"Fool for Love"
Written by Doug Petrie
Directed by Nick Marck
In which a botched vampire hunt leaves Buffy wondering how other Slayers died, leading to a conversation with the only person who has direct experience in the matter: Spike...
Status Report - Memorable Quotes - Final Analysis
With this episode, the season arc begins to take a turn towards darker material. Buffy has always been aware of her eventual fate, based on the Chosen legacy, but it’s been easy enough to keep that in the back of her mind. After all, having survived the major threats and with things being generally quiet, why get overly concerned?
Buffy’s lapse is hardly surprising, but it does jolt the audience back into a sense of “reality”. Slayers don’t usually live so long, and there’s a reason why that must be true. If it’s not about prowess or resources, then what it is about? Is it just a matter of time and odds, the damning harsh probabilities? Sooner or later, with so many battles, the Slayer must eventually lose.
Buffy, already in the process of exploring the Chosen legacy within herself, may have been ready to ask the question anyway. With her mother’s health dominating her thoughts, she must be thinking of the inevitable. This experience had to be the final straw, pushing her to ask the difficult questions. What’s somewhat amazing is that she hasn’t considered the notion that it’s always there, hanging in the air around them.
In fact, she fails to realize how hard it must be for Giles to be her Watcher. For all that the Watchers can be distant and chauvinistic, the ones forced into personal relationships with their charges must be left with an enormous sense of loss. The longer the Slayer lives, the harder it must be to reconcile the end. The entire conversation between Buffy and Giles is a nice bit of indirect foreshadowing for the end of the fifth season. In fact, the entire episode serves to remind the audience of the possibility that comes to pass all too soon.
All of which leads Buffy into a long and tense conversation with Spike, the one person who knows exactly how Slayers can be beaten. Having killed two Slayers himself, Spike seems like the right person to consult in terms of a post-mortem. It’s definitely a good excuse for Spike to tell the tale of his creation and rebirth, all wonderfully detailed from his admittedly warped point of view. What Buffy overlooks is the most obvious flaw in the concept: Spike is his own best PR machine, and it’s hard to know whether or not Spike is being entirely honest.
So the question is: can Buffy trust what Spike is telling her? After all, if Spike had simply explained the battle scenarios, down to the moves and countermoves, it would be all but useless. Buffy is really looking for some sense of the Slayer’s psychology in each case. She’s looking for a magic bullet, something simple to avoid. If she wanted to take a more rational look at the problem, she’d realize that two examples out of thousands would be all but useless.
More interestingly, Buffy seems to take Spike seriously enough to listen to what he has to say, and he’s more than willing to give her practical advice. It would be enormously easy for Spike to set Buffy up for failure, but he genuinely tries to get through to her. He’s still doing it for personal reasons, since Buffy is his current obsession, but he gives her better advice than Giles in this instance. Both of them let confusing personal issues lead them into a conversation that requires, on some level, a sense of common cause and trust. In retrospect, the dynamic between Buffy and Spike in this episode makes the beginning of the sixth season a lot more sensible and consistent than usually acknowledged.
This episode is most often remembered for the exploration of Spike’s history. Even taking Spike’s perspective into account, this episode goes a long way towards exposing what happens when a vampire is created. There is ample evidence in this episode that Spike began his life as a human with strong obsessive tendencies. More than that, the object of his affection was often someone who presented a challenge. (There’s even a mention of his mother, who would later be revealed as another object of obsession in the seventh season.)
So William the Bloody Awful Poet, obsessed with Cecily and bitter over her crushing dismissal of his affections, became Spike, the obsessed bastard with an unending desire to generate a terrifying reputation and repudiate his foppish upbringing. The posturing side of Spike, the vaguely poetic remnant, saw the Slayer as the ultimate challenge. And as such, as Spike admits himself, a new obsession began. He was in love with the notion of taking on the most dangerous foe to his kind.
It’s reflective of the deathwish that Spike insists the Slayers must have. While Spike is more right than wrong about the Slayer and her obvious obsession and connection to death (again, a foreshadowing of the season finale), he’s overlooking his own obvious penchant for self-destruction. His obsessions are an outgrowth and response to his self-loathing. He’s constantly slipping back and forth between the drive for survival and a desire to find eternal peace.
By the end of the episode, Buffy is left contemplating her recent brushes with death, with her mother’s situation firmly in mind. Spike is incensed by Buffy’s dismissal of him, but he’s still obsessed with her. In the end, despite the hatred, there’s a connection.
DRUSILLA: “Oh, I see you…a man surrounded by fools who cannot see his strength, his vision, his glory. That and burning baby fish swimming all around your head.”
DARLA: “I think our boys are going to fight!”
DRUSILLA: “The King of Cups expects a picnic! But this is not his birthday…”
DARLA: “Good point…”
SPIKE: “Lesson the first….a Slayer must always reach for her weapon. I’ve already got mine.”
BUFFY: “You think we’re dancing?”
SPIKE: “That’s all we’ve ever done.”
Overall, this episode deftly covers two important elements of the Buffyverse mythology: the deathwish inherent to every Slayer and Spike’s complicated history. In retrospect, many elements in this episode serve as foreshadowing for the season finale, and the unusual relationship between Buffy and Spike continues to evolve. Definitely one of the highlights of the fifth season.
Final Rating: 9/10
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