands. He offers to make put him in Angel's body. Spike has lived in Angel's shadow his whole unlife. Spike turns down this sort of power because Angel has touched him, even if he is noncorporeal. Angel takes the power over Spike that he has very seriously. He sees Spike not just as tremendous pain, but as an individual.

That is something none of us have any power over. People aren't just inconveniences or pawns. We are all individuals that need to be thought of as that. Recently on another mailing list, we are participating in a Moral Sense survey (which can be found at Moral Sense Test I'm sure the researchers would appreciate it if you took the less than 10 minutes it takes to participate in the study). The test asks about the morality of killing one to save five in various scenarios. No matter how we justify it, that one life is precious and taking it should not be done lightly. Angel understands this. In finding his own humanity, he has found that others are human as well.

This is an important part to power and corruption. The power that Angel has leads him to treat a human being as some flunky. He doesn't see Magnus Hainey as anything other than a client. These actions lead to the flunky's death. It is seeing Spike as an individual that ultimately saves the day. Without this, Spike would be walking around in Angel's body and the Necromancer would be unchecked. Angel has to maintain his humanity in an environment where he has tremendous power. Spike has to find his humanity in an environment where he has little power. It turns Spike into an interesting foil. Both Angel's power and Spike's impotence make them susceptible to corruption.

[> [> Re: Power and Control (spoilers 5.02) -- sdev, 14:31:05 10/09/03 Thu

"It is seeing Spike as an individual that ultimately saves the day. Without this, Spike would be walking around in Angel's body and the Necromancer would be unchecked.?

How do you figure this? Please explain.

[> Justice (spoilers 5.02) -- Diana, 14:57:27 10/09/03 Thu

The title isn't about control though. It is "Just Rewards." Justice. Angel and Spike are like two brothers both complaining "It's not fair." Angel wants to use his power to make things more fair, not for himself mainly, but for the world in general. He helps the helpless because he believes that people shouldn't suffer as they do. That is what makes Angel a champion, he fights for his idea of truth, justice and the American way. He's not fighting for a reward.

That isn't how Spike sees things. "I can see why heroes like you get rewarded with all the shinny glass and chrome." Spike sees all of Angel's cars, comfort, power and glory as some sort of reward and poor Spike's reward was to be toasted and ghosted, which he doesn't want. "You'd think saving the sodding world would be enough to earn me a little rest." Then he fades for the first time and sees just what his reward is, not having to go to the other place.

It is this sense of injustice that makes Spike susceptible to the Necromancer's offer. When we think the world is unfair, what is the motivation to be fair ourselves? We'll make our own justice. Even though Spike doesn't accept the Necromancer's offer, he does get in a few hits against Angel. He also relishes the pain the Necromancer is causing Angel and takes his time pulling his hand out of Angel. He is having an awful lot of fun haunting Angel and will root for anyone that can take him down a notch.

Angel isn't much better. He is so jealous of what Spike managed to get through rather quickly that he doesn't tell the whole story to Wesley. When Spike shows up, Rational and Centered Angel that learned the power of mercy and was going to deal with whatever comes next leaves the building and we are left with Angry Angel. Angel is so distracted by Spike that he screws up running the firm. He loses what control he does have because he is upset.

Angel and Spike are in the same prison, both trapped in an unfair world, a world neither belongs in or is really a part of. They want that control to bring about what they think is fair. For Spike that is some type of just reward. For the audience, we want to see him get beyond just working for a reward.

Angel billboard -- purplegrrl, 12:58:16 10/09/03 Thu

Had to go to Dallas on Tues. for a job interview. Along the freeway was a billboard advertising the new season of "Angel." It had a great picture of DB in his classic black with the words: LIVE FAST. DIE NEVER.


[> From the billboard's lips to the WB's ear -- Masq, 13:25:30 10/09/03 Thu

Let's hope the show continues to be action-packed and doesn't get cancelled....

Anytime soon.

