Hi there! kben pointed this community out and demanded new members and essay postings, and so I followed orders and joined up. I've got a few essays lying around that have been posted here, there, and/or elsewhere, so I'll just start with one I wrote about Spike way back in March (my opinion on the subject didn't change with the end of the series, however) and then let you all rip it to shreds or something. It'll be fun!
Bringing Back the Dead
Posted 3/16/04 at DarkWorlds.com, so it's dated in a big way. Please don't shoot me.
I've been watching reruns of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer recently. "School Hard" aired the other day, and I felt a little surge of glee knowing that Spike was about to make an appearance.
But... wait a second, here. Of all the members of the gang from Sunnydale, Spike's the one I still have. I see him every week on ANGEL. Why am I so excited to catch Spike in old Buffy reruns that I've seen well over a dozen times? Why am I not quite as thrilled to see him in brand-new adventures?
Although not as obsessive as some, I am a Spike fan. His character development was fascinating over the six years that he appeared on Buffy. And, while I am not a fan of Buffy and Spike's unhealthy relationship, it rang truer and had far more chemistry than the Buffy/Angel star-crossed-lover-style relationship ever did. When asked the Big Question about which of the two vampires that I think Buffy should "end up" with, I have one answer for them. Neither. Buffy should just be Buffy for now rather than be defined by her choice in men, and their vampire status continues to make any long-term relationship impossible unless one of these guys gets a shot of humanizing Shanshu.
Honestly, I was excited about Spike appearing on Angel this season. The Angel/Angelus situation has proven that a souled vampire and a regular, garden-variety, non-souled vampire are two entirely different entities. However, unlike Angel, Spike hadn't had the benefit of a hundred years of soul-having to have determined who Souled Spike is. He certainly had no time in Buffy's seventh season to figure that out - he went from insane to controlled-by-evil to fighting against one of the more major Buffy apocalypses, with no time to catch his breath. Well, if he breathed.
I've been looking forward to seeing what type of personality would emerge in Spike as this season progressed. Would we see more of the William that originally existed? Or would the combination of the soul and the vampire's experience and memories create an entirely new individual? Instead, all I've seen is a watered-down version of his former self, a vampire without the bite.
I finally realized something that will likely make the rabid Spike fans show up on my doorstep with pitchforks and torches. However, I've decided to live dangerously and say it anyway:
Spike should not have returned after he gave his life to save the world. He should have stayed buried in the ruins of Sunnydale.
We all knew in advance that James Marsters had been signed for Angel's fifth season before "Chosen" ever aired. Unspoiled, I watched Spike willingly turn into a pillar of flame to save the world, obliterating an army of UberVamps in the process, and it had hardly any emotional impact for me because I knew that he'd be back. I cried for Anya, but not for Spike. Part of me felt cheated, because this was a character that had gone from Big Bad to World Savior. That's an incredible progression, and the character deserved better that a "Yeah, but he'll be back in a few months" kind of reaction.
Despite my disappointment in losing some of the emotional impact that "Chosen" should have had - not that it didn’t put me in quite a state with things as they were - I did have the solace of knowing that I’d still be seeing a former Sunnydale resident from those final years on Buffy. I knew that I wasn't losing them all. I might not be able to watch the trials and tribulations of Xander, or Willow, or Giles, or Buffy herself, but hey, I'd still have Spike. And think of the wrench that he'll throw into things in Los Angeles! The effect he'll have on the character dynamics! Antics! Mayhem!
Except... it didn’t really work out that way.
There have been a few of the requisite Angel vs. Spike stories, but Spike has acted more as a skewed mirror to Angel than as a character in his own right. Since the fifth season of Buffy, a great deal of Spike's character has been shaped by his complicated relationship with Buffy, and before that, it was shaped by his century with Drusilla. I wanted to know who is Spike without an object of obsession around. How would he redefine himself? Who might he become? We're sixteen episodes into the twenty-two-episode season, which is, by all reports, the final season, and I still don't know.
I don't want to see Spike-As-Foil-For-Angel. I don't want to see Spike-As-Second-Banana. This is a character that is far too complex and multi-layered to be relegated to these type of roles. It’s not that he should have more screen time - the show is called Angel, after all - but I do want quality and consistency in his characterization.
He deserves better. And better, in this case, would have been his hero's death as the final defining moment of an extraordinary journey.
After the Angel episode "Harm's Way" aired, I wrote about why I thought Spike chose to not seek out Buffy when he was re-corporealized (ah, the words we must create when talking about the WhedonVerse). While Spike almost went after the object of his obsession, he decided against it, stating that his showing up after going out in a blaze of glory would be anti-climactic. He was right. Spike was fully aware that Buffy did not, in fact, love him. But, with his world-saving sacrifice, he knows that he went up several notches in her estimation. That ground would be lost if he showed up on Buffy's doorstep unscathed. Spike still has a poet's heart, even if it doesn't beat, and the knowledge that she might care for him far more now with him "heroically dead" might be enough for him.
It's a statement that I'm sorry to have to make, but perhaps I’d also care more about him now if he had remained heroically dead.