1st Anniversary Character Posting Board Party - Spike
Aquitaine - July 18, 2001

Disclaimer: This is not an exhaustive analysis of Spike's character. I am hoping that the very eloquent ATPoBtVS posters will add their insights to the comments I provide here, particularly as relates to Spike's contribution to Season 2 and, particularly, Season 4. As much as possible, I have tried to be objective and not devolve into pathetic fangirl gushing, but I'm only human. Also, because most everything Spike says is eminently quotable, I have chosen not to quote extensively.

- Aquitaine (who doesn't post much these days but is still alive and well)

Part 1 - The Confused Monster and the 'Fool for Love'

At this point in time, it seems as though everything that could be said about our favorite bleached-blond vamp has already been said. It really *has* been a banner year for Spike, the vampire with a chip but no soul. Every scene in which he participated this last season has been parsed and analysed. Viewers have asked: Has Spike lost his edge? Does Spike's chip function as an artificial soul? Is Spike on the path to redemption? If Spike only does 'good' because he is in love with Buffy, is he being good or self-serving? And so on 'ad vitam eternam'. Of course, at the outset of Season 5 of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", it wasn't immediately obvious that the season would turn out to be 'All About Spike' or depend so much on his actions to move the plot and story arcs along. Even more than he was in Season 4 - where he seemed to function as the comic-relief gnat in the ointment more than anything else - he was shown as ineffectual, impotent and... small, but thankfully 'well muscled and compact'! In fact, the first time we see Spike in "Buffy vs Dracula", he barely manages to secure his self-defence:

SPIKE: Well, well. Spike emerges from the shadows holding a crossbow.

SPIKE: You can take the boy out of the Initiative, but you can't take the Initiative out of the boy.

RILEY: I'd put that down, unless you're bucking for one hell of a headache. Spike hesitates, puts the bow down.

SPIKE: I can't be too careful. I got quite a few demons after me these days.

Spike has incurred the wrath of his own kind - vampires and, to a lesser extent, other demons - as well as the Scooby Gang and is now a solitary figure, beaten and pathetic, who, here, must step down, in typical snarky style, from a confrontation with 'Captain Cardboard' as the large man hulks over him menacingly.

SPIKE: No. (stands) I'm saying ... you should go home to your superhoney. Have a nice, safe snog. You're out of your depth on this one, boy. (Turns his back on Riley)

RILEY: You've helped Buffy before, so she has a problem with killing you now that you're helpless. (Spike still turned away)

RILEY: I don't. Spike turns to face him, walks up to him.

SPIKE: I'd like to see you try. Riley stands, gets in Spike's face.

RILEY: Would you? They stare each other down. Finally Spike looks away.

SPIKE: Pfft.

Here, as in many other instances, Spike's body language - the exaggerated sprawl - is a clue to feigned nonchalance and vulnerability. This 'sprawl' is seen later on in the season in the crypt scene in "Into the Woods" and at the beginning of "Crush", at the Bronze. But, of course, Season 5 Grey!Spike is almost always sprawled in his battered wing chair, revealing that the big bad demon has been domesticated and neutered to a large extent.

Relegated to his spectator's wing chair, it would seem that Spike only has manipulation left at his disposal to achieve his goals: continued survival and entertainment. However, while he used manipulation as a weapon quite effectively in Season 4, particularly in "The Yoko Factor", he does not really use it in Season 5. Instead, as he does with Riley in "Buffy vs Dracula", he plays along with the humans who pose questions to him and enlist his help. Naturally, he uses money as a bargaining tool. Consider how the episode "Out of my Mind" might have turned out if Buffy had been just a bit less strident in enlisting Spike's help in finding Riley and therefore hadn't pushed Spike into forcing the 'money' issue - and subsequently into trying to kill her. In many ways, the money itself isn't all that important to Spike but it represents that little bit of power and control he needs to maintain his self-respect. In "Checkpoint", Spike almost automatically demands money to protect Dawn and Joyce but what really wins him over is Buffy's flattery ("You're the only one who's strong enough to protect them.") and sincere plea for help. And so, given a like incentive, Spike rather willingly humours his human 'friends', his only contact with the world.

RILEY: I'm looking for some information. Might pay a little.

