Cultural Catchup Project: One Past, Two Perspectives (Buffy and Angel)

One Past, Two Perspectives

July 26th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter has said that he has no intention of ever using flashbacks for the FX series, which some might find odd considering how much of the series is based on an earlier generation of conflict regarding SAMCRO’s founder, John Teller. However, each season of the series has a tightly constructed arc, and so much of its drama depends on capturing the intensity of the Sons’ daily lives that flashing back would likely disrupt any sense of momentum.

And yet, for network series with similarly complex backstories, flashback episodes are almost a necessity: with 22 episodes to deliver each year, as opposed to the 13 offered on cable, flashbacks are a good way to kill some time between major story arcs, or fill in some necessary exposition heading into a new story arc, or to simply have some fun by featuring a character who everyone seems to enjoy. “Fool to Love” and “Darla” are both flashback episodes, and even flash back to the same scenes in two instances, but they represent two distinct types of flashback episodes, which becomes clear when watched together (as they would have originally aired).

I want to talk a bit about how each series uses its respective flashback episode as a standalone piece, but I also want to look at how they work as parts of their respective seasons: while “Darla” is very clearly part of the series’ narrative arc, “Fool for Love” has a unique relationship with the momentum built by “No Place Like Home” and “Family” which offers a different take on the potential function of flashbacks.

Spike and Darla are both essentially marginalized from the core group of characters on their respective series, and so in both “Fool for Love” and “Darla” there is a desire to emphasize that despite not being part of the Scooby Gang, or the crew at Angel Investigations, these characters are intricately connected to the overall themes of the series. It isn’t exactly news to us: as noted in my last post, “Dear Boy” laid out Darla’s thematic place in the season pretty successfully, and Spike’s realization of romantic feelings towards Buffy has been ongoing since “Out of My Mind.” And so while the flashbacks show us how Spike’s connection with Buffy broke off his connection with Drusilla, and Darla’s flashback shows us how her role in Angel’s post-soul period now connects with Angel’s role during her transition to humanity, this largely reaffirms what we’ve already seen rather than revealing something substantial about each character’s past.

In the case of “Fool for Love,” the episode is a thinly-veiled excuse to turn James Marsters into the star of the show, having Buffy nearly lose her life while patrolling and then turning to Spike for knowledge about the circumstances surrounding the two slayers he has killed; it sets up a pretty simple storytelling device, with Spike unnecessarily going through his entire life story before revealing that the only way for a Slayer to die is if they have a death wish. Now, first and foremost, here’s my question: did Kendra have a death wish? I guess you could argue that seeing Buffy, with her friends and her family, may have driven her to doubt her place in life and want to escape from her destiny, but we never really got to see that, and I was surprised that Buffy didn’t think to ask her friends about the Slayer who died in front of them before she went to talk to Spike. However, if she had gone that route, we wouldn’t have seen the origins of William the Bloody, which is really what “Fool for Love” is trying to accomplish. We may learn more about what it means to be a slayer, and that Buffy’s support system is what could potentially keep her on that path, but really this one is all about Spike.

And frankly, while he remains marginalized in terms of not being part of the Scooby Gang, it’s not as if we as the audience consider this a problem. Since his chip was introduced in Season Four, the series has wonderfully balanced his antagonism with his growing dependence on the group for financial support, and his newfound feelings for Buffy have taken that a step further. I love the climax of “Family” in this regard, as we get Spike going from gleeful spectator to concerned defender as Buffy faces her invisible attackers, followed by Spike’s delightful disassociation from the group when everyone starts banding together behind Tara. While he may be marginal in terms of the central Scooby Gang activities, the writers are so obviously in love with the character that it’s not as if anyone really needs to see his past as a vulnerable poet for us to relate to him. It’s interesting to return to Spike’s past, and the bit with the Slayers is nice and all (the Subway scene, intercut with Spike sparring with Buffy, was particularly evocative), but in the end the episode flashes back to Spike’s past because the writers like Spike, we like Spike, and we’re going to be seeing more of Spike in the future.

By comparison, “Darla” is a much more calculated flashback, a clear attempt to shed light on a character who is not half as developed. While we have spent a lot of time with Spike, who more or less leaps off the screen at this stage, Darla is relatively new (in terms of being a full-fledge character), and her conflict with Angel was largely confined to the margins until “Dear Boy,” and then more or less dropped again in “Guise will be Guise.” “Darla,” then, is the episode where Tim Minear makes the pitch for why Darla is important to Angel as a series, emphasizing not only her influence on Angel but also Angel’s influence on her within their shared past role so that the audience can perhaps better understand why he finds it so difficult to let go. In that sense, rather than a fun jaunt into a character’s past, there are expectations that the flashbacks will justify time spent for those fans who perhaps haven’t found Darla as interesting as I have. And so we see her final days before becoming a vampire, and we see the moment where she chooses Angel over the Master, and we begin to better understand who Darla is beyond being Angel’s sire; they can talk about the strength of that connection all they want, but we’re not vampires, and so we desire to see that relationship in more detailed terms.

This is the main difference between the two sets of flashbacks in these episodes: while Spike’s flashbacks are focused on action when in China, for example, Darla’s flashbacks are more subtle, based in character interaction and conversation. It’s like the period shortly after Angel was cursed, when Darla looks to bargain with the gypsies only to discover that Spike has already murdered her leverage: while Spike is all action, Darla has lived a more complicated life, and so we see more of her relationship with Angel, and how it changed once he had his soul. While Angel is a show which is certainly capable of action, its second season to this point has featured more episodes built on emotional or psychological foundations (“Are you now…”, “Untouched,” “Darla”). The series obviously still has its action climaxes, but that is not where the series’ interest lies, which is apparent in the types of scenes chosen from Darla’s past. Note that, unless I’m mistaken, there are actually no scenes in which we see Darla in vamp mode (I’d have to go back and check, but I certainly don’t remember any, which is still meaningful considering her humanity in the present); the foursome is important to both sides of the story, but the areas of interest for each show is ultimately different, and the parallel flashbacks bring this to the surface nicely.

“Darla” feels like a necessary step in the season’s arc, and a successful one to my mind, but by comparison “Fool for Love” isn’t so necessary. It’s really simple when you actually think about it: while Buffy is somewhat part of Spike’s past due to her position as Slayer, Angel was directly a part of Darla’s, and so those flashbacks are his history as well. Buffy knowing more about Spike’s past is helpful, and it certainly contributes to their bonding moment over her mother’s illness, but it is a secondary rather than primary flashback. It’s sort of like the flashback equivalent of what we learn about Tara’s family in “Family”: it helps build Tara as a character, and it helps solidify her relationship with the group (which is a concern she raised in the premiere), but ultimately it doesn’t change trajectories or really influence Buffy and her personal journey. It is episodes like this one, however, which make Buffy more than just Buffy, which allows the show’s ensemble to grow and develop in a fashion which enriches rather than diminishing the core narrative. In the abstract, it may seem strange for Whedon to take on this episode himself, but it’s really a key piece of the puzzle even if “No Place Like Home” is the more important episode as far as season arcs go.

I think “Family” is very effective if not particularly subtle: the introduction of Tara’s family is pretty straightforward even if Kevin Rankin and Amy Adams elevate things substantially, and the business about trying to avoid the demon inside of her comes a bit out of nowhere (although I do appreciate how this was set up, in terms of explaining why Tara would sabotage the demon-finding spell in the fourth season). As much as I like Tara as a character, the episode sort of suffers in how much of its drama surrounds characters we’ve barely met (her family), and how much their behaviour seems exaggerated to justify how quickly the Scooby Gang gets behind her. The eventual conclusion it reaches feels like a smart statement about her character which brings everyone else around to what we’ve been seeing as viewers, but getting there doesn’t feel as natural as it could have felt. I think, however, that it’s a necessary step for Amber Benson’s future on the series, and in that sense Whedon navigated the situation quite effectively.

As for “No Place Like Home,” we have the answer we were looking for: Dawn is a key, given human form in order to ensure her protection, and everyone’s memories have been adjusted so that the yet unnamed evil (who Wikipedia informs me is known as “Glory?”) won’t be able to get to Dawn. While I know this is a huge turning point, I honestly don’t have a lot to say about it: Glory seems to be quite a fun villain (presuming she’s the quasi-Big Bad), Buffy’s turmoil upon realizing that Dawn isn’t her sister was well-handled, and the burden of harbouring the secret regarding Dawn’s identity is a nice addition to Buffy’s current set of problems (tying nicely into “Fool for Love,” in that unlike other Slayers she has been given someone very specific to take care of and who ties her to this life). However, the episode is actually startlingly simple, largely serving as exposition and introduction which will be elaborated in future episodes. What makes the episode work is that it is just the right level of poetic: when you solve a mystery like this one, there needs to be something left to sustain the story, and while we are no longer wondering why Dawn is present there still remains dramatic potential in her presence (especially considering the Big Bad is after her, and no one but Buffy and Giles know her true identity or lack thereof). As noted, I was pretty on board with Dawn from the beginning, but even as her function in the narrative shifts the season is still on a really strong path in terms of narrative momentum.