[> good luck w/the job, purplegrrl! -- anom, 13:38:17 10/09/03 Thu

[> [> Thanks! -- purplegrrl, 13:47:31 10/09/03 Thu

[> Angel on every taxi -- neaux, 13:42:00 10/09/03 Thu

I was in Vegas 3 weeks ago and Angel was on almost every Taxi. (This was a promotion for his syndication on TNT).

[> Yo, purplegrrl LTNS! -- Celebaelin, 16:01:57 10/09/03 Thu

Poochie or First Evil? (spoilers Just Rewards) -- pellenaka, 14:33:31 10/09/03 Thu

Whenever Poochie's not onscreen, all the
other characters should be asking "Where's Poochie"?
The Simpsons, 'The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show'.

Okay, we know that Spike isn't a ghost according to Fred's definitions.
He isn't corporeal since he can go through tables, cars and walls.
Yet he still sits on chairs.

Am I the only one reminded of The First? It wasn't corporeal either and neither a ghost.

The last thing we saw of The First was in the Hellmouth along with Spike's little trinket.

Probably. The WB wouldn't let them do any such thing to their new little blondie bear but it's a nice thought.

He can't really do anything but haunt Angel and the W&H. Just like The First - no powers.

And as I read somewhere, why not try to put the amulet on Spike and see what happens? He might become corporeal or he'll burn up once more and all of the evil W&H people will die and he'll be back in the amulet. Lots of time saved for looking for evil people in the W&H.
What? It could be fun to look at.

Note: I'm spoilerfree so if the last thing does happen, I didn't know about them.


[> Re: Poochie or First Evil? (spoilers Just Rewards) -- leslie, 15:53:02 10/09/03 Thu

Just a thought about corporeality here--Fred finds that he's incorporeal, but he's warmer than room temperature. Vampires are room temperature, and ghosts, as Fred explains, usually create a chill around themselves. So whatever Spike is, it isn't anything he's ever been before.

[> [> whatever he is (spoilers for 5.2) -- anom, 22:00:53 10/09/03 Thu

I'd been wondering what effect being a ghost was going to have on Spike. Could he still have vamp physiology when he wasn't...physical?

We got one answer to that in Just Rewards. He can still get bumpy-faced & fangy. I'm thinking he doesn't have that pesky problem w/sunlight, though, necrotempered glass or no. Stakes & any beheading-type weapons would go right through him--not the way they usually go through a vampire...you know what I mean! And fire...there's nothing to set fire to. Now he has no heartbeat for two reasons! And metaphysicians can teeter on the brink of insanity trying to figure out if--& how--a ghost can have a soul.

Oh yeah--& I guess this means he can't smoke anymore! But I bet he still feels the need to...& that the writers get some mileage out of that!

[> Re: Poochie or First Evil? (spoilers Just Rewards) -- Ames, 21:26:21 10/09/03 Thu

Now there's an interesting thought!

[> [> Got Another One.... -- AngelVSAngelus, 21:46:23 10/09/03 Thu

Are there two disembodied ethereal essences just floating around Wolfram and Hart?
What I mean is, Spike the vampire last time we saw him, was a vampire (demon) and had a soul within that human vessel. If the personality of Spike seems to be intact, do those two things still have to be present in some fashion? Or was it imprinted onto some new ethereal thing? Who else's head wants to explode?

season 5: Big question -- luvthistle1, 02:49:58 10/10/03 Fri

If souled Angel gets corrupted by W&H, do that make the cursed on Angelus void?

( considering that the soul, would than be tainted, with evil as well)


[> I don't think so -- Gyrus, 07:18:51 10/10/03 Fri

An evil soul can always be redeemed; being corrupted is not the same as losing your soul. So I don't think Angel being corrupted would void the curse per se.

Additionally, one could argue that a corrupt Angel would be incapable of perfect happiness. Some remnant of his conscience would always be there to get in the way of his achieving the kind of pure joy that would be necessary to break the curse. Therefore, IMO, corruption would not lift the curse and free Angelus; instead, it would prevent Angel from breaking the curse.

This is not to say that a corrupt Angel couldn't be almost as bad as Angelus, of course.

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