SPIKE: (shrugs) I'll play. (Goes over to a couple of chairs)

The indifference he displays here will gradually, systematically be stripped from him as the season progresses. In this instance, he seems a tad depressed and lonely, truth be told, and he uses Riley's visit as a diversion and a distraction. Thirteen episodes later, in Crush, 'playing' has lost its appeal and perhaps money has as well. Spike's secret love for Buffy has been outed and he is finally free to give up the pretence, the game:

DRUSILLA: Shall we tie her up? (licks her finger) Play with her a teensy bit first.

SPIKE: (pensively, looking at Buffy) I'm through playing.

DRUSILLA: (delighted) Oooh. I like it when you're all dour and straight to business-like. Spike looks at her. She gives him the taser. Spike reaches out and tasers Dru. She gives a cry of pain and falls down.

SPIKE: (quietly) Bloody well through playing.

There's a new game afoot but it isn't a game at all. It's about life and death and the discovery of one's true identity. In short, it's all about choices:

DRUSILLA: Not nice to change the game in mid-play, Spike. You've taken my chair and the music hasn't stopped.

SPIKE: Sorry, pet. My house, my rules.

In many ways, Spike's unfulfilling relationship with Harmony (an echo of Buffy and Riley's doomed relationship) has made this change, this choice, possible for Spike. That is why Harmony's presence is necessary in this scene where Spike has both Dru and Buffy tied up. In his dealings with Harmony, Spike was relatively sympathetic to her delusions of grandeur (in "The Real Me", for example) and he was able to project his feeling for Buffy onto and into her body, which allowed him, or, rather, caused him to see himself and his own ambitions more clearly. Of course, the relationship between Spike and Harmony is set up to fail from the very beginning and it serves to show both Spike's strengths (intelligence, wit and... tolerance - hey, you've got to be tolerant if you lived with Drusilla for 120 years and then with Harmony!) and his weaknesses (arrogance, disrespect and opportunism).

Interestingly enough, Harmony is but another objectified version of Buffy for Spike. This objectification begins in "The Replacement". We begin to see how his 'idée fixe' of killing the Slayer might in fact be something completely different at heart when Spike caresses the Buffyquin before attacking it. It is not a coincidence that Spike's world becomes fractured at the same time Xander is split into two entities. The fact that Spike's infatuation was explored in tandem with the live, not-so-pleasant Buffy (via verbal and physical sparring, sexual tension and sincere revelations), the Buffyquin (via practice apologies, dismemberment and enshrinement), Harmony (via displays of intellectual superiority, control and fetishism) and the Buffybot (via staged love scenarios that showed Spike's vulnerability and idealism) allowed the audience to glimpse both sides of Spike's character: the 'fool for love' and the 'confused monster'.


Part 2 - He Had a Plan, But He Got Bored

Spike was never the strongest of vampires. Even back in "School Hard", the first episode in which he appears, he is more about bluster, sprinkled with a bit of psychology and showmanship. He has little taste for inflicting drawn out torture. As he says himself in "What's My Line, Part 2": Spike: Pft! I'll see him die soon enough. I've never been much for the pre-show. And, although he doesn't exactly regret making Angel suffer at Marcus' hands in "In the Dark", Spike knows full well he couldn't have done it himself. Sometimes, it seems Spike's heart really isn't into killing as much as it is into fighting and sparring. When it comes to Buffy, the fighting and sparring are both physical and psychological. Over the years, it has become apparent that Spike feels a certain reluctance to kill Buffy. Both times Spike had a clear chance to kill Buffy one-on-one, in "The Harsh Light of Day" and "Fool for Love", he chose to engage her on a psychological and emotional level. Once again, Spike's choice sets him apart from his fellow vampires. He's quirky and unpredictable. Therefore, while he may not be a very strong vampire, what has kept him alive when going up against Angelus and Buffy are his wits and his capacity to adapt.

From the beginning, Spike is shown first as a lover and, second, as a volatile and impulsive creature. He pushes up the date of his ambush of the High School and hoists the 'Annoying One' into the sunlight (how could we not be forever grateful to this vamp!) in the same episode. Of course, very soon the rug is pulled out from under Spike. After he nearly kills a defenceless Buffy in "Halloween", his 'fall' begins. First he shows 'weakness' in that his feelings for Dru are more important than any ambition in "Lie to Me" and then, in "What's my Line, Part 2", he is paralysed when a church organ falls on him. What follows are months of... hmmm... impotence (déjà vu anyone?) and seeming helplessness from which Spike moves out of the typical vampire mold. In truth, when he initiates and forges an alliance with his enemy, he is displaying a measure of self-awareness and creativity quite unlike any vampire that the Buffyverse had offered hitherto, including the frightening literal, broody and soul-burdened Angel.