And none of that momentum feels sidetracked by the flashbacks: no, we didn’t need to learn about Spike murdering slayers for the season to come together, but “Fool for Love” manages to use the past to inform the future even if its importance to the present is merely tangential. By comparison, Angel is more interested in using the past to fuel the present, more logical for the series considering Angel’s extended lifespan and the weight he carries with him on a daily basis. While Spike’s flashbacks feel like a purposeful digression, Angel’s flashbacks feel like an organic part of the ongoing narrative extension, and I’ll be curious to see how each show uses flashbacks in the future and whether this dichotomy remains.

Cultural Observations

  • I guess you could call Riley’s story in “Fool for Love” a B-Plot, but it lacks anything in the way of real content: we see that he’s not one for the whole “team dynamic” side of things, returning on his own and using a grenade to take out the nest, and while I think the rest of the Scooby Gang were being a bit too obnoxious I do think that there are still reasons to be concerned about Riley’s current trajectory (especially considering the drinking alone in “Family”).
  • I have NO idea what to do with antlers dude. Nonewhatsoever.
  • Anya as the Magic Box’s other employee, after Giles was more than a bit overwhelmed by the store’s success, is just delightful.
  • While I do have to wonder whether we can trust Spike’s chip wholly, I did love his use of his fist as a demon detector with Tara – a really sharp little comic turn there.
  • As noted, I thought “Family” wasn’t perfect by any means, but that final shot was truly lovely – I thought Whedon was going to pull the trigger on the kiss there, but it was perfect without it.
  • As for “Darla,” intrigued to see where Wolfram & Hart takes this one, and to once again see Lindsey’s human weaknesses be exploited by the agency – he’s in too deep to truly step away, and so at this point they’re using him much as they desire to use Angel, and I really like that dynamic. Holland is obviously evil, but Lilah and Lindsey are only complicit, and I’m excited to see more from them in the future.
  • I know that not everyone is following both sides of the project (which I can see in both stats and comments), so I do plan on avoiding lumping the two shows together when possible. In this case, I thought the paired flashbacks were interesting enough to compare the two series, and figured that I should talk about the previous Buffy episodes at the same time so that we get back to an even playing field heading into the third discs of the respective seasons.


Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

105 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: One Past, Two Perspectives (Buffy and Angel)

  1. buffywrestling

    The antler guy was a Chaos Demon who Drusilla ran off with which Spike described to Buffy’s Mom – “All slime and antlers” – when he was in the kitchen sharing a cuppa with her in season 3 . Nice little call back.

    • diane

      “Antlers dude” is another example of how richly textured Joss’s narratives are. “Have you ever seen a chaos demon? All slime and antlers.” A throw-away line in 3.8, Lovers Walk. Paid off two years later in episode 5.7, again almost as a throw-away.

      The layering of everyone’s memories of Dawn is similarly textured. We’ve seen one already, when Buffy talks about how Dawn cried for days when their father left…. except that she didn’t. Or, “You have no idea how much I wish I were an only child.” There will be more.

  2. Nicole

    Hm. I definitely agree with you that Fool for Love wasn’t *necessary*, but was a lot of fun. I love Subway Spike, his look is really cool. And I adore the last few scenes of Family, I feel like it definitely sums up a major theme in BTVS – found families. I really like that about both BTVS and Angel.

    • Eldritch

      Yes, subway Spike was fun. It was kinda fun watching William transform into Spike through the episode. He’s bitten, he becomes a vamp, he gets the scar through his eyebrow fighting the Chinese slayer, and he gets his coat from the New York slayer. That was a nice mini arc.

      Though, I’m a little unclear why his accent would change or how a coat tailored for a slender female would fit him as well as it seems to across the shoulders. …

      • I personally take that as a callback to how Angel’s coat fit Buffy in S1.

      • diane

        My take on Spike’s linguistic evolution is that his “Spike” accent is an affectation, as he discarded his former life. It certainly wasn’t William’s accent.

        Effulgent, indeed.

        Ahhh, Glory. There is much more to learn about both Glory and Dawn. This is truly an outstanding season in so many ways.

        • fivexfive

          Angel makes a comment in “Fool for Love,” actually, asking, “When did you start talking like that?”

          As for the coat, I always thought that the original slayer he got it from was wearing a man’s coat. Of course, I don’t have any proof of that, but it looked big on her, and to me it makes sense that a slayer would rather have a bad-ass black leather trench than something that fit her snugly.

  3. Surprised you didn’t mention Buffy’s mom and her health troubles. The ending of “Fool for Love” gets me every time because it pulls two threads together amazingly: Spike’s unlikely love for Buffy and, what is so much more important in her world, the dread of her mom’s mortality. It reminds me of the scene in “High Fidelity” when John Cusack’s character realizes that his self-pitying life narrative is petty and false compared to his girlfriend’s grief. Good stuff, and there is more to come.

    • diane

      That ending is certainly an example of Chekov’s law, paraphrased by Joss and Tim Minear in the commentary to “The Train Job” as, “if there’s a chicken on the mantle in act 1, it must be fired by act 3.” There’s a whole flock of chickens on that mantle.

  4. Witnessaria

    Myles, you always choose unique ways to evaluate these shows that I appreciate. I’m assuming you haven’t read a lot of other people’s reviews so as not to be spoiled, so it’s really impressive that you manage to say so much that hasn’t been said a hundred times before.

    I’ve considered the differences in characters’ perspectives between these two shows, how Angel and Spike see the same events so differently, but I had never considered how the two shows use the flashbacks differently. Very interesting. Now I’m trying to think of how they both use them in the future. I’ll be left with serious thoughts all night. 🙂

    “Fool For Love” is hands down one of my favorite Buffy episodes because it’s such a brilliantly constructed character piece. It takes what we know about Spike, throws in a bunch we don’t know, wouldn’t guess, yet makes perfect sense, and combines it to make a perfect definition of who he is, was and ever shall be, while still leaving room for him to develop. I can’t even put to words how transcendent it was for me (or at least not eloquent words, obviously) to watch it all play out.

    And “Darla” is also a great character piece for a character we haven’t known as well to this point. Angel’s flashbacks are almost always brilliantly connected to the current story the writers want to tell. Love this Darla arc so very much.

    Feel like gushing more over Buffy S5, but will restrain myself for everyone’s benefit. Looking forward to more.

    • Banyan

      I think this is the point that I started getting emotionally involved with Darla’s storyline, who since the finale last season has been a bit of a cipher. Rewatching it, I think Julie Benz is amazing from the get-go.

      Whatever quibbles I have with some of the particulars (and actors), the arc over this season of Buffy is a real wonder. Especially compared to the previous season, which just never seemed to gel.

      I’m also a little amazed that Myles is able to see the distinction between the evil and the complicit so clearly in the Wolfram & Hart characters; I don’t think I gotten that at all this early when I viewed it.

  5. sarahbabble

    So with you on “Family.” Despite there being some clunky plot points, such as the family successfully convincing the women that they’re part demons in the first place, the ending never fails to get me teary. It really is a capper for not just Tara, but for Willow and Tara’s whole relationship up to this point.

    I like that Tara’s story reflects Dawn’s story, to a certain extent. Both outsiders, being drawn in and protected.

  6. Note: Since you found out about Glory’s name from Wikipedia (note: not a big deal that you found out early) I won’t prevent myself from using it.

    Myles, I think you’ll find that you undersold “Fool for Love” quite a lot by the time you get to the end of the season. The episode says a LOT about the nature of the Slayer and what makes Buffy different from other slayers (or is she? And should Spike’s perception be interpreted as fact?). The episode ends up playing into some of the major themes of the season quite beautifully. There’s also some major parallels between it and the season finale. What Spike tells Buffy about her “ties to the world” and the death wish are very much ingrained into the season’s latticework. As the season goes along I think you’ll begin to see the larger picture. “Fool for Love” is not simply a care-free romp with Spike’s past. In the end it might actually speak more to Buffy than it even does to Spike.

    As for Spike himself, seeing each piece of his current persona be constructed piece by piece is not only fun as hell, but also quite revealing in the details. Again, this is something you’ll see play a role throughout Spike’s growth going forward and will be particularly relevant at several key moments in the future.

    While I think you take on “Family” and “Darla” was pretty much spot-on, there’s a lot more to “Fool for Love” than meets the eye — it’s an episode that will be resonating for a long, long time to come.

