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From Slayage.com

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

A Little Less Ritual

By Daniel Erenberg

Thursday 30 January 2003, by Webmaster

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?