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January 30, 2003
A Little Less Ritual
by Daniel Erenberg

Remember when Spike was evil? Today he's a sympathetic Slayer-loving vampire with a soul. It wasn't always that way.

At the start of season two, my favorite episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer was, oddly enough, "Teacher's Pet", the one where Xander falls for the massive Praying Mantis. I thought Buffy was a good television show, never suspecting that it would become an obsession. The first step on the road to obsessed for me was "School Hard".

The thing I remember most about my first glimpse of the episode is seeing the coming attractions at the close of the previous week's episode. This preview showed Spike in all his Billy Idol glory and I thought it looked stupid. Punk rock vampires? How lame could you possibly get?

How wrong I was.

Spike turned out to be the best thing to happen to Buffy since Joss Whedon decided that a bad Luke Perry movie could work as a television series.

"School Hard" was a work of genius. James Marsters entered the cast with a bang (and a pitch perfect English accent). He killed the Anointed One who he dubbed "The Annoying One", he ripped apart the school, and displayed to everyone how evil vampires could be.

I think Spike hit his evil peak in "Lie To Me". At the end of the episode, Spike just sort of walks toward Ford, ready to make him a vampire. As we cut away to another scene, we're left with a chill, wondering about what we aren't seeing.

Throughout the second season, Spike was the guy we loved to hate. Now we just love him.
The first glimpse of a less evil Spike came in "Becoming Part Two", the second season finale. Offering something of a truce to Buffy, Spike became a decent man.

"We like to talk big, vampires do", he tells Buffy. "I'm going to destroy the world. It's just tough guy talk. Strut 'round with your friends over a pint of blood - the truth is, I like this world. You've got dog racing, Manchester United, and you've got people, billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It's all right here".

Added to his furor over Angeles pulling Drusilla away from him, we finally begin to get a sense of humanity from Spike.

Spike made one appearance in season three, continuing his sympathetic bad guy role. Yes, he kidnaps our beloved Willow and Xander, but he also has a heartfelt talk with Joyce over some steaming cups of hot chocolate.

This episode, "Lover's Walk", is notable because Spike becomes the first person to really get you thinking about whether it's such a good idea for Buffy and Angel to be in a relationship together.
"You're not friends", he tells them. "You'll never be friends. You'll be in love 'til it kills you both. You'll fight, and you'll shag, and you'll hate each other 'til it makes you quiver, but you'll never be friends".
Interestingly, the only other character that makes Buffy and Angel question their relationship is The Mayor. Two of the most deadly villains that the Scoobies have ever faced are the two given the most knowledge about the ways of love.

Spike made another triumphant return to Sunnydale in season four, taking Seth (come back for a return appearance) Green's place in the opening credits. Few shows would have the guts to place a villain so heinous into its opening credits.

Spike's season four role was odd in that he became comic relief, an impotent vampire, able to drink humans no longer. Still, though, he would have to be labeled a villain. He stabbed his girlfriend (Harmony) in the chest, tried to kill Willow, and caused major dissension in the Scooby ranks.
This new role carried into early season five. Rebecca Rand Kirshner, a writer I'm quite fond of, wrote her first Buffy offering, "Out Of My Mind". In this delightful episode, Spike's attempts to force an Initiative doctor into removing his chip.

However, the close of this episode is what changed everything. Buffy comes into Spike's crypt, asking him to end her torment. They share an impassioned kiss and Spike wakes up, revealing the kiss as part of a dream sequence.

The rest of season five was almost surreal. Spike loved Buffy, even over Drusilla as "Crush" revealed. He tells Riley in a moment of heated abandon that he envies him "so much it chokes me".
Even more humanity was added to the character in "Fool For Love", which revealed Spike's human self as a feeble man, a poet, and a bad one at that.

Finally, in "The Gift", Spike was revealed as a truly good person. It was an odd moment when Spike made me cry.

"I know you'll never love me", he tells Buffy. "I know that I'm a monster. But you treat me like a man".

This, coupled with his leaving Joyce flowers without a card after her untimely death, proved to the audience that he really is a man.

Season six proved to enhance this. He was unable to look at the Buffy-bot. He didn't want the others to resurrect Buffy. Spike became the voice of reason for the group.

And then: "Once More With Feeling".

As the others get their "cumbaya-ya's" out, Buffy and Spike step outside. They sing a coda, kiss (for real this time) and the curtains close.

What followed was sweaty sex, betrayal, attempted rape, and a trip to Africa where he passed Weird Glowy-Eyed Demon's trials and got his soul back.

Of any of Joss Whedon's characters, Spike is the one who has evolved most over time.

Who would have thought that the guy who was hit over the head with an axe by Buffy's mom would one day be rescued from torture by Buffy?

Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone and hankers constantly for the hour of eight P.M. to nine P.M. on Tuesday nights. You can contact Daniel on

Latest Comments

Awwww, as a Brit I have to say his accent's perfectly good - one time (can't remember what the episode was called, might have been 'initiative') when he's talking to Willow he says patronise like 'pay - tronise' which is not how we say it - but I finnally forgave him for that in 'Lies My Parents told me' and he said 'Mum' instead of 'Mom'...bless him.