    I also have to take a moment to give “No Place Like Home” a shout-out. It’s one of my personal favorites. The episode balances all its pieces in such an impressive manner. I often like to think of it as the introduction equivalent of “Becoming Pt. 2.” I love its mysterious and foreboding atmosphere, its humor (“Out. For. A. Walk… Bitch.”) and the *sublime* bit of silent comedy between Buffy and Giles with the wizard robe/hat that speaks to their growth and respect for one another, and how the episode plays on your expectations about Dawn right until the emotional reveal about what she is.

    I just love the creepiness of the trance scene, how Dawn is made to seem like a true villain despite just being angry at Buffy and wanting to play nice with mom to score points, and then the devastating reality for Buffy that there’s nothing supernaturally wrong with Joyce. Buffy gets hit twice in this scene: she has no idea what’s wrong with her mom and learns that there’s something incredibly wrong with Dawn. Then Buffy gets punched literally by Glory thereby cracking a wall. I just love this episode — a great, balanced genre-bending example of what makes Buffy so great.

    A couple little references I appreciated were Anya’s unknowing line “the Hand of Glory packs some serious raw power” and Glory’s reference to Little Miss Muffet (which ties back into the “Graduation Day” dream and the crazy guy in “Real Me”): “someone’s gonna sit down on their tuffet and make this birthing stop!”

    “You taste like ashes.” -Hmmm. 😉

    • I didn’t take notes, so I had plum forgotten about Giles in the Wizard hat, which made me laugh a great, great deal. Thank you for the reminder.

      As for “Fool for Love,” I don’t doubt that Buffy as Slayer resonates further in the season – I picked up on pretty much all of the themes you discuss, and even talk a bit about them above. I just think that the episode is more interesting for how they fill in the rest of the story (having fun with Spike as a character) than for that story itself. I don’t mean to reduce the episode to just that, but I think that until I see the rest of the season that’s what really struck me about how the episode developed.

      So, as always, I’ll be patient with Buffy if you’ll be patient with me. 😛

      • Always, Myles. Always. 😀

        P.S. I really am loving seeing an intelligent newbie’s take on the material. This is a lot of fun. So big thanks, once again!

        • Jack-Kay

          “No Place Like Home” has always been an underrated favourite of mine too – I actually mentioned as much in the comments of the last ‘Function of Dawn’ Catchup post – or bascally exacty the same reasons as you Mikejer.
          In fact I think I remember reading your Critically Touched review of NPLH a fair while ago and it cementing perfectly what I felt was so good about it (oh and I’ve just seen that your season 7 review is finally up so I’ll go have a read!)

          But anyway yes, “NPLH” for me just has the ultimate balance of elements that make Buffy the uniquely engaging show that it is, it has just the right amount of mystery and intrigue, comedy and quick-wit, horror and action, and emotionally-charged drama and epicness, which Mikejer has given great examples of above.
          It wonderfully sets off the most potent elements of Season 5’s major story arc and introduces the Big Bad in a string of the most shockingly dramatic action (with a twist of psychological instability) scenes possibly so far in the series, while culminating in a nice amount of exposition and answers surrounding one of the seasons big questions which packs an astounding emotional punch, combined with the intensely-well-done trance scene and the comedy found within Spike’s and the Magic Box scenes and all-in-all I always feel completely satisfied by the closing scene of this ep while wanting to watch through the rest of the introduced/kick-started narrative from “NPLH”.

          Sorry to be repeating a lot of Mikejer’s thoughts on it, but I just wanted to reiterate my own love for it!

          Oh and in regards to “Fool For Love/Darla”, I think “FFL” is more successful and enjoyable as a single piece of 43-minute-long television, but I understand now through your assessment Myles that “Darla” does more for the progression of Darla herself and for the current Season 2 storylines, while “FFL” quite simply helps us (the audience) understand and sympathise a little more with Spike as an antagonist-cum-protagonist (in our, the audiences, eyes even if not in the characters eyes) and to ease that transition along for us, but it doesn’t do quite so much for the actual current Season 5 storyline, just more for the larger picture of Spike’s relevance, plus some pretty intriguing insight to Buffy’s inherent Slayer predispositions + urges and her path when concerning the histories/track-records of previous Slayers.

          Also I think for a lot of people, FFL was really a wake-up call about the value of Spike as a character and to why he was still hanging around apart from this strange new obsession with Buffy, to portray a true sensitive aspect of him for any viewers who haven’t yet warmed to his charms.
          So for you it might not have had the same effect, as you seem to know that Spike will be around as a lead character for a while and are pretty on board with his character, so don’t need the reaffirmation (and surprise/shock ultra-compassionate portrayal) that this episode provided for many others.

          I actually feel like this run of 3 Buffy episodes is one if my favourite mini-runs as a cohesive narrative flow for some reason; “NPLH”, “Family” and “FFL” all fit really nicely together and as I said with NPLH, I get a real sense of satisfaction and excitement when watching this batch, (especially with the rest of the season to follow), they each deal with a great amount of exposition regarding certain characters and certain paths and journeys said characters have been on in their past or will be taking in their future – be it Dawn or Tara/Willow or Spike or Buffy/Giles or even Joyce.

          And each of the 3 eps ends with 2 of the characters consoling each other in one way or another, just through the mere presence of someone elses company, or through the utter confirmation of a deep love between two individuals, or through gaining a much greater understanding of another character’s purpose and therefore evoking an absolute, newfound level of respect for them.

          So in the same way that these episodes end with the focused characters providing each other with some sense of comfort, I acheive some sense of comfort myself from watching them, and although these episodes can be a little bleak (particularly “NPLH”), this small sense of comfort is much more than will be achieved in a long time throughout the upcoming season/series as thing only really go from bleak to bleaker, with a few shining moments to keep the characters as sane as possible.

          Very long post… but thanks for making me actually write this much out while re-thinking and assessing my own thoughts! I find it therapeutic 🙂

          • Jack-Kay

            Excuse the typos, in particular my first sentence – “or bascally exacty” meaning “for basically exactly” haha.

            Also Myles, now you are aware of Spike’s fondness/attraction towards Buffy, I just wanted to point out the very sexually-charged and IMO poignant scene back in “Who Are You?”, when Faith (but as Buffy in Spike’s eyes) spouts the following:
            “I could have anything. Anyone. Even you, Spike. I could ride you at a gallop till your legs buckled and your eyes rolled up, I’ve got muscles you’ve never even dreamed of, I could squeeze you till you popped like warm champagne and you’d beg me to hurt you just a little bit more…”

            Spike is here presented with an extreme (and unusual) sexualised Buffy, who tempts and taunts him only to then back off and show no similar traits again so far.
            He’s never even been informed of the fact that it wasn’t Buffy who issued said sexualised statement! So you can see his confusion and the import/poignancy of this scene now no?

            “Fool For Love” is really the first time since then that him & Buffy have spent any long period of time in the same space together, so it’s kind of understandable for him to get very sexually charged himself throughout their heated discussion of violence and love and death and passion, and also understandable for him to ultimately try to make a move on her near the episode’s end in the alleyway outside the Bronze – he moves towards her in an attempt to kiss (or possibly bite) her and she backs off exclaiming “What are you doing?! … It would never be you Spike. You’re beneath me.”

          • mothergunn

            This seems to be a good place to say this: sometimes I REALLY hate Buffy. I mean, I dig that she’s a hero and she walks the Path and blah, blah but she can be a real bitch sometimes. Every time I watch FFL (which, I must say, is one of my favorite eps; hell, any ep about Spike is among my favs and I cannot WAIT till we get to “Lies My Parents Told Me” and “Destiny,” but I digress) I want to backhand her when she chucks the money at him. Just because she didn’t like what he had to say she has to go and be all vile. It’s like any time, for the rest of the series, there’s something that she can’t control she takes it out on Spike. Yes, Buffy, that’s very mature.

            And he totally lets her, which makes him the better person.

          • lyvvie

            mothergunn:”This seems to be a good place to say this: sometimes I REALLY hate Buffy. I mean, I dig that she’s a hero and she walks the Path and blah, blah but she can be a real bitch sometimes. Every time I watch FFL (which, I must say, is one of my favorite eps; hell, any ep about Spike is among my favs and I cannot WAIT till we get to “Lies My Parents Told Me” and “Destiny,” but I digress) I want to backhand her when she chucks the money at him. Just because she didn’t like what he had to say she has to go and be all vile. It’s like any time, for the rest of the series, there’s something that she can’t control she takes it out on Spike. Yes, Buffy, that’s very mature.

            And he totally lets her, which makes him the better person.”

            Little bit early to be getting into this discussion so I’ll stick to the events of FFL, and I’ll preface by saying I love Spike.

