Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slay 3.08 “Lovers Walk”

You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love till it kills you both. You’ll fight, and you’ll shag, and you’ll hate each other till it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains, children, it’s blood…blood screaming inside you to work its will. I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it.

The best part of the later half of the third season is actually the entire later half of the third season. Starting with Band Candy, there is nothing but a string of great episodes. This week is Lover’s Walk, next is The Wish, and after that Amends, The Zeppo, Bad Girls, Enemies, Earshot, The Prom, and Graduation Day. I even like Gingerbread, the Hansel and Gretel riff. This is Joss Whedon’s personal present to me, you guys, as a reward for doing this rewatch series. Right? Right.

First of all, let’s all take a moment and welcome back my TV boyfriend, Spike. How you doing?

Spike’s appearance always signals a couple of things for the show – first, the writing is almost inevitably on-point. The wit is wittier. The pointed looks are pointer. The drama is more drama-er. And, uh, you get my drift. He’s obviously as fun for the writers as he is for the viewers, because everything is better when he’s on screen. For instance:

 She wouldn’t even kill me. She just left. She didn’t even care enough to cut off my head or set me on fire. I mean, is that too much to ask? You know, some little sign that she cared? It was that truce with Buffy that did it. Dru said I’d gone soft. Wasn’t demon enough for the likes of her. And I told her it didn’t mean anything I was thinking of her the whole time, but she didn’t care. So, we got to Brazil and she was… she was just different. I gave her everything. Beautiful jewels, beautiful dresses with beautiful girls in them, but nothing made her happy. And she would flirt. I caught her on a park bench making out with a Chaos Demon. Have you ever seen a Chaos Demon? They’re all slime and antlers; they’re disgusting. She only did it to hurt me. So I said, “I’m not putting up with this anymore.” And she said, “Fine.” And I said, “Yeah, I’ve got an unlife, you know.” And then she said… she said we could still be friends. God, I’m so unhappy.

Spike: What do you know? It’s your fault, the both of you! She belongs with me. I’m nothing without her.
Buffy: That I’ll have to agree with. You’re pathetic, you know that? You’re not even a loser anymore, you’re a shell of a loser.
Spike: Yeah. You’re one to talk.
Buffy: Meaning?
Spike: The last time I looked in on you two, you were fighting to the death. Now you’re back making googly-eyes at each other like nothing happened. Makes me want to heave.

The set-up is simple. Spike rolls back into town a broken, drunken mess and kidnaps Willow to force her to cast a love spell on Dru, who has run off with the chaos demon. He also manages to kidnap Xander as well and hides the pair of them at the factory. Then he tricks Buffy and Angel into helping him get everything the spell requires, runs into a gang of Trick’s men, and finds his inner-manliness, roaring back out of town to win Dru back.

But what Spike is really in town for is to provide a flash point for some simmering storylines.

 

The Willow-Xander-Oz-Cordelia square comes to a head, thanks to Spike catching Xander and Willow during a failed de-lusting experiment. Oz and Cordy accidentally find them, thanks to a heightened werewolf sense of smell. While that might be cause for celebration, they unfortunately arrive while Xander and Willow are sucking face. Cordelia is gravely injured on the way out of the factory. Everything that happens in this scene, as short as it is, has major repercussions through to next season, and even occasionally crops up beyond that. Cordelia’s injury and broken heart leads to The Wish which leads to Anya. Oz leads to Something Blue and eventually to Tara. I feel like I harp on this point all the time, but these are the signs of a well crafted television show. Everything the characters do means something. It informs later choices, it’s the background meaning to later scenes, providing depth and resonance.

Buffy and Angel are forced to confront their feelings for each other. Though they try to deny it, they’re still in love. Everyone else might be willing to believe their lies – We’re just friends, they like to say – but Spike seems right through that. Spike is a lover. He always has been, even when he was human, and he can recognize their smothered romance with half a glance. More than that, he’s willing to say the ugly truth. Sure, the intention was to wound them with the words, but that doesn’t make them less accurate. In the aftermath of Spike’s visit, Buffy and Angel admit they’re in love, but it’s not a happy admission. They can’t be together, they can’t be around each other, and something is going to have to give.

 

There are little scenes and comments that are scattered through the episode that have special meaning in retrospect. Spike goes to Joyce and pours out his heart over a cup of tea. This is what he means in season 5, when he talks about what a good woman she was, how she always had a “cuppa” when he needed it. Spike’s ability to be broken hearted, to be in love, true, heart-rending love, underlines how different he really is. He doesn’t let love go – he fights for it. He tries to be the kind of man who deserves it. Buffy notes that for some reason Spike can see right through her – and that comes back too, all the way in the seventh and final season, when he tells her he’s always been able to see what a hell of a woman she is.

