Buffy 2×03: School Hard

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon | Director: John T. Kretchmer | Aired: 09/29/1997]

After the thematically interesting but somewhat boring “Some Assembly Required” [2×02], it’s a joy to see the show rebound with a strong outing in “School Hard.” This is an energetic episode with the show’s new big villain, Spike, as the centerpiece. The other characters take a back seat for this one, but there are still plenty of goodies hiding in the details. These numerous character details help keep this from being an otherwise straightforward plot-heavy episode with little immediate fallout.

There’s no point in trying to delay discussion of the highlight of “School Hard”: Spike and Drusilla’s introduction. Simply put: they steal the show. These vampire lovers inject a powerful energy and newfound excitement into the world of Buffy the likes of which the show has never had before. As far as character introductions go, Spike fares better than Drusilla (who, of course, will get more to do later in the season), which works out for me due to how important he will eventually become to the show.

Spike comes crashing into town, knocking over the “Welcome to Sunnydale” sign. It’s safe to say that Sunnydale, Buffy, and Buffy will never be the same thanks to Spike. “Home sweet home” are Spike’s first words on the show, and they’re more true than Spike could possibly comprehend at this point. He soon makes fun of a vampire boasting about being at the crucifixion (“It would have been like Woodstock”). This is hilarious and a lot of fun. Spike just oozes intrigue and charisma in a way that no other villain thus far has come close to. James Marsters clearly has an excellent grasp on this character from the get-go.

Beyond great acting and a lot of charisma, what makes Spike such an interesting character, exactly? Well, I feel it’s because he’s full of contradictions. He’s a badass, ruthless vampire that softens considerably around those he cares about; he’s a tactical, smart fighter that often lets impulsiveness get the better of him; he’s driven by blood in sex, war, and love. Best of all? He’s capable of transformation. This is something we will see of him within the confines of Season 2 but even more so later in the show. The fact all of these traits — some more subtly than others — are established in his very first episode is an indicator of a writer who has a love of complex characters. I wonder who wrote this episode… oh wait, of course, it’s Joss Whedon (with co-writer David Greenwalt)!

“School Hard” gives us a lot of chew on regarding Spike, and it uses a variety of methods to disseminate it all. Sure there are some interesting tidbits gained through exposition (from Giles and Spike himself), like knowing he’s killed two slayers, but the juiciest stuff lies in the… wait for it… details. “School Hard” is jam-packed with sexual subtext, but perhaps even more interesting is that Spike simply doesn’t do what’s expected of him as a villain (“it’s time for a little less ritual, and a little more fun around here!”) — he won’t be shackled by old rules and rituals.

This notion of subverting the societal expectation thrust on you feels kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Well, it should, because it’s exactly what makes Buffy such a special slayer, and person. Both Buffy and Spike subvert these expectations and they play by their own set of rules. They are equally matched rivals in the truest sense, which puts them on opposite sides of a level playing field. It’s because of this very connection that Spike turns out to not be the real villain of the season, but instead ends up actually helping Buffy in the end. This thematic link between the two of them is no accident — they are counterparts.

Early in “School Hard” Drusilla cuts Spike’s left cheek, eventually leaving a red streak of dried blood on it. Later in the episode we curiously see Buffy with a red streak of dried paint on the exact same spot of her cheek. If this isn’t symbolic of their connection, both as adversaries (blood as violence) and — much later — as lovers (blood as sex), then I don’t what is. At minimum, it’s further evidence that they won’t be able to stay out of each others’ lives for very long.

Being in Season 2 it’s of no surprise that Spike’s entrance comes with a jolt of sexual energy. In Spike and Drusilla we see a villainous counterpart to all of the other couplings that are trying to form this season. Right from her first scene Drusilla can sense that Buffy is a danger to her relationship with Spike, saying, “I can’t see her, Spike. It’s dark where she is.” Drusilla will later tell her dolls that Miss Edith needs to be punished because she “spoke out of turn.” Is that not what Buffy does throughout the show: metaphorically speak out of turn? Drusilla does not like Buffy one bit, nor her effect on Spike.