The growth that Spike undergoes during Season 2 is paralleled by Buffy's own maturation in the aftermath of the events of "Innocence". Her humiliation and pain is echoed in Spike's anger, pain and powerlessness in the face of Angelus and Dru's 'in-your-face' petting. Who can ever forget the look on Buffy's face when Angelus tells her she's as good as a pro or Spike's face in "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" when Angelus one-ups him in the gift-giving department, outshining the heart pendant Spike gives Dru with a real human heart. In many ways, then, while Spike and Buffy barely survive the events of Season 2, when they team up in "Becoming Part 2" - perhaps the best BtVS episode ever - they not only save themselves but somehow alter the definitions of 'Slayer' and 'Vampire'. As a demon seeking to help a human, for all intents and purposes his biggest enemy, in hopes of saving a world he enjoys and getting his girlfriend back, Spike is a true dichotomy.


Part 3 - A Different Kind of 'Carpe Diem'

DAWN: I'm not a child. (goes to lean against a pillar) I'm not even human. Not originally.

SPIKE: (sighs) Yeah, well, originally I was. I got over it. (Sits on the edge of a coffin) Doesn't seem to me it matters very much how you start out.

Here, as with most of the things he says, Spike is both incredibly insightful and incredibly deluded. As we found out in "Fool for Love", the fact that Spike 'started out' as William, the Bloody Awful Poet, still shapes his un-life as a vampire. The fact that Spike states that his life and death as a human do not really matter when all is said and done is also true. Nothing can be done to change the facts. Unlike Angel, Spike can switch gears, from besotted lover to pragmatic man of action, as needed, and human behavior does not baffle him. It amuses, entertains and, literally, feeds him. Spike understands the conventions, the rules of the human world, which, more so than the chip in his head, are what sets him apart from other vampires.

In "Crush", Spike still claims that Dru rescued him (note that Spike refers to William as 'me') from a life of mediocrity. It is only after his disastrous run-in with Buffy and the Scooby Gang in "I Was Made to Love You" and after Joyce's death that Spike seems to sense that his 'uniqueness', his 'freakishness' is undesirable. In fact, in the last few of episodes of Season 5, starting with "Intervention", Spike seems to be re-evaluating his place in the world. By the time the Buffybot shenanigans are exposed, the persona he has affected for 120 years has almost been completely stripped away, which is why he can tell Xander in "Intervention" that he isn't a monster and Dawn in "Tough Love" that he isn't good but he's OK.

Though he has never broached the topic of his own 'crimes', Spike seems to recognise that any attempts at restitution for past actions would be absurd. In "Pangs", however, he does address the issue of 'hindsight amends'.

SPIKE: You exterminated his race. What could you possibly say that would make him feel better? It's kill or be killed here. Take your bloody pick.

Spike's impulsive actions and unique logic sometimes lead him in novel directions. In "Intervention", having endured torture at Glory's hand, Spike discovers that 'what a guy has to do' (his question to Buffy in "Triangle" when he boasts of not sampling the bleeding victims at the Bronze) is to act without the expectation of reward. Spike also learns a surprising lesson: that being his real self - completely bare, vulnerable and honest - may be the key to becoming a real part of Buffy's life. Hitherto, Spike had thought that the only possible thing Buffy *might* have related to was his attitude, his big-badness, his monster. In this instance, both the audience and Spike (and perhaps even Buffy) discovered that this wasn't the case at all. Truth be told, while not all viewers enjoyed seeing this new, broken, Spike, many began to wonder if Spike at his most pathetic and weak might not be Spike at his most heroic. The more Spike relinquishes his hold on his Big Bad persona, the more he gains in his relationships with humans he cares about.

Haunted by his love for Buffy and even by his own philosophical ghost, 'Poor Spike' never seems to get a break. Even Drusilla sees him as a lost cause:

DRUSILLA: Poor Spike... (shot of Spike and Buffy staring at her) so lost. (tearfully) Even I can't help you now.