            From Buffy’s POV in FFL Spike has just spent the last hour telling her gleefully about people he’s killed that she’s deeply connected to, then he’s told her that he can’t wait for her to be killed and hopes he gets to do it, then he’s tried to bite her. Pushing him over and throwing money at him hardly seems to compare.

            Yes as viewers we see things differently as we know he has feelings for her, we’ve seen him as the bumbling William, we know he probably wasn’t trying to bite her, we see that he almost cries as she walks away – but Buffy knows none of this.

  7. skittledog

    I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said here, Myles. What’s interesting (to me anyway) is that on a first watch I would have said Fool For Love was the stronger of the two episodes. Whilst it may still be my favourite just for the fact that it’s a lot of fun, retrospectively I now definitely think Darla is a stronger episode which does more to define the show it’s part of. And it’s because of those differences you’ve picked up on – Fool For Love is essentially a standalone episode with a one-off backstory on a strong supporting character. And whilst that backstory is entertaining and also nigh-perfect for the character, and whilst there is some arc relevance in Buffy’s strengths as seen by Spike, that’s ultimately all it is. Darla, however, gives us nearly twice as much understanding as we ever had of Darla-as-vampire before, as well as deepening the darker side of Angel we saw touched on in 5×5 – that, even with a soul, Angel tried to ignore his conscience and carry on being a carefree vampire. Both of those are vital to understanding how this arc plays out, and indeed how Angel as a show treats its protagonist.

    But they’re both great episodes. And I love that shot of them walking towards the camera, with the rebellion in flames behind them – it’s like all the credits ‘team’ shots on both shows, but just with that added flavour of death and destruction. 🙂

    Sidenote: I don’t believe Spike said a death wish is necessary for a Slayer to get killed. I think you can die quite easily just by not being very good at it. I’d say there’s the two versions of getting beaten that Spike shows us: the Boxer Rebellion girl is a lone fighter like Kendra, who dies more because she has been isolated from the world and has no support system to keep her fighting; and the Subway Slayer fits the Faith mould of perhaps having something to fight for but being a little too into the fight and slipping up as a result. I’d say the ‘death wish’ is different in each case – one a lack of anything in life to hold onto, the other a fascination with death. Spike covers both but maybe doesn’t accurately pinpoint which (if either, exactly) applies to Buffy.

    • Anna

      While I very much agree with your view of Darla, I think you sell the other Slayers short. The subway Slayer has very much to live for, although that’s a spoiler, and the Chinese Slayer’s last words were something about her mother, it’s been too long since I’ve seen the episode, anyway, one could conclude from that that she’s not just a lone Slayer. She died because she lost her weapon.

      Frankly, I think Spike is just mostly BS during the whole episode, especially the parts he tells Buffy. Most of the things he says to Buffy are immediately shown to be false (I’ve always been bad, had to get myself a gang etc.) so I’m not giving him much credit for his ‘insights’.

      I also must say that it’s nice to see someone who feels the same way about Darla vs. Fool for Love, I’ve never been much of a Spike fan so FfL has never done much for me episode wise, but I absolutely love Darla, both the episode and the character, partly for how she’s connected to Angel and because I think that she’s a great and interesting character in her own right.

      • Gill

        I think Spike is just mostly BS during the whole episode, especially the parts he tells Buffy. Most of the things he says to Buffy are immediately shown to be false (I’ve always been bad, had to get myself a gang etc.) so I’m not giving him much credit for his ‘insights’.

        But the irony is that he was telling the truth, just not in the way he wanted Buffy to hear it. He was bad – a very bad poet. He did have to get into a gang or he wouldn’t have survived. And so on. He lied by telling the truth.

      • skittledog

        I agree: Spike is not wrong in anything he says, nor is he exactly lying. He’s just twisting things to make a) his history sound better and b) his needling of Buffy be more effective. Because part of who she is means she struggles to feel connected to the world while not caring so much it hurts – and those are the two ends of your death wish scale.

        I did have a think about the Chinese slayer talking about her mother (how ridiculous is she, though – she’s asking Spike to tell her things. Yeah, that sounds like a great idea) – I admit it undermines my point, but it was just a feeling I got from her. That she was a young girl trained up into a fighting machine and sent off to beat the demons alone, not someone with a demon-aware family and support system.

        And I should make a small disclaimer: I do like Spike, just a lot, and I do like Fool For Love as possibly my favourite Spike episode. It’s just that when I look back, Darla is the episode where I marvel at what it was doing and remember how great the season is, rather than just the episode.

        • I actually feel the opposite, skittledog. While “Darla” does initially seem like the more relevant episode season-wise, “Fool for Love” has more lasting relevance for its respective series at large. It also has quite a bit of relevance to the season as well in its exploration of previous slayers, Spike’s perception of them, the loneliness they inhabit, and how all of this ties into the themes of the season and the finale. I think some of you are selling the episode short in this regard. “Darla” is a great episode, no doubt, and it certainly has a lot of relevance for the current arc. But past a certain point in the series its relevance lessens whereas FFL’s relevance grows.

          So while I can see why Myles got the impression he did at this point in time, when looking at these episodes within the entire scope of their respective series, they’re both wonderful but “Fool for Love” ends up having the most lasting resonance, relevance, and power of the two, imo.

          • skittledog

            Yeah, it’s probably subjective. I’m not saying Fool For Love is completely standalone, just that it doesn’t tell/show us anything arc-related which isn’t also echoed elsewhere (‘death is your gift’/’death is your art’ is a pretty close parallel, but I’d say all FFL’s themes regarding Slayers were already present in earlier episodes to some degree or other). Spike’s backstory is the new part that comes out of it, the rest is just crystallising a view of Buffy that has been forming since season 4 at least.

            The key thing in Darla, for me, is Angel’s own personal darkness. Until this point, it could almost be argued that everything Angel was trying to atone for wasn’t really his fault, given that he had no soul. But here – building on small portions of 5×5 and AYNOHYEB – we see that really, the part of Angel that is scariest is the part that sometimes doesn’t care even with a soul. That’s obviously important to s2’s arc, but it’s also the show’s trajectory from now to the bitter end – the things you do when in full possession of your morality that you ‘wish a million times you could take back.’ (Hey, Wes! How’d you get in here?)

            I say it’s subjective though because one of those themes resonates more strongly to me than the other, and if it’s the other way round for you then clearly FFL will shine brighter.

          • skittledog — I agree. These revelations make Angel’s character and background FAR more complex than we’d ever imagined. It isn’t just soul = repenting.

            I have sooooo much more to say about this — it’s one of my favorite themes in the Buffyverse — but it will have to wait until B7 and A5.

          • Jack-Kay

            Ahem to that brother.

          • Jack-Kay

            oh… 😦 effing typos!

            I meant “AMEN to that” not “Ahem…” – sounds like I’m just clearing my voice at your comment Mikejer… i’m not, I’m wholeheartedly agreeing.

      • I’ve always imagined that the “death wish” was a commentary on how, after several years of slaying, the Slayer must just get so darn *tired*. It never stops, the vamps are just going to keep coming, she knows it doesn’t end for her until she dies. Eventually she’s going to want for it all to be over, and that’s when — subconsciously, probably — she lets her guard down and the vamp she’s fighting has a real good day.

        (I think this is borne out by one of Buffy’s more memorable lines later in the season.)

        And of course, as has been said many times before, Buffy lasts longer because of her family, both biological and not.

        • Oh, and this whole “I’m so tired I wish I could die so it would all be over” — yeah, that has nothing to do with being in the middle of the bar exam. Nothing whatsoever. It’s a completely unrelated thesis with a valid textual basis.

        • Jack-Kay

          and AMEN to that sister! (I’m assuming you’re a girl??)

          This is the exact thing I believed.

          In which case maybe Kendra hadn’t reached a point where she was completely disenchanted with unremittingly ‘saving the world’ as such, but she still just happened to get killed in action.

          But the best (or longer lasting) Slayers will all ultimately reach a point where their mundane disenchantment wins over and they crumble.

      • Tom

        Frankly, I think Spike is just mostly BS during the whole episode, especially the parts he tells Buffy. Most of the things he says to Buffy are immediately shown to be false

        Yes. It’s hard to say this without being spoilery, but I’ll try: this Spike — his construct — is beneath her. She realizes that instinctively. Obviously, he must as well, though he hides it. But this is when we (the audience) are told. And it’s likely that there’s a reason we’re told at this point. Myles sees it in his review: this is the re-introduction of Spike as a character of his own, rather than a character to which events happen or to be used in the service of our other main characters’ arcs. He hasn’t been that since season 2.