This all brings us to the scorching dance scene at the Bronze. What is with Season 2 and intense dance scenes? Whatever it is, I love it! Spike’s expressions here are so multi-faceted and can be read into far more with knowledge of how the show eventually plays out. Take a moment to recognize that the very first time Spike sees Buffy she is not fighting, but dancing. Now transport yourself to this exchange in “Fool for Love” [5×07]: Buffy asks Spike, “You think we’re dancing?” Spike quickly responds, “That’s all we’ve ever done.”

Spike’s first impression of Buffy could be best characterized as ‘awe.’ His mouth is gaping open as if he is without words to express just how taken he is at the sight of her. You might even say that this is — initially — a childlike awe without menace or sexual intent. But as soon as the song — which is very forshadowy — picks up, his expression morphs into that of a predator with definite sexual undertones. Spike is allured by Buffy, attracted to her, and wants to devour her. He’s so affected by her that he needs an extra second to snap himself out of the moment. Only then does he finally get down to the business of testing her skill — a smart thing to do. Having a villain be so forthcoming in his intentions is quite refreshing. This is a marvelous scene that hints at so much about Spike’s character without spelling it out. Knowing what’s ahead for these characters makes this moment absolutely thrilling.

If the scene at the Bronze is loaded with sexual energy, then the scene in the school hallway between the two of them doubles down. “I smell the blood of a nice ripe girl,” Spike says, implying that he knows Buffy is on her period. Oh, but that’s just the start! Then the barrage of double entendres from the two of them start to fly! We’ve got weapons making Spike feel “all manly” while holding a pole. Then there’s Spike saying, “As a favor from me to you, I’ll make it quick. It won’t hurt a bit,” which has a definite virgin vibe directed at Buffy. He likely wants to have sex with her almost as much as he wants to feed off her, both of which will be developed in the seasons to come. Buffy’s response to all this is equally heated and prophetic: “No, Spike, it’s gonna hurt a lot.” Wow. All of the scenes that Buffy and Spike share in “School Hard” are packed with subtext, prophecy, and tension. There’s some wonderful writing at work here, and it’s a joy to see.

“School Hard” is very focused on Spike, and although no other character gets the spotlight it doesn’t mean there aren’t any interesting… details. Take the scene where Buffy is fighting a vampire outside the Bronze while she commands Xander to find her a stake. Xander rummages through Buffy’s purse frantically looking for the object in question. Before finding what he’s looking for, though, he fumbles through a yo-yo (a remnant of Buffy’s childhood), a tampon (an indicator of Buffy’s sexual awakening ), and then finally a stake (the object that will lead her to adulthood).

Not only do these objects hint of Buffy’s larger character trajectory, but Xander’s reactions to them give us an idea about where he’s at too. It’s interesting that he shows indifference to Buffy’s yo-yo (i.e. her childhood, just as he did to her trauma in “When She Was Bad” [2×01]) yet treats her tampon like a hot potato. Right now Xander is terrified of female sexuality as much as he is attracted to it, which is probably why his relationship with Cordelia will turn out to be so childish. In a less than 30 second sequence we get a ton of character detail and a hefty chuckle, something few (if any) shows can match with this amount of ease. Simply wonderful.

Another detail I appreciated was the emotional insight into how Buffy feels about her life right now. Buffy rightly points out (in private) that she already has a job, unbeknownst to her mother. To hear Joyce say that she doesn’t want to be disappointed in Buffy again is heartbreaking. Buffy feels helpless to the circumstances of her life right now, and has people imposing their authority on her from all sides. There’s Snyder at school, Giles at work, and her mother at home. The pros and cons of these pillars of authority just so happens to be one of the major themes of Season 3! Cheers for subtle thematic setup!