Drusilla can't help Spike... how? The ambiguity of her statement is beautiful, more so because she is infamous for her cryptic psychic quips. Regardless of whether or not Spike has a chance at redemption, it seems clear that the deepening connection between Spike, Buffy and Dawn stems from his new vulnerability. Because Spike doesn't see Dawn as a threat, he acts more like himself with her, almost parental after a fashion. He definitely feels an instinctive need to protect her for some reason. As for Spike being vulnerable with Buffy, clearly this is true in "Intervention". But Buffy has also seen Spike be humiliated and fail before just as Spike has seen Buffy during many of her worst moments. However, before "Intervention", it was their shared defeats and victories that bound them together and fed their repartee. In the final moments of "Intervention" - the infamous Buffybot-sex episode in which Spike has created his 'displacement toy' - Spike and Buffy's relationship shifts irrevocably. Now they share the 'real' responsibility of ensuring Dawn's safety.

In an oblique way, we have the Buffybot to thank for bringing Buffy and Spike together as Dawn's protectors because it shows just how benign, albeit twisted, Spike's intentions are. In his interactions with the Buffybot, Spike is actually following Giles' warning to 'get over' his 'thing', his infatuation with Buffy. He does not use the Buffybot as a weapon. Like Warren, Spike uses the robot for emotional and, yes, physical, catharsis. He does not, however, set out to destroy Buffy or the Scoobies with it. It is entirely possible that he could have asked Warren to program her to be hostile to her friends and the outside world. But, quite tellingly, Spike has her made to be dutifully and loving... oh and compliant. Must not forget that. Mwahahaha. The much-reviled Bot sex was not as tawdry as it seemed it would be on paper. It revealed a great deal about how Spike's values have been shaped by popular culture and soaps and it also revealed how profoundly Spike himself has changed, needing the Bot to reinforce the idea that he is still evil and bad. What is interesting in the Spike/BuffyBot non-sexual interaction is just how nice and natural Spike acts around her. This is why the final scene is so powerful because not only is Spike incredibly weak and beaten up, all his defences and his persona are missing. He hasn't put on his Slayer-Attitude. This allows Buffy to glimpse his true heart, his true devotion to her in a manner she wouldn't have otherwise. Neither Buffy nor Spike can come out of that moment unchanged. At the very least, they can no longer see each other the same way.

One of the funniest and most telling episodes comes early on, in "Becoming Part 2", where Spike, unchipped and determined to get Dru back, disapproves of Buffy not telling her mother she is the slayer. Spike's rapport with Joyce (and later Dawn) seems related to, but also independent from, his dealings with Buffy. They immediately have common ground. Spike appreciates both Joyce and Dawn, despite the fact that they are mere mortals. His connection to Joyce had many unexplored facets, though "Fool for Love" seemed to indicate that he had a certain amount of respect for his own mother. His dealings with Dawn, however, are among the most complex the show has ever explored. To label the Spike/Dawn interaction as romantic is not as crazy as has been claimed. However, it is not romantic in a sexual way. That is where the confusion arises. The affection, the love that they share is peculiar but visceral. They are two outsiders who have bonded over painful experiences, who have seen each other at their worst but still accept each other. Spike cannot be a poseur with Dawn.

SPIKE: (leans closer to her, speaks menacingly) Shouldn't you be tucked away in your beddy-bye? All warm and safe where nothing can eat you?

DAWN: (giggles) Is that supposed to scare me?

SPIKE: (sighs, leans back) Little tremble wouldn't hurt.

DAWN: Sorry, it's just ... come on. *I'm* badder than you.

SPIKE: (insulted) Are not!

DAWN: Am too...

She just laughs at the Big Bad persona. So Spike is just himself when he's with her. Neutral. Neither good nor bad. Just OK. He is almost a better authority figure for Dawn than either Joyce or Buffy because he doesn't try to control her behaviour as much. And then there's the fact that Dawn instinctively trusts Spike and has never found him threatening in the least:

DAWN: I feel safe with you. Spike chokes on his cigarette smoke in horror. He begins to cough and jumps down from the casket. Dawn moves forward from the pillar in alarm.

SPIKE: Take that back!

Starting with "Checkpoint", Buffy makes the startling choice to trust Spike with the safety of her family. In "Blood Ties", Spike is cast as Dawn's protector, accomplice and friend. In many ways, Spike's bond with Dawn, though born of the love he bears for Buffy, is stronger than the one he has with anyone else simply because it is so multifaceted. They are equals in freakdom; they can talk to each other, forgive each other, care for each other. Spike (even as William) has never really met anyone who is his equal in a sense. With Dawn, there is no conflict, no 'fists and fangs', merely understanding and support. By the end of Season 5, Buffy appoints Spike as Dawn's protector. It is an appointment he takes very seriously. And while there were many heartbreaking moments for Spike during the season, none was more so then the look of horror he and Dawn shared just before Doc threw him off the tower in "The Gift".