  8. Gill

    As the others say, I think you’ll find Fool for Love resonates more and more through the season and beyond. Yes, it’s fun, and daring – Marsters and Landau were astonished the studio allowed the finger-sucking past – but it also tells us a huge amount about Spike, and the fact that everything about his persona is laboriously created (“What can I say? I’ve always been bad…” is both true and false, after all.) – the layers of complexity prepared here are astonishing, and the end of the episode is profoundly moving but also demonstrates the limits of self-creation beautifully. Spike is always William the Bloody Awful Poet, whatever else he also is, and now we know that we can see it all the way back to School Hard. Spike’s decision at the end of the episode is a very big one – not to kill the Slayer, despite his humiliation – and is handled perfectly.

    This is, of course, the crossover we were all thinking about most in urging you to watch the shows in parallel, since they work so well as a pair, even while fulfilling quite different functions in the two shows. The alley scene in which Darla and Angel tell Dru to go away and sire someone for herself is funnier when one has already seen the other side, yet also makes one more aware of Dru’s prescience – note how she uses the word “effulgent”, BTW. We come across that word and its near-synonyms more than once more, always with deeper meanings.

    Spike and Tara are like Dawn, people outside the group who need to be within it, for their own safety and for the good of the group. The same can be said of Anya, arguably, and the four of them are important counterbalances to the intensity of the original Scooby relationships. This is the season in which “family” of all types is a crucial concept, and we need to see these episodes in the light of that, too.

    As intelligent and perceptive as ever, Myles. FFL is always in my top 10 episodes, whichever others move in and out. Indeed, I feel the urge to rewatch coming one. It is such a beautiful episode visually, too, from the fight with the Chinese Slayer, the passion with Dru afterwards, the magnificent power walk – which we see from such a different perspective in Darla – and the outstanding direction of the intercut narrative and fighting on the subway scene. And a remarkable amount of this episode will continue to resonate well into S7.

    As others have said, the antlers guy is a deliberate shoutback to Lovers’ Walk in S3; while I find it hilarious it also demonstrates how far Dru is willing to go to reject Spike, and how deeply she understands his need for Buffy.

    Interesting perceptions about Riley, BTW. There will be Developments to come there, too.

  9. greg

    Does Dawn have a soul? And, if so, where did it come from? Can the monks create souls? Was it stolen from someone else? The show never addresses it, but it always struck me as something that SHOULD have been significant.

    It’s the little things in ‘Family’ that makes it one of my top five most watched episodes. I love how Tara literally comes out of the closet at the beginning. I love how Spike claims not to care, but doesn’t hesitate to volunteer to suffer pain to help Tara. I love how, in the completely unnecessary scene where we actually see Tara doing the spell (is it just me or are spells in English always kinda lame? they really need to be either in English or Enochian) they actually identify the scene in dialogue as being exposition. I love how Tara’s joke at the beginning is actually kinda funny, though no one laughed. I love how Spike is clearly shown as part of the team even when he claims to not want to be, while Riley clearly would never be, even though being part of a larger group is pretty much his whole identity.

    There’s an essay in the ‘Buffy Goes Dark’ book about ‘Family’ where the author claims that Buffy insiting that Tara is a member of their family was a sign of how paternalistic she was; that Willow should have been the one to make that claim and that Buffy should have waited for her to do it. It’s an odd argument, but someone made it.

    • greg

      that, of course, should read “Latin or Enochian”

      why no “edit post” option?

      • diane

        English is safer; no risk of reading Latin in front of the books.

        And accusing Buffy of being paternalistic? Sheesh. Doesn’t she have a right to make her own choice about family? Besides, Willow is the one person in the gang who could not make that claim on behalf of anyone else.

        That’s a case of academic over-analysis run amuck, the kind of thing that provokes strong Dorothy Parker response in me. (“This is not a book to be set aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”)

        • I think part of what makes Buffy interesting is that she’s a young girl fulfilling the leadership role that is most often associated with older men. After all, Giles isn’t in charge of the group. In that sense she has to be paternalistic. Even when that’s really annoying.

    • mothergunn

      Notice in the wide shot when Buffy says, “We’re family,” Spike is included, even though he just got through saying that he doesn’t give a crap about any of them.

      And Riley isn’t.

  10. jules

    I just remember being delighted and SHOCKED when this first aired that Spike was a namby-pamby poet as a human. It was so contrary to everything we ever knew/saw of Spike before, yet it worked perfectly–it made his “badness” and rage balance out with his feelings towards Buffy when he sees her crying on the porch. His awkward patting of her back? One of my favorite moments of the show ever. Also, the alleyway/subway scene–just great.

    I was never quite sure what he actually told Buffy, as opposed to what we as the audience saw in flashbacks–never sure if Buffy said he was beneath her on purpose, or if it was just meant to be a parallel.

  11. lyvvie

    Great post again Myles.

    I think what I like most about these episodes is there take on identity. Lots of people have commented above on Spike’s slow building of his identity from change of name, accent, appearance and attitude. This is all very interesting and important for what is to come. But what interests me more at this point is Darla’s struggle.

    We don’t know what Darla is, and neither does she. She can’t remember her real name. And who did W&H bring back? That original human girl or Darla but as a human? If she can’t remember who she used to be does that even matter? Or does it matter more than ever. Darla’s internal struggle at this point is fascinating.

    And this episode does well with Angel as well as we see that not only does he apparently kill people (even if they are only ‘rapists and murderers, thieves and scoundrels’) after being ensouled, he also hangs around with a gang of murderers. Although we know at this point that Angel did feel bad about his actions as a Vampire before Buffy (From 5×5 and Becoming) it’s never so hammered home (and I mean that in a good way) as it is here that he doesn’t actually do much about it, “Angel, you yourself wandered for a hundred years without ever seeking redemption” (well, here and in AYNOHYEB).

    I absolutely adore the Boxer Rebellion scene seen from two different perspectives. In ‘FFL’ we think Angel is jealous, in ‘Darla’…what is that? Guilt? Fear? And of course Dru’s line about smelling fear just a throwaway in FFL but far more important in Darla.

    Also to add on the two episodes, they both have amazing last scenes. Spike going to kill Buffy but instead comforting her is so very Spike. Darla wanting to get rid of the thing that Angel craves the most (“It’s gift. Too feel that heart beat, to know, really and for once, that you’re alive […] You think you did me a favor? You damned me.”). All four actors kick those scenes out of the park but I’d probably give big props to DB in particular for development as an actor, hard to believe that some of his early Buffy work was so painful.

    FFL does bring up the conundrum of the ‘unreliable narrator’. While the flashback’s in ‘Darla’ aren’t a result of anyone telling a story, Spike is supposed to be telling Buffy these things (1998 storyline aside). Do we really think that he tells Buffy that he was a terrible poet who was rejected by a woman and ran off through the streets crying?

    I do wonder what Buffy is thinking at this point as regards Spike’s place in the group. When he leans forward and she shoves him back asking what is he doing, was he trying to kiss her or bite her? She probably thinks the latter, the former is more likely from what the viewers have seen. That she lets him comfort her in the end instead of hitting/insulting him as usual is in part due to her vulnerable feelings but also indicates Spike’s changing role and slow integration into the group (also seen in Family)

    And wow if you’ve gotten through that mess of thoughts well done. I’ll just finish with a few small ones…

    – Riley drinking in the bar with the lady vampire in ‘Family’. Another great callback that it’s unlikely you’d notice unless you were doing a rewatch. The Vampire is the girl bitten (then presumably turned) by VampWillow in S3’s Dopplegangland.
    – Some great comedy, Giles’ pointing and scowling in ‘Family’, Giles’ hat, discussion over presents for Tara, “There’s too many of them… people! And they all seem to want things”
    – Though the amount of exposition in ‘No Place Like Home’ is a bit offputting I do like the Buffy/Dawn bonding in that last scene. Very sweet and sad.
    – As there has been discussion over the slightly less nuanced portrayal of Gunn’s past in Angel, I’d also say I’m a bit uncomfortable with the portrayal of Tara’s family, at least because they seem a little cliché and stereotyped. But this is coming from an English person so maybe I’m wrong.

    • greg

      Except that, of course, we clearly saw vamp!Willow feed off her, and then drop her to the floor. There’s really no way she could have sired her.

      For that matter, I’m pretty sceptical that any bloodthirsty vamp would have sired Harmony right in the middle of the graduation battle. (especially during an eclipse; who has the time?!?)

      • Bob Kat

        Yes, in “Dopplegaengland” Sandi was clearly shown as a kill, not a siring.

        But I disagree on Harmony. That was a magical eclipse and there was certainly three seconds to spare for the Guy With the Freaky Hair to sire good ol’ Harm. (and let’s face it, with her skill set and range of knowledge, what other career was she suited for?)

        • Eldritch

          I don’t recall anyone saying that it was a magical eclipse. Just a regular one. With the battle going on and the mayor’s warning the vamps not to feed because he’d need to eat, I just don’t see a vamp taking time to sire.

