Revisiting Buffy season 7 – episode 8

How many things can you fit into Spike's head at once? Quite a lot, as it turns out, since now not only is he a vampire with a chip and a soul, he's also a sleeper agent with a trigger...

Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: something wicked this way comes, Spike moved in with Xander, Joyce told Dawn to beware of Buffy, Cassie threatened Willow, Spike bit a girl, and Holden told Buffy that Spike had sired him. To sum up: bad things happened.

The episode begins with Buffy hammering down Xander’s door in the middle of the night, looking for Spike. She really, really owes Xander an apology right about now, along the lines of “I’m sorry I made you shack up with a serial killer.” But she’s Buffy, so she won’t. Meanwhile, Spike is digging a grave for the girl we saw him biting last week. The credits roll, and then we’re in London, where a Watchery-looking guy has just come home to find a dead girl on the floor and some guys in black robes waiting to kill him. Do the Watchers Council do a wardrobe check before they admit members or something? Is that tweed suit mandated? It makes for an easy visual shorthand, anyway. Looks kind of like Giles? Must be a Watcher!

Anyway. Back in Sunnydale, Willow gets home to find Dawn in a completely wrecked house, and asks what happened. Dawn sort of explains, missing out the part where the vision of her mother told her not to trust Buffy, but she seems relieved when Willow suggest that the vision was just the Big Bad messing with them and telling lies. Xander and Buffy discuss the Spike situation, with Buffy insisting that Holden must have been lying because Spike’s brain chip would stop him from hurting anyone, though Xander points out it didn’t stop him from hurting Buffy. I’ve been reading some feminist criticism of Joss Whedon recently where someone claimed that he had Buffy fall in love with her rapist as if that was perfectly okay, and, um, that’s really not the way I’m reading it based on this rewatch of the series. That attempted rape has been taken more seriously than any time someone has actually killed someone, from where I’m sitting! Anyway, part way through the conversation Spike comes home, and Buffy tries to draw him out by talking about Holden but he doesn’t flinch. Which might just mean that he didn’t know who the hell Holden was, either, and considering Buffy didn’t recognise him, I’m not entirely sure why she thinks the name should mean anything to Spike. How much chatting is there between vampires when they sire a new one, anyway? Buffy and Xander decide that it would be unwise to leave Spike alone, so, via a jump cut, Anya ends up Spike-sitting. Poor Anya. She really has drawn the short straw here, becoming the character people call when there’s something they don’t want to do. Buffy goes home and talks to Willow, who explains the whole evil-things-lie theory, and now Buffy and Dawn are both hoping that she’s right. I’m kind of with Xander here in the “just stake him already” camp. Yeesh.

Over in Xander’s flat, Anya’s going through Spike’s bedroom, trying to find evidence that he’s been killing people, but because she’s Anya she manages to be loud enough about it that Spike wakes up halfway through and there’s an excruciating scene in which she pretends she’s there to have sex with him, even though she’s plainly terrified of him. Awkward. Very awkward. He rebuffs her, anyway, and goes out – so, basically, she’s served very little purpose being there. She calls someone we don’t see to tell them that Spike’s left, and we cut to Buffy following Spike through a really, really busy street. Where the hell is this? Why is it that the series spent ages telling us that Sunnydale is a tiny town and people don’t go out after dark only to turn around and present us with a bustling after-dark metropolis as soon as the plot calls for it? Actually, the plot doesn’t even call for it, so that was definitely a fuckup. Spike chats up some random girl and leads her into a dark alley, but just as he’s about to bite her, Buffy walks in – and encourages him. Uh oh!

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The next day, Buffy accosts Spike and asks him to explain what he was up to last night, but it emerges that he can’t remember what he’s been doing on his nocturnal walkabouts. He says his soul wouldn’t let him kill people, but Buffy’s unconvinced and sets out to find proof. There’s a really daft scene in which Buffy asks Willow to see if there’s been a rise in neck injuries lately, which, considering this town is overrun with vampires, wouldn’t seem to prove very much, and what the computer turns up is that there are ten new missing girls. Which, again, proves absolutely jack shit. Good detective work, guys.

This episode is really starting to annoy me. Spike goes out again, despite Xander’s trying to stop him, and ends up at the Bronze, trying to find out if anyone’s seen the blonde girl he was chatting up the other night. Because, again, that’ll totally prove whether or not he killed her. Blech. Fittingly, considering what’s going on, Aimee Mann is playing at the Bronze, singing Pavlov’s Bell. (Pavlov’s Bell – sound-based behavioural conditioning, get it?) An aggressive girl chats up Spike and soon reveals that she’s another of his progeny, and when he brushes her off she asks if what they had was just a “one-bite stand.” Hee. Okay, that was good. The two of them have a big, noisy fight that no-one notices until Spike stakes her and throws her over the balcony onto the dancefloor, which prompts the band to stop playing… for about 30 seconds before resuming. Aimee will later get to remark that she “hates playing vampire towns”, which, hee. Spike decides he’d better let Buffy know what’s going on, so he calls her and arranges to meet her at a random house. The First shows up disguised as Spike and tells him off, but Spike is determined.

At the house, Spike tells Buffy he needs to show her something in the basement. She’s hesitant, which is weird because you’d think she’d be able to take him down, or, if she’s that worried, not leave him locked in rooms with her best friends all the damn time, but eventually descends into the basement, where Spike tells her he’s buried loads of victims. Gulp. The First-Spike sings a few lines of an old-fashioned sounding song and Spike suddenly snaps, vamping out and attacking Buffy. As they fight, all the girls buried in the basement start to rise as vampires, which is super-creepy, but sort of anti-climactic since as soon as Spike tastes Buffy’s blood he returns to normal, and she stakes all the other vampires in less than a minute. So that was easy.

Spike tells her to kill him, but she’s twigged that there’s something else there, and takes him home with her instead, explaining to everyone that she needs to learn about what it is that’s controlling him. Er, yeah, but if you could also stop putting everyone around you in danger, that’d be nice.

Over in London, Giles finds the dead girl and Watchery guy – but the episode ends with a guy in black robes swinging an axe towards his head! I actually remember that scene from the first time round; it’s great, except because you don’t actually see Giles die, you know he’s not dead. If he were, you’d see his head fall off or something. Bah. It’s still an effective cliffhanger, though, I’m just griping because I’ve watched way too many of these fakeouts to have any patience for them any more. Bleh.