3.08. Lovers Walk
This season so far has been rather lackluster, but this episode is a big improvement. It used the magical trick for making everything more exciting: Spike is back - if just for one episode. It's a very funny episode that first introduces us to Pathetic!Drunk!Spike, but it’s also the episode with a lot of relationship pain. Spike comes back to Sunnydale, moping over his breakup with Drusilla, wreaks havoc, (un)intentionally makes Scoobies reveal some things to each other, starts feeling better about himself and leaves everyone unhappy. The love quadrangle finally gets a resolution, which is a real relief – and much as I dislike this storyline, it’s rather well resolved.
The title is actually Lovers Walk
, not Lover’s Walk
. See the original script
. According to Wikipedia, „the introduction to Rhonda Wilcox's Why Buffy Matters says, "the script apparently does not carry an apostrophe, by the way--making for a short, sad, declarative sentence for a title."
The episode opens with the Scoobies learning the results of their SAT tests: Buffy had a great result, Willow did very really but as an overachiever she feels she’s failed, Cordy did quite good, too – but she’s good at hiding her academic success from her peers so she wouldn’t appear nerdy, and Xander did as badly as everyone expects him to. Cordy thinks it’s great because Buffy can leave Sunnydale and never come back.“What moron would want to come back here?” Good question. Why do people even want to live there? The prices of real estate must be ridiculously low. Still, it doesn’t explain why rich families like Cordy’s would want to live there.
But Buffy isn’t happy she got a good result – it makes her think about her future, which is something she never did up until this point, since she never thought she had one. This statement carries more weight than „Buffy didn’t think she had a great academic future“; as a Slayer, she’s expected to die young, and this must always be in the back of her mind. Her mother reminds her she always says she wants normal life, away from Hellmouth and vampires, but Buffy isn’t enthusiastic about it. Buffy isn’t happy with the suggestion that Faith might take over her Slayer duties while she goes off to college – and this is the explanation I’m sticking with. But the way the episode cuts to Angel after Joyce asks Buffy is anything is keeping her in Sunnydale, and their later conversation, seems like we’re supposed to think that Buffy has a problem leaving Sunnydale because of Angel? Which doesn’t make sense. He’s a vampire who has no job and no residence, who’s moved to Sunnydale to be near her – he can sure move again, since there’s nothing keeping him there. He’s just squatting in the big vaguely Gothic mansion that we know from S2. Maybe that’s why people want to live in Sunnydale, even homeless unemployed folks can live in big, lavishly furnished mansions.
Willow and Xander are feeling really guilty about their cheating, particularly when their significant others show signs of love (Cordy has pictures of Xander on her locker room door, while Oz gives Willow a little PEZ witch). Willow decides to do something drastic about it, and decides to use magic and buy a de-lusting spell in a local magic shop. When Xander finds out, he objects to it, but not on the grounds that it’s wrong to use magic to violate people’s minds, but that it’s dangerous and unpredictable. At least he’s learned something from his experience with the love spell gone wrong in Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
, even if it wasn’t the right lesson.
And then things go really, really wrong thanks to Spike.
He’s introduced before the credits, in a way that parallels his introduction in season 2: back then it was set up with the warnings that trouble is about to come; this time the setup is Cordy’s line “What kind of moron would ever want to come back here?”. He knocks down the Sunnydale sign with his car, just as he did in School Hard
, and mumbles the same line, “Home, sweet home”. But instead of his badass introduction in that episode, this time he falls out of the car, very drunk. This episode is the first time Spike is used as a comedy character – he was always funny, but in season 2 it wasn’t his primary role, and he was just the one making jokes, often about Angel. This time he’s a joke himself – this is the beginning of Spike as the Wacky Neighborhood Vampire that we’ll see throughout season 4.