        • Okay, for reasons I just posted, I don’t think a vamp would take the time to sire Harmony. However, having just re-read “Fray,” it’s possible Harmony bit her vamp during the attack. If “Fray” can be taken as contributing to canon, then that bite could have fed her enough blood to be sired.

          As for the gal who fed off Riley, I didn’t see her bite Dopple-Willow, but, you know, whatever.

        • Just because we didn’t see it happen doesn’t mean it didn’t. I think both of them looked like regular kills to me when watching, but it’s not a huge stretch for me to believe they got turned at some point during or after those moments. It was never explicitly *said* either were dead, so why not. 🙂

          • Witness.Aria

            I actually had more problems with how Kralik managed to sire his Watcher’s Council captor in “Helpless” than either of these two off-screen vampings, but we all have our own pet peeves, I guess. 😉 Siring vampires in the Buffyverse is supposed to be complicated and take some time, but I’ve just learned to go with it.

          • greg

            It’s pure fan-wankery, of course, but I like to pretend that Harmony was just fed off during the battle and, in an INCREDIBLE coincidence (!) she was also fed off and sired later that same night. For some reason.

            There is a line in a later episode where she comments that she was turned “graduation night” and the only other explanation for that would be that Joss just wasn’t paying attention (and couldn’t be bothered to spend 42 minutes rewatching GD2 on DVD) and I don’t wanna believe that, so I choose to believe that Harm survived the Mayor’s attack and was just sired a few hours later in a scene we didn’t get to see.

    • Bob Kat

      Tara’s family are indeed stereotypical American conservatives as seen by Hollywood & Manhattan.

      • Agreed. This is my biggest problem with “Family.” Usually Whedon’s better at showing positive and negative qualities in both largely good and largely bad people, but this episode rubs off as overly blunt and one-dimensional in its portrayal of Tara’s family. I like other aspects of the episode quite a bit, but this part of it didn’t work for me.

      • Being from the Bible Belt, I buy it all except for the horrific line, that Tara had left her family to “do for themselves.” What is this, 1850?

        Cute to see our little future-Oscar-nominee try to get that one out with a serious face.

        • “..Being from the Bible Belt, I buy it all…”

          Being originally from the next state over, I can buy it too. My SIL chooses movies based on whether they contain curse words.

          Her family was a bit one dimensional, but the narrative required a strong justification for abandoning her natural family in favor of an adopted one.

          • A friend of mine in high school — high school! — wasn’t allowed to listen to the song “Heaven is a Place on Earth.” Because heaven isn’t a place on earth. It’s in heaven.

          • mothergunn

            Oh, man, you guys are nailing it. Being from the ultra-super-conservative Central Valley of California, I can say that there are definitely people like this. They’re REALLY not that big of an exaggeration.

          • Tyler

            Stereotypes are never “that big of an exaggeration,” which is why they’re stereotypes to begin with.

            One of the things great art can do is to show us people, stereotypical and otherwise, and give us insight into *why* they are the way they are; they can provide understanding, and sometimes sympathy, even for those with whom we ultimately disagree.

  12. tjbw

    Myles said: “…the writers are so obviously in love with the character [Spike]…”

    Would it surprise you to find out that this is not true?

  13. Karen

    Fool For Love is a fave. (I’ve given up on Top Ten lists because it’s clear I can’t be objective or consistent. More recently viewed episodes easily displace ones not seen recently. lol)

    As others noted, the flashbacks are especially interesting/problematic/debatable as we aren’t sure we can trust the narratives. Someone somewhere once posted a side-by-side chart of definitive events from both shows to document which of the events aren’t influenced by narrative bias. And even that was debatable.

    I was determined to *rest* Buffy for awhile but I’m thinking I need to watch S5 and S6 as these reviews continue. 😉

  14. jarppu

    the episode is a thinly-veiled excuse to turn James Marsters into the star of the show

    Look forward to seeing more thinly-veiled excuses to turn Spike into the second most
    important character of the show behind Buffy. Fool For Love is definitely not the last the
    time James Marsters is turned into the star of the show for no other reason than as you
    said:”because the writers like Spike, we like Spike“. Although I did like Fool For
    Love at lot more you did, Myles. It was just a very well executed episode that is fun
    watch. I also didn’t really buy this “slayer death wish” stuff. I just thought the writers
    pulled that out their ass. There really hasn’t been anything to suggest a death wish
    before. This was just an attempt to create one out of nothing.

    I definitely agree with your analysis of ‘Family’, Myles. It’s a good idea for an episode,
    but very poorly executed. It’s a boring, slow moving episode with many clunky and
    unbelievable character moments. It hardly even seems like a Joss episode because of how
    not-stellar it is. For example, it’s ridiculous to suggest that Spike’s chip has some kind
    of magical sensor that can detect whether someone is human or not (down to the molecular level, as later revealed!). Even in Fool For Love Spike explains how the chip works: If there’s not anintention to hurt, the chip doesn’t fire. This makes sense, since the chip’s designer, Maggie Walsh, was a psychology expert. So clearly the chip analyzes data provided by Spike’s brain. It DOESN’T have any kind of external sensors! Just imagine what kind of sensor it would take to assertain whether someone is human or not. It definitely wouldn’t fit in someone’s head. So the chip fires only if Spike intends to hurt someone he thinks is human. Joss just needed a quick way to confirm to everyone that Tara is human. Yet another piece of lazy writing in season 5. I don’t normally don’t care for such details but this actually comes back later on and has a big signifigance.

    Glory seems to be quite a fun villain
    I thought so too for the first too episode she was in, but the fun fades after that, leaving many, many more episodes with her that is very tiredsome because:
    presuming she’s the quasi-Big Bad
    Unfortunately she is THE Big Bad and not the quasi-Big Bad.

    ‘No Place Like Home’ jumped the gun in the way it reveals basically everything about the
    season arc: Glory, the monks, Dawn’s origin, the sudden increase in the number of crazy
    people and most importantly it reveals what role Dawn will play in the future episodes. It
    really leaves nothing left to reveal for the rest of the 17 episodes. Sure there are a
    couple of things, but without spoiling anything, those things either mount up to nothing, are very cheesy or simply do not make any sense. You now know all you need to know really: Dawn’s the key that Glory seeks, Buffy protects Dawn from Glory. So for rest of the episodes Glory stays in her own corner, Buffy stays in her own, until the last episode where everything resolved. Colour me very bored and uninterested. It would have been more interesting if only Glory was introduced in ‘No Place Like Home’. And only later tie her in to the Dawn mystery by revealing it’s her Glory is after. Or at least something to that effect.

    Contrast ‘No Place Like Home’ with ‘The Initiative’ in terms of the story arc. In the
    Initiative, you get to _see_ the revelations (walking with Riley and the group to the
    underground base). However in ‘No Place Like Home’ the most important revelation is
    revealed in a boring monologue by one of the monks. Show, don’t tell. It’s a good a rule to
    obey. This was the moment the season let me down and I realized this wasn’t going to turn
    out good. The past episodes we were wondering what was the deal with Dawn and we were given no information about her. Then in this one episode everything is revealed, leaving nothing to the later episodes (17 of them!). And the revelation was delivered in one monologue. I’d guess this a variation of my, ahem “popular”, “BING!character development” -theory. A story arc is supposed to be told over many episodes. And not simply left to the background and then revealed everything in one episode. This leads to the first ever episodes that I’d call “fillers” later in the season. Also Myles himself described how the Initiative made everything seem grander, of how everything didn’t revolve around the
    Scoobies, of how this show has a danger of becoming too introverted. This Dawn-Glory plot is very introverted and doesn’t seem grand, even if they attempt to make it “EPIC!” by the few, lame revelations still left for the rest of the episodes.

    Also I didn’t like how tried to trick us into thinking Dawn was evil. It was pretty much obvious (at least to me) that she isn’t evil starting from ‘Real Me’. That grin she had and her tone of voice when she gave the tea to Joyce in ‘No Place Like Home’ was so over the top and so clunky and amateurish way to try to make us think she was doing something to Joyce. Before this the show was pretty good at missleading the audience to thinking someone is evil when they are not. But this was poorly done and it didn’t make sense afterwards when you found out she wasn’t evil.

    Woah, that was a long post. End rant.

    • Bob Kat

      The SLayer death wish makes perfect sense to me. I mean, here’s a girl, called at a young age, forced into fighting daily against hideous evil, and doing it in secret, with nothing else to look forward to. Anyone in that situation would sometimes want it to stop in any way possible.

      As for the S-5 arc, everyone has their own preferences; not everybody puts discovery of the plot in first place.

    • Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the First Slayer say “Death is your gift” all the way back in Restless? I think that part is a pretty intentionally planned idea.

      For the rest of your post, I can’t vehemently disagree. I don’t think it’s the best season arc. However, I do think it’s very emotionally powerful.

