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.
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