Anyway enough of the James Marsters praise. I'd just like to say that I too love Spike and think he's been one of the most interesting characters on television for a very very long time - I loved the funny "Little less ritual" Spike of season 2 - he was just what the show needed to rescue it from the previously dull villains: the annointed one and the Master. I think the main problem with Buffy up until that point was the boring baddies. But as soon as he arrived the humour was raised a notch ("Yeah, I've messed up your doileys and stuff...but I got so bored!"). Apparently his character was supposed to get killed off only a few episodes in (I think he was meant to be one of the desouled Angel's victims) but luckily the show's makers knew a good thing when they saw it.

I think the last few years have been a strange time for Spike fans - the writers wanted us to love him (S5) then dislike him (after 'Smashed'), hate him (after the attempted rape), and then I'm not entirley sure what we supposed to make of the souled damsel in distress he was this last year until the final hero he became in the finale - saving the world and Buffy by sacrificing himself. I've always loved Spike, so I've had a hard time following the writers as they tried to guide me into feeling a certain way about him - I think they confused alot of viewers by trying to make us see him as a bad guy when they'd done such a good job putting Spike in a favourable light. In many ways they created a monster because his character was out of their control - they even made him into a potential rapist to highlight that he was evil and yet launched a 'Spike Calender' at the same time - what were we sposed to make of that?

Posted by: Amelia on June 30, 2003 07:56 PM

The evolution of the character of Spike – from the evil, violent hoodlum of ‘School Hard’ to the good guy, saviour of the ‘Chosen – is not as seamless or as acceptable as argued. Two major problems need to be solved. First, what is a vampire? Second, what was the nature of control exercised by the Initiative’s chip in Spike’s head through seasons 4, 5 and 6.

First, vampire. Mostly, BtVS, A:TS and other TV shows, movies and books on vampires seem to accept that a vampire is a dead person’s dust, reanimated by demonic energy and driven by murderous intent. That is, the human-looking vampire is not human. The human that it resembles was killed. The killer, often itself inhabited by demonic energy, passes on demonic energy to that dead shell. The dead shell of the human, now a vampire, while retaining some of the dead human’s memories and behaviour traits (which the demonic energy often causes to develop to their extreme) is not the human. That human is dead; its reanimated dead shell is devoted to evil, violence and murder. It looks human because that is the strength of the ‘thrall’ put out by the demonic energy. This is why the Scoobies should not call vampires by names, they are evil things, not to be ‘humanised’ or made user-friendly. Spike, while still displaying some aspects of William and other good ‘human’ traits, is fundamentally not human, nor alive, nor ultimately trustworthy. The installation of a soul in a vampire counts for little. That soul is now in a cage controlled by demonic energy and evil appetites. A vampire with a soul is not a human; it is still a dead person’s dust, reanimated by demonic energy, driven by murderous intent, controlled by perverse appetites and devoted to evil. If a vampire appears to do good, the intention is not ‘good’, it is for ultimately evil reasons not yet apparent. This is clear when thinking of the control exercised by the Initiative’s chip in Spike’s head through seasons 4, 5 and 6.

Second, the Initiative’s chip. Did Spike slowly become ‘good’ and ‘human’ across seasons 4, 5 and 6? Absolutely not, because that is not possible for a vampire. Spike’s behaviour modified because he could not feed and sustain existence – the chip shocked him away from vampire behaviour of attacking and killing humans. Spike had to appear to do good deeds to get money etc to buy pigs’ blood to sustain his continuance. This is not doing good, this is temporary altering of behaviour due to pain/reward systems – recall that the chip was from Maggie Walsh, expert in behaviour modification. The installation of the Initiative’s chip in Spike’s head is the same as if it had been put in the head of a great white shark. The shark, after multiple electric shocks, would stop attacking any item, e.g. humans, that caused the chip to fire. Remove the chip, and the shark would devour humans again. Remove the chip, and Spike, any vampire, would immediately again become a murderous evil killer.

If the Buffy and Giles had stayed on mission and focussed, they would’ve terminated Spike immediately he was weakened by the chip. As, indeed, they should have terminated Angel in season 1.

Posted by: daryll on June 26, 2003 08:14 PM

A little late here, but I wanted to comment about Kathy's comment... Spike has more of an Aussie accent than British. That, and with the last name Marsters, sounds more Aussie to me.

Posted by: Matt on March 16, 2003 02:29 PM

Firstly, before anyone shouts at me, I have to say I love Spike - LOVE him. Totally, completely, truly, madly and deeply.

But, his accent is NOT pitch perfect - never has been, never will be. Its the best English accent I've ever heard from an American, so we all forgive him, cos he's almost there, but it's not perfect. There are just some sounds Americans can't get and that's just the way it is. I mean, y'all probably laugh when you hear a Brit trying to be American, so we can't say much.

Posted by: Kathy on March 4, 2003 12:29 PM
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