      • “Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t the First Slayer say “Death is your gift” all the way back in Restless?”

        I viewed “Restless” a few days ago and don’t recall that being said in it. However, I don’t doubt that the conclusion of season 5 wasn’t already planned that far back.


        Also in “Restless,” didn’t “countdown to 730” refer to that conclusion?

    • Jack-Kay

      I think we may all be getting into (even though somewhat subtle) spoiler territory here…
      What with talking about death wishes/ “Death is your gift” – a quote which definitely isn’t even heard until 5×18 ‘Intervention’, and talking about who the Big Bad is etc… I think there’s just a bit too much emphasis being put on what this season is leading up to in the finale for to stay that vague much longer, like it might just become way too obvious for Myles soon what we’re all discussing when we’re talking about the significance of certain themes/phrases said within the episodes reviewed by him.

      I hope that doesn’t sound bitchy, I’m just concerned we don’t give anything away!

      • I’m sorry! I really thought it was in Restless. My bad — I will double-check my quotes-from-memory in the future.

        (Geez, now the one thing I thought gave Restless some meaning isn’t even in there…)

        • Jack-Kay

          The First Slayer still talks a lot about about many themes present in the final few seasons i.e. “I am destruction. Absolute. Alone. … We are Alone.”

          there is still a lot of relevance to be found within ‘Restless’.

          and yes the “730” reference from ‘Graduation Day’ (i.e. 730 days = 2 x 365 days = 2 years) is present within ‘Restless’ on the clock , but as Tara says it’s all wrong, it should now read 365 (not possible) as it’s only a year until the end of season 5 which is the event she is counting down from 730 to.

          • Bob Kat

            “seven-three-oh” should have been “Seven-three-one” since there was a leap year in there :-).

          • Aeryl


            I don’t think that’s supposed to be dead on accurate, just a representation of how long till, you know. So I don’t think one day’s worth of difference is going to matter. It’s two years from the end of one season, but I don’t think it’s down to the day.

  15. Bob Kat

    Spike said a death wish was inevitable rather than necessary, so I don’t think we need to loook for reasons “why” Kendra might have had one. But it’s an interesting point*.

    This and “Family” and “No Place Like Home” (in fact BtVS S-5 and the following Angel S-3 in general) show just how brilliant Joss can be on relationships and why I became such a serious fan back then; it also laid the roots for why I no longer am one.

    The whole “the women in *our* family have demon in them” makes little sense even as a lie, given women normally take the man’s name. Unless the Maclays have been “kaipin’ in the clan ivver since we coome oover froom the Heelands” or something (that’s the theory I use but other fans have different wanks on it.)

    “Fool For Love” is deceptively important; it shows just how much of a poseur Spike is (ie. almost 100%,) that he’s always had a buffoonish side, but also how much of a real man sort-of-is under it. (nit pick: In Victorian formal and poetic writing, “effulgent” was a perfectly normal word to use; but using “bulge in it” as oen word, sheesh. They would mock his style and clumsiness but probably not his word choice.)

    “Darla” helps us see just both how evil and how clever the title character can be, and that will be expanded on. But the Fanged Four as a group, what other Westerners could stride thru the Boxer Rebllion with such impunity. Plus brilliant use of a group shot to show the inner thoughts of the two hunks.
    About Darla’s clothing choice in the indoor China scenes, it’s obviosuly a hark-back to Angel’s comemnts about “kimonos” in BtVS S-1. Maybe I’m making too much of what I know about Victorian attitudes towards “going native,” but I don’t see even a vampire dressing like that then. (I don’t go along with Kathleen Tracy in the Girl’s Got Bite who said this represents a *change* in continuity, since the impression Buffy S-1 is that Angel and Darla had last seen in other during the Jazz Age. There’s nothing in “Darla” to indicate they might not have had a (brief?) later run-in in the 1920s or 30s or any other time.

    I don’t see why the question of Dawn’s having a soul should come up; the monk told Buffy Dawn is human and that’s part of the package. Makes me think of the debates over human cloning; there are legit questions on that but I don’t see the presence or absence of a soul as relevant.

    Someone elsewhere pointed out, Glory is joking with Buffy up until “Hands off my holy man” then she gets serious.

    Re the Chaos Demon; shows how Spike’s description in “Lovers’ Walk” was physically spot-on but ignored the fact that the demon was quite polite and civilized.

    the “dancing on air” scene (and none of the otehr patrons even noticing;) I love Tara so much.

    • Gill

      (nit pick: In Victorian formal and poetic writing, “effulgent” was a perfectly normal word to use; but using “bulge in it” as oen word, sheesh. They would mock his style and clumsiness but probably not his word choice.)

      I think there are many more nitpicks than that in those Victorian scenes – would any lady or gentleman of the period have used “bloody” in that sense in polite, mixed company? Even fifty years ago it was too rude to use in front of people! And there are several phrases/word uses that are simply wrong – they did not have “railroad spikes” in Victorian England, first because it was a railway not a railroad, and second because they didn’t use spikes as part of their construction methods. (I got this from a railway history nerd – yes, even they have their uses.) One can spend many hours explaining it all away, like Spike’s occasional slips in accent/stress or the bizarre invention of a blueberry scone, or just accept that sometimes the ME writing staff didn’t have time to Britpick their work. I think the word “effulgent” in the context of the poem is as bad as virtually all the other words; arguably they picked on the one “poetic” word used in such a bathetic context. Whatever, though, they were not true ladies or gentlemen. My favourite explanation is that it was a high-class brothel which William was too naive to recognise. [[[SPOILER OF A SORT] Perhaps some poor soul there had wished for vengeance or something…

      • Bob Kat

        Hmm, good idea about William not recognizing a brothel :-).

        As to blueberry scones, well, by the time of “the Prom” Giles had been livng in California (where they are apparently popular) for almost 3 years and Wesley for several months so perhaps (inside the Buffyverse) they’d both acquired a taste for them. But you’re right, the writers didn’t do that little extra bit of (outside the Buffyverse) research.

        Odd that British railways don’t use spikes.

        • Bob Kat

          However, **spoiler** I don’t think Cecily was Halfrek in disguise.

        • Gill

          See Skittledog, below, re the spikes.

          Despite the actual native Brit in the cast, ME writers quite often missed Britpicking detail. We should be grateful they did any, though, I suppose!

      • Aeryl

        Yes, the first but not last sighting of the lovely Cecily.


        I always thought she got into vengeance because her parents pressured her so much to make a “good” marriage, so she rejected Spike. Then, when she made that “good” marriage, it still didn’t work out, and she took it out on her parents, and many others, ahem.

      • skittledog

        Ugh, that ‘railroad’ thing has bugged me before. And yeah, Victorian England = almost as bizarre as C18th Ireland.

        Also, I work in the railway industry and can tell you we use ‘chairs’ or ‘clips’. Oh look, wikipedia knows everything:

        My favourite part about the whole ‘effulgent’ thing is that William comes up with it as a better option for ‘gleaming,’ because apparently nothing rhymes with gleaming. Um. Okay, ‘beaming’ might not make for stellar poetry, but I’m darn sure it’s better than ‘bulge in’t.’ 🙂

        • Gill

          Glad I’m not alone about the railroad spikes! And thanks for confirmation of that detail.

          William probably doesn’t think “Gleaming” is a poetic enough word. If you look at some real Victorian bad poetry (Swinburne – William’s soul-mentor) you’ll see much worse. Though I doubt any Victorian would have perpetrated the bad grammar of that other William poem, about the bird…

          • skittledog

            Hey, how had I never come across Swinburne before? I guess that’s what you get from English classes that focused on 20th century poets and ignored the Victorians… anyway, something new to check out there when I have the time. From a quick look, I’d say you are spot on in identifying him as someone William would aspire to be… though I’ve sometimes felt that Spike’s actual poetic talent level is closer to someone like William McGonagall. 😉

          • Gill

            @ Skittledog

            I have a degree in English, which is how I came across Swinburne and a lot of other feeble wannabeKeats Victorian poets. William wishes he could be as good as McGonagall! And it’s just possible I have written stories with William’s derivative wannabe poetry in them.

  16. jrc

    Thanks for the food for thought Myles. Fool for Love is my favourite Buffy episode, mainly due to the infinite ways to interpret it; and you’ve found one I’ve never thought of in comparing how the flashbacks work with Darla.

    I’ll echo some of the other comments here and say that I don’t think we need to take Spike’s claims about a Slayer’s death wish at face value. I always interpreted the line, “She really wanted it” as the rapist’s defense. Killing is always a sexual act for vampires and this is dripping (literally) on the sex/violence connection.