 

And she’s a hell of a woman.

Next week: The Wish

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[E] Slay Belle

Slay Belle is an editor and the new writer mentor here at Persephone Magazine, where she writes about pop culture, Buffy, and her extreme love of Lifetime movies. She is also the editor of powderroom.jezebel.com. You can follow her on Twitter, @SlayBelle or email her at slay@persephonemagazine.com. She is awfully fond of unicorns and zombies, and will usually respond to any conversational volley that includes those topics.

24 thoughts on “Retro Recap: Buffy the Vampire Slay 3.08 “Lovers Walk””

  1. This is such a great episode. I’m curious, though, as to why you didn’t talk about the biting/sexual impotence scene when Spike holds Willow hostage in her room? I found that scene really interesting, not only because it’s bloody funny, but also because it suggests some quite interesting feminist talking points. There’s the tension between Spike’s aggression and the way he breaks down when he’s unable to bite Willow. That suggests some interesting things around the normalisation of male violence in society, and the importance of sexual and physical prowess. There’s the fact that Willow ends up reassuring Spike, even though she’s under the threat of extreme violence. There’s the fact of the violence, and the tension that has with the rather sympathetic view a lot of us have of Spike (myself included). This, I think, foreshadows the attempted rape on Buffy in one of the later seasons (6, maybe?). Spike ought, by rights, to be hated by a feminist audience, and yet he isn’t. Is that because we know that he loves so deeply? I can’t quite believe this, because his love always seems more like a kind of destructive, obsessive infatuation than true love (this would seem to be supported by the first quote you gave, where Spike talks about Dru not even caring enough to kill him. Spike so equates violence with love that I can’t really buy into the idea of him as a hopeless romantic).  If that’s the case, then why do we like him? Just because he’s so funny? He definitely is, and I too have a soft spot for him, but I can’t help wondering if it’s really justified by his character. Ought I like him? Somehow I feel I probably shouldn’t.

    There’s so much to interpret in Buffy, but that scene, in particular, is sort of a flash point for so many of the issues in the show, especially those relating to violence towards women. Anyone else have any particular thoughts about it?

    1. Actually, the scene you’re referring to is in the 4th season, after Spike escapes from the Initiative. It’s foreshadowed here — I definitely saw echoes of it as Spike was telling Willow what happened with Dru. (Or pre-echoes, I guess.)

      I think there’s a couple of things going on here, in regards to your questions:

      The flashbacks we eventually get play into my assertion that he’s a lover — we see him pining over Cecily, his affection and devotion for his mother, and even the way he loves Dru. The Judge in the second season singles him out as someone who loves deeply — it taints him in the eyes of vampires. The kind of relationship he talks about with Dru — the weird, twisted, violence twinged relationship — has an awful lot to do with them being part demon. Violence and pain is part of their relationship. And definitely that is connected to the demon. Angel implies at one point that they’re not shells for demons, that the demon and the man become tangled up together.

      I think that this is important to note for his and Buffy’s relationship. When he admits that he loves her, he tries to be a better man for her. The chip helps in certain regards, because it keeps his killing of humans in check, but he does try to do things that she thinks she’ll like. He bungles it up a lot, because it’s been a long time since he’s been human. But his protection of Dawn, his affection for Joyce, the way he stands up to Glory for Buffy and the way he weeps for her when she dies — this is his humanity. That look on his face right before he’s thrown from the tower — he failed her and his heart is breaking because he did.

      When Seeing Red first aired, I thought that Spike’s attempted rape was completely out of character for him. But I’ve read a lot about the writer’s position on the episode and the importance it places in his character arc, and I’ve begrudgingly come to accept it. He wants to be the right kind of man for her, but as that shows, he’s not a man, and his good intentions only go so far. Because there’s that demon in him. And he’s horrified by what he’s done. Just horrified to recognize what he’s still capable of. So he gets his soul for her. He becomes a better man for her. He goes crazy for her. All to be the kind of man she deserves. And at the end, even though she doesn’t love him back, it’s enough for her.