With his violent mood swings, however, his portrayal in this episode reminds me more of season 5 Spike – as when he’s stumbling through the mansion, tenderly stroking one of Drusilla’s dolls and talking to it as if it’s Dru herself: “Why did you leave me, baby? We were so happy here” only to smash it the next moment, shouting “YOU STUPID, WORTHLESS BITCH!” (This makes me think of his behavior with the Buffy mannequin in season 5.) After a few scenes of Spike stumbling drunkenly through the mansion and mumbling how he’s going to show Angel who’s a “cool guy”, he manages to fall through the door and fall asleep, and wakes up with his hair on fire. He then goes to a magic shop to ask for curse to give Angel blisters or leprosy (!) and after overhearing Willow asking for a recipe for a spell, gets the idea to use her to cast a love spell for Drusilla for him. After killing the magic shop owner for food (those magic owners can’t catch a break – the previous time we saw one, in Passion
, he was killed by Dru), he kidnaps Willow and Xander, who just happened to be there. This episode, for the most part, strikes a good balance between Spike being silly, sentimental and dangerous, and the best example is the scene in which Spike tells the terrified Willow what he needs from her, then goes on to talk to her about Dru and literally cry on her shoulder, and then suddenly gets the desire to bite/rape her (vampire biting often has sexual connotations, but this time they’re explicit in Spike’s wording “I haven’t had a woman
in weeks… except that shop owner”, and Willow panics and protests that she’ll do the spell but “there won’t be having
of any kind”).
And somehow he’s still likeable… and incredibly sexy.
It’s funny that Angel, who is himself a very attractive guy, has been shirtless or naked in almost every episode this season (this is actually the first episode this season in which Angel has his clothes on the entire time), but no episode of season 3 has made me hot and bothered until (fully-clothed!) Spike came back.
Some of the hilarious moments: when Spike goes into Buffy’s house to find the ingredients for Willow’s spell and ends up drinking hot chocolate with Joyce and using her as a shoulder to cry on (this time not literally). Spike seems to really like Joyce’s motherly attitude – it makes sense that he was a momma’s boy as a human. Another funny moment is when Angel appears at the door asking be let in, trying to warn Joyce about Spike, and Spike taunts Angel, pretending like he’s going to bite Joyce. Joyce’s confusion is understandable – the last time she saw Spike, he was Buffy’s ally, and the two of them were planning to kill Angel. How is she supposed to know which one is ‘good’ and which one evil on any given day – when Buffy is not telling her about what’s going on in her life? Or for that matter, when Buffy didn’t ask Willow to disinvite Spike (She calls him on not keeping his promise, but was she really relying on him to do so?). Spike blackmails Buffy into not staking him by telling her she won’t find out where her friends are, and they agree to go to the magic shop with him so he could have Willow do the spell for him first. Buffy keeps arguing with Spike and mocking him, which makes them look more like two kids than as mortal enemies – another thing in this episode that sets the template for season 4. Yet another one is the show deriving humor from Spike’s habit of making casual or nostalgic remarks about the people he murdered in the past, such as when he says he gave Dru beautiful dresses with beautiful girls in them, or when he reminisces about the happy memory of him and Dru killing a homeless man. (I’m quite fond of this fanfic
that makes the point of fleshing out these people from Spike’s stories – just to keep things in perspective. It’s easy to dismiss off-screen deaths of people we’ve never met.)
In lots of ways, Spike’s character didn’t change that much; he underwent a huge development throughout the show, but essentially, he’s a romantic, he’s passionate, he loves fighting and violence, and he follows his heart. His views about love are remarkably similar in S3 and in S6 – it’s just that the way the show treated him changed. The same things that are portrayed as funny and amusing in LW when it's about him and Dru, supporting character and wacky vampires, and then those same views seem deeply disturbing as we watch his relationship with Buffy in S6. (Though he did show some progress – in S6 he was offended by the idea he would use a love spell on Buffy.) He’s disappointed that Dru didn’t do something passionate like cut his head off and set him on fire („I mean, is that too much to ask? You know? Some little sign that she cared?") „You always hurt the one you love“, as he’ll say in S6, right after Buffy smashed his face. At the end of Lovers Walk
, he decides that he is going to get Dru is to be the man she fell in love with – tie her, torture her until she likes him again. Presumably, without her consent - since they're not in a relationship now. That idea isn't that far from trying to get Buffy to want him again by raping her to make her 'feel' it again.