The final scene in “School Hard” is glorious in more ways the one. The Anointed One represented eternal childhood, but because Buffy has chosen to accept — albeit begrudgingly — her destiny, he no longer holds any power over her. This is why he’s seen outsourcing to other vampires and ends up becoming burnt toast by the end of the episode. It’s awesome to see Spike torch such a boring character and then go watch TV with Dru. What a surprising and thrilling moment! This is yet another indicator that the show’s improvement is here to stay!

There’s a whole lot to love about “School Hard.” Probably its weakest aspect, and where its title comes from (re: Die Hard), is that it devolves into a bit of a toothless action movie in its last half or so. It’s all adequately done and holds my attention alright, but it takes up quite a bit of the episode without delivering much in the way of payoff. Since this turns into more of an action outing than an emotional one, my investment in its conclusion isn’t nearly as high as it otherwise would be. This takes a bit of the sheen off an otherwise fabulous episode, but it’s a small price to pay considering how much character insight we get.

“School Hard” is a brilliant introduction vehicle for Spike, who will turn into one of the most complex and fascinating characters in Buffy‘s seven season run. Action movie instincts aside, we get an episode packed with character detail, thematic setup, several standout scenes, and a whole lot of fun. We have another winner!

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Parent-Teacher night at the school represents one of Buffy’s biggest challenges in the early years: trying to keep the disparate aspects of her life separated from each other in a futile attempt at normalcy.
+ It’s harsh that Buffy gets lumped into the same category as a girl who stabbed a teacher. Being blamed for something you’re not really responsible for always sucks, which is something Buffy constantly has to put up with.
+ It’s interesting that the moment Drusilla walks in — while Spike is bragging — he stops himself, switches back into his human face, and shows concern and kindness towards his partner. This is a twisted but loving couple, which is yet another thing we haven’t yet seen out of vampires on the show before (the Angel/Darla history is mentioned in Season 1 though).
+ The synchronized face turn that Spike and Dru do is just glorious. It’s both creepy and cool.
+ Drusilla is somewhat childlike here, what with the white dress and all, due to her injury. It’s interesting to watch how she changes when she gets healed up in “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10].
+ Buffy’s pathetic attempt at chopping a large zucchini (or possibly cucumber) is hilarious.
+ Cordelia slamming Xander’s dating life is highly amusing considering their mutual future.
+ Willow punishing Cordelia by suggesting she drinks Buffy’s tasteless lemonade. Haha.
+ Drusilla is incredibly creepy, but no more so than when she takes out Sheila. Yikes!
+ The score in this episode continues to showcase Christophe Beck’s impact on the show’s improving presentation.
+ Joyce being proud of her daughter’s resourcefulness is a nice coda to the action, but it’s far from permanent.
+ Snyder knowing more about the happenings of the town than we initially suspected is an awesome development. It creates more intrigue and utility out of him while helping to lay the groundwork for the plot and themes of Season 3. Great stuff.
+ Cordelia doesn’t get much to do in this episode, but her offhand comment, “Unless it’s that time of the month,” alludes to Buffy’s implied period during the episode.
+ David Boreanaz’s acting has definitely improved since “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01], but it’s still not that good. He barely sells the scenes he has to share with James Marsters. The acting gap between these two couldn’t be farther at this point.


Foreshadowing

* The song that plays at the Bronze when Spike first lays eyes on Buffy is called “Stupid Thing” by Nickel. The lyrics basically spell out what Spike will do later in the episode, but also in later seasons. They’re generally insightful towards Spike’s personality as well: “I did a stupid thing last night, I called you. A moment of weakness. No, not a moment, more like three months of weakness. I’m one step away from crashing to my knees. One step away from spilling my guts to you.”
* “In a few week’s time…the stars will align, and smile down on us.” Spike brought Drusilla to the Hellmouth to restore her strength. They need to wait for the stars to align a certain way in order to help her. This line is a setup for their plans which begin with the stealing of one of Giles’ books in “Lie to Me” [2×07], then stealing the decoder cross in “What’s My Line? Pt. 1” [2×09], and then the execution of the actual ritual in “What’s My Line? Pt. 2” [2×10].
* Spike shows disgust that Angel has appeared to switch sides, saying “you Uncle Tom!” This is ironic considering that Spike will be the one helping Buffy by the end of the season.
* Spike pointing out that Buffy’s “family and friends” weren’t “in the brochure” is very astute. This is something specific to Buffy that will give her strength in the years to come and separate her from other slayers.