      1. Oh gosh of course it is, I’m getting my story arcs conflated! Sorry about that.

        I absolutely see what you’re saying, and certainly Spike pre-soul would have to be a dark character in some respects, or the concept of demons as evil, and as legitimate prey for the slayer would make no sense, but it’s not so much Spike’s character that I’m questioning. Rather, I’m just wary of my own fondness for him, given his character. He starts being portrayed as someone we ought to warm to pretty early on in the show, as someone we ought to have some degree of sympathy for, and I can’t quite reconcile that with his character. When he starts falling in love with Buffy, his love is so obsessive. I’m thinking particularly of that scene when he rehearses asking her on a date, and ends up beating the manneqin up with the box of chocolates. It’s funny, yes, and it’s in keeping with his pre-soul character, and in the final episode of the final season we completely understand why Buffy cannot love him in the way he loves her, because of his character up to that point, and because of the way he has loved her. And yet I found myself rooting for him, and rooting for Buffy to love him back. There seems to be this tension between who Spike is and how we are meant to feel about him as a character. He isn’t portrayed as a villain, and yet so much of what he does is villainous. It’s this that bothers me – that his sympathetic portrayal does not seem to be justified by his actions.

        Am I making any sense at all? By the way, I’m certain you have a far better feeling for the show than I do, and I’m not really arguing for any particular conclusions. I’m just trying to articulate this rather vague, unsettled feeling I have about him. I think perhaps it stems from the distinction I made in my previous post about love vs. obsession. Even human Spike’s feelings for Cecily and his mother are obsessional rather than genuinely loving. There is no discussion with his mother about whether she wants to be a vampire. He loves Cecily in a distant, somewhat voyeuristic way. When Dru offers him affection before turning him, he jumps on it in a way which suggests that it’s validation of any kind that he seeks, and not the mutual respect that real love entails. And perhaps, when he is turned, this puppy dog need for validation becomes a violent need to dominate those you love. Vampire Spike loves in the way that stalkers love – wanting to possess the person, to the point of madness. I just can’t square this away with the fact that I was rooting for him and Buffy from the get go.

        1. Oh, hey, I’m not expert. I just have a lot of thoughts!

          I don’t think necessarily Buffy and Spike are being set up from the get go — I just find it hard to view these early appearances divorced from where the arc goes. Its to the writers credit that they stay so true to form with him, that he is built early on as a different kind of vampire. I would also suggest part of that is because Marsters is just a fine actor, probably one of the best on the show. He really makes you feel sympathy towards Spike, even as you point out, he does really monstrous things.

          I completely agree with you about Vampire Spike loving in the way that stalkers do — the stuff with the mannequin, the time he chains Buffy up and offers to kill Dru for her (that is when she says that vampires really can love, which Buffy says isn’t possible), the Buffy-bot, the way he tries to trick her into going on a date with him, when he takes her to see Riley. Its a very warped idea of courtship and romance. But he changes, which is something most vampires don’t do. He works against his own nature. A lot of this we find sympathetic just because of the charisma that Marsters brings to the role — in the hands of a less capable actor it would just read ‘creeper’.

          I don’t necessarily agree about how you view his relationship with his mother and Cecily. To me, his attraction to Cecily was very familiar. He came across as a young man who didn’t quite know how to woo her and was shooting way out of his league. I don’t know if he would have put his heart and his poetry on the line if he hadn’t been bullied into it. But I think that’s a rather regular story. He loved some girl in his sort-of social circle and he wrote some poetry about her. But its not like he was showing up her party uninvited or standing outside her window or anything. (There’s some discussion about whether or not she’s already a vengeance demon at this point, if you didn’t know, and that her cold rejection of him was deliberate demon-stuff on her part.)

          So when he finds Dru, he’s been humiliated, had his heart broken, been laughed out of a party — he takes Dru’s offer without thinking about it because he’s young and stupid and just wants someone to tell him that he’s special. And then his mom — well, he didn’t give his mother any more of a choice than Dru really gave him. She was dying, so he thought he was saving her. And she took to being a monster much better than he did — I think that’s where he gives up on his humanity, when he has to kill her.

          I think you raise excellent questions about Spike and how we’re supposed to view him. It is a very complicated character arc. He’s not even a ‘good guy’ for most of it. He’s almost the character equivalent of the entire sixth season. Very dark, very complicated, with no easy answers and no clear-cut ‘wins’. I think that’s one of the reasons I like him so much.

          1. Marsters really is an excellent actor. I’m British, and even I was staggered to learn that he isn’t. Althought, on a sidenote, the writers gave him a really weird mix of English idioms, some which are distinctly posh, and some which are completely cockney. I guess you could kind of explain it with reference to how old he is, but it was bizarre sometimes! His accent was great, though, and he certainly plays Spike with a certain charm. Thinking about his appearances in the second season, when he and Dru plot against Buffy and he kills the anointed one, I’m wondering whether Whedon decided to write him in as a rather different kind of character in the third season. At first, he was much more like the one-dimensional vampires Buffy usually fights, and it isn’t until he reappears in this episode that he starts to become more complex, and morally ambiguous. Maybe they saw Marsters’ potential to play someone a lot more interesting, and decided to alter the character? If that’s the case, it might explain some of that moral ambiguity – he was nothing but bad, he became the comic villain, he ends up a hero. That’s a lot of progression for 7 seasons, and a lot for viewers to get their heads around.