also first casts Spike in the role of “truth-teller” – when he says “Love isn't brains, children, it's blood...blood screaming inside you to work its will." It’s a great line and it’s true that love isn’t something you can choose to feel or not feel. But it’s really just a part of the truth - it’s not all that love is. This makes me think of a future exchange in Seeing Red
where Spike says “great love is wild and passionate and dangerous, it burns and consumes” while Buffy insists that this kind of love doesn’t last and that real love involves trust (which was a notable change from her old views of love – in S2 she told Angel “I love you, I don’t know if I trust you”). It’s only after he gets his soul back that Spike will start realizing that love can also be constructive and that it’s not all about passion and people hurting each other.
He gives Buffy and Angel the famous „You’re not friends“ speech, making them realize that they’re lying to themselves. However, I find it funny that some fans use this speech as ’evidence’ that B/A will always be in love with each other. Spike’s opinions
are just that, not gospel truths. He’s right about some things, and wrong about others (especially when he’s biased, and in this case, he’s projecting his Drusilla issues – he’s disappointed that she said she wanted to remain friends with him) – and it’s impossible for him to always have been right about everything, since he changed his opinions so many times. He’s right that Buffy and Angel were still very much in love, and being friends with your ex you're still in love with doesn't work. But that presuming that two people will always be in love is a bit too much. He also talks about his and Drusilla's “eternal” love, and we know how that turned out.
The Mayor has a brief appearance and we learn two things: that he has sold his soul – which he mentions casually as a joke during a game of golf – and that he thought of Spike as just an amusing nuisance in S2, but he doesn’t want a “loose cannon” to endanger his super important plans this year. He orders Mr. Trick to solve the problem – which he does by sending a bunch of vampires (including at least one of Spike's former lackeys) to kill Spike. Spike, Buffy and Angel end up fighting the vampires together. (This remains the only time the 3 of them ever fought on the same side.) At one point Buffy even warns him about a shelf that was about to fall on him. Spike openly enjoys the fun of the fight, and it’s what makes Spike regain the confidence and good mood. He leaves after confirming where Willow and Xander are.
This is the first out of the many occasions when we have to wonder “Why didn’t Buffy stake Spike?”
– apart from the obvious Doylist answer that he had the Popular character immunity. My fanwank is that she knows him too well to see him as a non-person the way she does the nameless vamps she stakes all the time, so it would be uncomfortable to stake him at times such as after they’ve just fought together or after having received relationship advice of sorts. But I have no explanation for the even more puzzling question “Why didn’t they disinvite him from Buffy’s home?”
IIRC, he was still able to come to her house without an invitation in S4.
Meanwhile, Oz and Cordy rush to save Willow and Xander, only to catch them kissing. The soap opera trope of being caught kissing, usually by the people who least want to see it, strikes again. They kissed because they thought they were going to die, but I think that Xander’s excuse that it’s OK to do it in “impending death situations” is a load of bull. (Yes, people in the verse often get romantic in the face of death, but it only happens with couples that already have romantic feelings for each other.) Shocked Cordy runs away and falls, accidentally impaling herself on a piece of rebar. The show plays with the viewers’ emotions cruelly with a fake-out made to make them think Cordy died – there’s a cut to someone’s funeral, until we see it’s just some random funeral (it’s Sunnydale, there’s certainly no shortage of funerals), and Cordy is in hospital, getting better.
In the end, everyone is unhappy: Willow realizes that she really just wants to be with Oz, while Xander is only interested in getting Cordy back. Buffy realizes that she and Angel were never and can’t ever be friends, and decides to make the final break with Angel. As in I Only Have Eyes For You
, she tells him “Tell me you don’t love me” but this time it’s to make the point that they can’t be friends while they’re in love with each other. It’s a really touching and fitting ending to their relationship.