    For Spike to end his story this way completely undermines the sympathy his origin story earned him. Of course, this turn is then followed by further turns in the “you’re beneath me” comment, the murder plot, and then the sympathy. After devoting an episode to Spike’s past, we’re left with an even more ambiguous picture of who he is now.

  17. greg

    Anyone else wonder, when Spike asks” is there something I can do?” at the end of FFL, if Buffy is considering asking him to turn Joyce? Spike could kill her, turn her into a vampire, and then Willow could restore her soul.

    Presto – an immortal vampire with no health worries and no guilt issues! (as they could reensoul her before she kills anyone) Sure, she’d have problems with her job at the gallery now that she could only work at night, but I betcha she could find a way to deal with that.

    Is there really any reason NOT to want to be a vampire (assuming some conveniently nearby witch can restore your soul before you harm anyone else)?

    • Bob Kat

      greg; Well, I’m very fond of garlic. Seriously, it’s a very good question. One possible answer is that, there’s an on-going theme over on angel that a vmapire is always dealign with the tmeptation to feed on the living. If so, not to be taken lightly.

      • Eldritch

        Look, I’ll be honest with you. Recently, my doctor put me on a salt free diet. That really limits what you can eat.

        With that in mind, I just can’t imagine eating nothing but pig’s blood for the rest of eternity. ;-0

      • skittledog

        Reensouling does seem to be a bit of a tricky business (and not always as permanent as one might wish for). Also,


        Spike might possibly have some opinions to offer on the wisdom or otherwise of turning your mother into a vampire.

      • Gill

        Spike loves spicy food, so I don’t think garlic bothers him!

        • Eldritch

          “Spike loves spicy food, so I don’t think garlic bothers him!”

          That would be unusual for a vampire.

          • Gill

            Spike is unusual for a vampire. And he loves Blooming Onions so much I’m convinced he loves garlic too. Though neither mix with Weetabix.

  18. I agree with the general theme here: FFL is a super-fun episode, and Darla, while also fun, is more important to the development of AtS as a whole.

    I remember being BLOWN AWAY by the flashback revelations in the early eps of A2. Darla *brought* him the gypsy girl? So she also has some culpability, and it wasn’t 100% Angel’s fault, as I’d been thinking for years??? And there was a phase when he was re-ensouled, and he still hung around with his gang and killed people???!?!?!

    When I saw these eps for the first time, my friend said, in the FFL Boxer Rebellion scene, “Well, actually Angel already has his soul back here.” I was FURIOUS with the character, and it put all of Angel’s past history in an entirely new light.

  19. Tausif Khan

    There has been a lot already said. I will say this that Whedon intended to The Family to be kind of like what Objects in Space was for River an episode for her to show why she is a part of the group.

  20. skittledog

    I know that not everyone is following both sides of the project (which I can see in both stats and comments), so I do plan on avoiding lumping the two shows together when possible.

    I forgot to comment on this earlier. Given the spoilery conversations that have been going on, what you’ve got here is 95% people who know both shows quite encyclopaedically, and a few people who are having to be careful because they haven’t seen all of Angel. I’d say do a joint post where the shows complement each other and make a natural subject connection – which will be very rarely, from now on – but I wouldn’t worry that you’re forcing Buffy people to read Angel thoughts or vice versa. You just appear to have an audience that is slightly more keen to discuss the Buffy side of things (which is par for the course in the Whedonfanverse, and I’m happy in my status as statistical anomaly ;).

    But this pair of episodes, together with the Faith stuff in s1, is as Gill said the main reason to watch the shows side by side anyway. After this it really doesn’t matter so much – there are some plot connections but fewer thematic/atmospheric links between the two shows.

    • Bob Kat

      Myles: Yes, for example there is a connection between “Crush” and “Disharmony” but it’s purely chronological and doesn’t affect how you watch either episode. But I do suggest watching B-5-22 before you watch A-2-22.

      • skittledog

        Yes, that would be a bit of an odd moment otherwise. In news of much later seasons, finishing Buffy s7 before starting Angel s5 is wise. In every other case, I think we can pretty much fill in any plot you’ve missed if you need it and it won’t affect your enjoyment of either show. I alternated seasons of each show from here on, and I don’t think it made any difference to me at all.

      • lyvvie

        But some comments are made in ‘Crush’ as to shocking events that have yet to occur in Angel as of 2×07, so I wouldn’t suggest Myles stops watching side-by-side just yet.

        Personally I enjoy reading the reviews side-by-side still.

    • Yes. After this there is very little reason to watch the shows side-by-side, until MUCH later.

      • greg

        except for the end of this season. No one should ever watch the Angel season 2 finale until they’ve seen the Buffy season 5 finale. Not that it’s likely that anyone would, but it is important.

        Also there’s a slight non-essential crossover mid-way through Buffy’s ‘Forever’ episode that can be kinda awkward to work with considering what’s happening over in LA.

        • Well, okay, you have a point about the B5/A2 finales.

          However, my strongest argument for NOT watching the shows concurrently is the last three eps of B5 compared with the last three eps of A2. I can’t imagine trying to actually alternate those.

          • skittledog

            I don’t even know which would suffer more from trying to – they’re both very ott in very different ways.

            I’m unsure exactly how spoiled you’d be for the end of B5 by that scene – but then, the end of B5 never meant as much to me as it does to others anyway. (I only like it for the problems it causes in B6, really.) So yeah, probably best to stop watching A2 at Epiphany, blitz through the end of B5 on its own and then return to do the same with what remains of A2.

            (Wow: I never noticed before that those last scenes of both Reprise and I Was Made To Love You aired on the same night. That would be one hell of a mood gut punch.)

    • mothergunn

      skittledog, I’m with you. While BtVS is amazing, and much more representative of why we love the ‘verse, I also think AtS is a better show. The narrative is more complex, the themes are much darker, and while BtVS has never made me cry, there is that one ep of AtS waaaaay later that makes me more than a little glossy every time I watch it.

    • Gill

      I think “encyclopaedically” may be an understatement there! I think you’re right, though – the commenters all seem very aware of events in BtVS, even if they know AtS less well. I think people are being superhuman in their efforts to avoid spoiling Myles, though inevitably some clues seep out. And the sheer intelligence of Myles’s newbie take on the show makes it worthwhile. Imagine if he’d hated it, though!

      • skittledog

        We’d all just be somewhere else on the internet talking about how great it is anyway. 🙂 (Though he’d probably have a whole bunch of other commenters…)

        I think “encyclopaedically” may be an understatement there!

        Eh, I’m a Brit. Understatement’s what we do. 😉

        • Gill

          Eh, I’m a Brit. Understatement’s what we do.

          Same here. Hyperbole isn’t in our nature. 😉

          I’m usually to be found in several places on the internet talking about how good it is. Especially Live Journal, where there’s a pretty passionate community, and elsewhere. Somehow it never gets old.

          • skittledog

            Ah, I was trying to judge by time zone and failing. Jolly good. 😉

            I’m only a peripheral member of Whedony fandom, but am a member of a completely different online fandom (well, small messageboard) where people who also love these shows reside, including my best friend who convinced me to try them in the first place. We talk about tv a ridiculous amount and yet still, after 5 years, every few weeks one of us will realise that we are somehow discussing Angel again… 🙂

          • Anna

            Skittledog, can you tell me where this heaven is? It’s a shame Angel doesn’t generate as much discussion as Buffy, because I think it deserves to. That’s why I’m very eager to start reading Literary Angel.

  21. Becker

    Mini-notes as I must go back offline again for the next few weeks (aka go home).

    1) Family would have been a lot better had Joss not be writing the next day’s scenes between shots. The start was delayed a day due to a complete lack of a script, which gave him the weekend to get the first day fully written. Which really truly led to Amber and the cast not knowing if she was evil or not until the day they shot that scene. As such, I’ve never been much of a fan of it.

    2) Darla was great and you would never know it, but it was the directing debut of Tim Minear. He did an awesome job with that.

    3) I never really thought of Fool for Love as being unnecessary, but I get where you were coming from and I think your assessment is spot on. It was fantastic to watch then, and really interesting in retrospect as well.

    4) I had more thoughts but I’ve been up for 22 hours now. My mind isn’t connecting those thoughts.

    5) I had to go to the Buffy set (100 foot walk) to deliver David and Julie scripts one day during this crossover filming (some scenes from each episode were actually shot by the other director) and this guy walks up to me and is talking to me, it wasn’t until he mentioned something about one of his solo shows at a club that I realized I was talking to James Marsters. It was the mine shaft scene where he had dark hair. He didn’t let me live that down for a little while. At the time, James was just starting to play occasional club gigs at a place called 14Below in Santa Monica, before the Buffy fan crowds would surround the building and long before Ghost of the Robot.

  22. Pingback: Cultural Catchup Project: Fighting the War (Angel) « Cultural Learnings

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