            I definitely think there’s something in your idea that Spike is “young and stupid and just wants someone to tell him that he’s special”. Maybe that’s the thing about Spike – he doesn’t know how to love. He’s either a forlorn puppy dog, or a raging obsessive. I also think when he first falls for Buffy it isn’t really affection he feels at all, but some sort of infatuated lust. His relationship with Dru was combative, and sustained by violence, and perhaps, without Dru, and smothered by Harmony (who even I would have wanted to stake!) he finds the constant tussle with Buffy attractive. He needs to be at war with the person he loves, or at least needs it to be difficult. Over time, I think he genuinely does come to appreciate her goodness, and he obviously wants to protect her, but at first I think it’s just that he finds conflict sexy, and he’s always in conflict with her. Otherwise I don’t really know how to explain why he falls for her.

            It’s interesting how much of his newfound goodness in the 7th season seems to be limited to Buffy (and sometimes Dawn). When the Principal (whose name I can’t remember) tries to kill him, Spike isn’t at all apologetic. He’s not wrong that the Slayer and vampires are natural enemies, and that that’s the way it goes, but you’d think with his recognition of the value of goodness, and his understanding of trying to protect people you love, he’d be a bit more understanding about the Principal’s pain. His goodness doesn’t seem to have radiated much away from his interaction with Buffy. Beyond that, I’m not sure he’s learnt much, even with a soul. Perhaps that’s just because it’s still a work in progress, and he has so much to unlearn.

            Either way, you’re right that his moral complexity is what makes him so interesting. Black-and-white characters are so dull, so I suppose I shouldn’t feel too conflicted about rooting for him. I once had a 20 minute argument with a friend about whether or not Hannibal Lecter was a morally grey character, and I was the one arguing that he is. On that scale, Spike comes off much better!

            1. His relationship with Dru was combative, and sustained by violence, and perhaps, without Dru, and smothered by Harmony (who even I would have wanted to stake!) he finds the constant tussle with Buffy attractive. He needs to be at war with the person he loves, or at least needs it to be difficult. Over time, I think he genuinely does come to appreciate her goodness, and he obviously wants to protect her, but at first I think it’s just that he finds conflict sexy, and he’s always in conflict with her. Otherwise I don’t really know how to explain why he falls for her.

              I think that’s a really good point. Spike and Dru were originally modeled on Sid and Nancy (if I guess right, really on the Hollywood version of their story, which is all romantic doom, instead of the ugliness of the real life situation), so love being a combat fits right in there. And there are some people who really view love like that — if it ain’t hard, it ain’t true. I definitely agree that he goes from infatuation to ‘true’ love over the course of the series — when he keeps her from dying in ‘Once More With Feeling’ and touches her face while singing ‘You have to go on living, so that one of us is living’, I believe that Spike is really in love with Buffy.

              By the way, I ultimately believe is the violence in him that attracts her. Buffy by her very nature is a violent individual. Her job and powers require it. And it’s difficult to accept. I think she needs someone like Spike who won’t shy away from the things she has to do or the kind of person she is, which is why things don’t work out with Riley.

  2. Thank you for all the lovely spike pics!

    “I feel like I harp on this point all the time, but these are the signs of a well crafted television show. Everything the characters do means something. It informs later choices, it’s the background meaning to later scenes, providing depth and resonance.”

    Yes, agreed! It feels like so many shows (especially ones with supernatural roots) rehash the same things over and over. And it never leads to real change. It’s just stuff happening.

    1. There were just so many to choose from! I still have a bunch of screencaps sitting on my harddrive for me to look out.

      I found that the care the show takes with building its mythology was especially notable this week, coming off the mess of the Walking Dead season 2.  Talk about a show that doesn’t pay attention to it’s characters.

      1. I stopped watching the Walking Dead after that irritating episode where Lori takes the morning after pills and gets all the facts wrong. It’s just boring at this point. I want to watch for Michonne but … I have little hope.

        Same with Vampire Diaries and True Blood. You made a comment in the past about how BtvS *cares* about its characters and that stuck with me. Because all these other shows just don’t it seems like.

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