… Except it’s not, since the two of them go on to get back together soon and break up a few more times until the end of the season.
How does this episode work for the theory about Spike’s “badass decay” in later seasons, usually identified as “after he fell in love with Buffy”? We’ve seen in my 2 reviews that Spike had very mixed results in this area in season 2. In this episode, he reached the nadir – I don’t think he’s ever, in all of BtVS and AtS, been as pathetic as in the first 30 or so minutes of LW (except for season 4 Doomed
, the episode where he wanted to stake himself because of the chip). He spends crying and whining to everyone about his cheating girlfriend who dumped him. Buffy calls him “a shell of a loser”. He becomes ‘badass’ only in the end when come when he gets the chance to fight.
Spike: I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.
One of the most memorable and most quoted lines in the show – but usually quoted with missing the point. Every time I see it mentioned, it's to bring up how Spike is "love's bitch" while ignoring the more important part of the quote: "man enough to admit it". In that scene, he's calling Buffy and Angel on trying to deny that they're in love. The episode revolves around love and people doing stupid, bad and wrong things out of love. The whole point of this episode is that they're all love's bitches, but most of them don't want to admit it. (This line reminds me of another one from a few episodes ago – Dr Platt’s advice to Buffy, in Beauty and the Beasts
: „Love becomes your master, and you’re just its dog.“ Buffy did go on to became a person who kept her feelings much closer to the chest and at least tried
never to let herself be love's dog again.) Spike is different because he embraces those emotions instead to trying to fight against them. It's that juxtaposition of „bitch“ and „man enough“, with pride in what others might find shameful, that sums up Spike's character. He’s reckless with his heart, and it doesn’t always end up well for him, or for those around him.
Spike certainly thinks they’re one and the same, since he’s accusing Angel of driving Dru from him, says that the last time he saw Buffy and Angel, they were fighting each other to the death. His reaction to the info that Angel has his soul back is to ask him when he became all soulful again. Angel is still a bit of a dick to Spike, telling him that Dru is just fickle and doesn’t care about him; the former is true, but I really don’t think the latter is.
Spike’s nicknames for Angel: “Peaches” and “great poof”.
Spike’s clothes never change – he’s still wearing the duster and black and red shirt underneath. Willow wears pink angorra sweater that Spike finds her attractive in, as he told her later in The Initiative
after another, unsuccessful kill/rape attempt.
Pop culture references:
Spike sings “My Way” and later leaves Sunnydale playing “My Way” by Sid Vicious (actually, because of copyright issues, it’s by Gary Oldman playing Sid in Sid and Nancy
). Angel is reading La Nausée
("Nausea") by Jean-Paul Sartre, one of Joss’ favorite books. Disappointed with her SAT results, Willow compares herself to Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel from The Simpsons
Drusilla liking to be tied up and tortured is consistent with S2 (remember her line about the branding iron in What’s My Line II).
But I suppose the sign of Spike going ’soft’ might have been that he was just doing it when she wanted
him to. But soulless vampires don't have the same ideas about consent that we do (see also: Angel/Darla in Reprise
), so it might work on Dru.
This is the first time we see Willow's disturbing tendency to use spells changing people's feelings and/or memories to make her life easier. Cordy will indeed leave Sunnydale and never come back.
BtVS does a lot of what someone called ’retroforeshadowing’ – rather than deliberately foreshadowing something in the future episodes, the writers look back and build on something that came before. A lot of the Spike scenes in LW feel that way. BtVS also often has line callbacks, and Spike's last line in this episode gets a most awesomely meaningful callback in season 6:
(Spike's last words in the episode before walking away, after he's decided to get Dru back by finding her, tying her up and torturing her)
Love's a funny thing.
(in the 'conflicted Spike' scene in the crypt after you-know-what)
Clem: Love's a funny thing.
Spike: Is that what this is?