Part 4 - The Good Man Behind the Big Bad Vampire

Ultimately, Spike is a lover and a fighter. A lover of life and Manchester United, of Buffy, of irony. A fighter for fighting's sake but mostly a fighter for love's sake. Unlike Glory who cannot understand why humans behave as they do, Spike understands, comments on, and revels in humanity. Spike is passionate. He wants things and hungers for approval, though he would be loathe to admit it. His appetite is diverted into a hunger for human food, drink and socialisation. Because he relates and equates human motivation with his own hunger, his own appetites, he has a unique, unselfconscious insight into the human animal. Spike tells it as he sees it. Blood makes one hard he claims, with a sexual implication. Blood is power but blood is love as well. So blood is the be-all and end-all. Blood *is* life. Spike's vision and version is often true but also a bit destructive. He is most perceptive then when he is indifferent to a situation, a casual observer without a vested interest as he is in "Something Blue" when he says that Willow is only 'hanging on by a thread'. The fact that Spike is the only one who remembers that Ben and Glory are one is a lovely metaphor for Spike's ability to 'see' things as they truly are and his reaction, humorous as it is, reveals his alien status and his desire to be understood and accepted.

Spike knows his paradigms. "It's what you hero types do", he tells Buffy in "Blood Ties" and in "Spiral" he tells her: "Now would be a good time for something heroic". It is ironic that Spike, of all characters, is a bit awed by, and serves to reinforce, Buffy's heroic persona. He is the voice of reason and provides moral support 'malgré lui'. Spike lives by a strangely chivalrous, piecemeal code of honour/dishonour. He has no soul but promises to protect Dawn with his life. And he tells Doc that he is fighting him because he made a promise to a lady.

Spike's character has become more and more complex over time. In tandem with this new complexity, Spike has begun to address the SG with respect beginning with IWMTLY, when he is brutally rejected by them all in the Magic Box. Willow is no longer 'the Witch' or 'Red' but 'Will'. Whether by coincidence, or not, Will is a short form of his own human name, William, and for some reason Spike has great insight into Willow. Xander is no longer 'the Whelp' or 'the boy', but 'Harris'. And, of course, 'the Slayer' is now 'Buffy'. He is particularizing humans. Even if he were to have the chip removed, it would be difficult to kill that which has become particular to his existence.

Spike's character is in constant evolution. His story is always surprising, always entertaining. He is so compelling that it almost seems that Buffy the Vampire Slayer is *really* 'all about Spike'. But it is important to remember that the chiaroscuro of Spike's character could not exist without the greater structure provided by the lights and darks of the Buffyverse, its title character and its stock villains. Conversely, it is also true that the Buffyverse could not exist without the ambiguities, passions and humour of Spike. No, Spike isn't at the center of the Buffyverse. That's where Buffy belongs. However, Spike's connection and commitment to Buffy and Dawn draws him inexorably into their circle of known. And so Spike straddles the two worlds that encompass the Buffyverse sphere of influence.

"As long as it's still Chips Ahoy in Spike's head, there's nothing to worry about" Buffy says in Crush. Neither she nor the viewers - nor Spike himself - can say what effects the chip has had on his demon and his philosophical ghost. How can Spike's growing 'humanity' and his tender feelings for Dawn be explained or reconciled with what is known about vampires. The nature of the soul and the existence and the purpose of the chip have been discussed ad nauseum over the course of the last season. But, it would seem that Spike is intended to live in his altered state indefinitely. This, in the end, may be the most interesting development of all.

Perhaps, then, we had better defer to Spike's wisdom when he says:

SPIKE: Like it or not, I'm in your life, you can't just shut me out.

Because, when Spike was shut out of Buffy's home and life, so too were we in the audience. We were made to sympathise with Spike. When Buffy threw money in Spike's face and claimed that he was 'beneath her', we sympathised with Spike. When Buffy died, we felt almost as bad about Spike weeping as we felt about Buffy's death. What is this reversal phenomenon all about? It's... All. About. Spike.

- Aquitaine

"I came to you in friendship. (Buffy gives him a look.) Well, all right, seething hatred, but I've got useful information, and I feel I'm being mistreated." - Spike in "Pangs"

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