[Score]

93/100

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65 thoughts on “Buffy 2×03: School Hard”

  1. [Note: Chebonne posted this comment on December 1, 2006.]

    God, I love this episode. When Spike walks in it’s like he injects vitality right into the metaphorical vein of the show. the music in the beginning SHOULD be really annoying, but to me what really makes the difference is how the guy walks.

    It’s the swagger. What can a poor girl do?

    One thing that irritates me a little and is a point on which I must disagree with you. You think that Spike is in character already from the beginning, but I don’t think so. All his singsong things are a little over the top, and that sounds more like Dru than Spike, who is mean but in my opinion also very grounded. I can handle the “Slaaayer. Here, kitty, kitty” but the “Fee fo fi fum” is just… weird.

    On the whole though, I agree with you. I really love Dru, she looks almost elven in this episode, like some sort of mythical character, and she’s absolutely beautiful. (Or is it elfin in normal English, and Elven is from Tolkien?)

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  2. [Note: Nix posted this comment on May 27, 2007.]

    Excellent episode.

    The only off thing that I noticed was that Spike’s English accent, never perfect, was very *very* wobbly in his first long scene: the accent wavers even more than normal, his speech is terribly carefully enunciated (especially in the Woodstock bit; someone with that accent should slur quite a bit more), and the word choice is just insane; e.g. if I heard someone say `chop her into messes’ I’d wonder if they had brain damage. Not even in Glasgow do they talk that oddly, let alone in London.

    Part of this is explained away in _Fool for Love_ by Spike’s accent being a put-on, but even that doesn’t explain his odd word choice. (Of course it’s *actually* explained by the English accent itself being adopted; obviously Marsters wasn’t comfortable with it in this scene. But that’s not an explanation we’re supposed to have to dig out.)

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  3. [Note: -x posted this comment on June 21, 2007.]

    wow. i simply love this episode!

    LIKE COME ON!the intro of Spike. hee totally wants buffy! love this episode. its simply the best.CANT GET ENOUGH OF DRUSILLA. simply love the line..
    “Do you like Daisies?”

    Shit yeah i love the “almost kiss” AND THEN they turn and spike goes “Me and dru. we’re movin’ in”

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  4. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 9, 2007.]

    This episode is just amazing! Spike and Drusilla are great villains. Spike walks in and changes the rules of the game (and of the series) for the rest of the season. Drusilla is very creepy,I love her. I also love Synder here, very funny. What more can I say? I love this episode.

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  5. [Note: gabrielleabelle posted this comment on November 6, 2007.]

    I’m probably the lone person in the world that never really liked Angel’s character. Way too broody. When first watching the series, I was enjoying it alright, but it was this episode with the introduction of Spike (and Dru) that made me a fan. Throughout the rest of the series, Spike remained (and remains) my favorite character. It’s great to see him in full bad-ass mode before he gets all chipped.

    I’m loving your reviews, btw. 🙂

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  6. [Note: Tony posted this comment on April 15, 2008.]

    So weird, I never realized that Snyder was talking about the school being burned down was from the episode before. I just assumed it was before the series when she burned down the gym (the movie).

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  7. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    ‘YOU THINK YOU CAN FOOL ME? YOU WERE MY SIRE MAN MY YODA’ I heard Joss say in an interview once(S5 extras i think) that ‘sire’ can mean anyone in your bloodline, he said it as if thats what he always intended but hes lying, he def meant for Angel to be Spikes sire but just changed his mind. Also Spike was supposed to be killed in this ep but they liked marsters so much they kept him on.

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  8. [Note: a hungry little kitty posted this comment on July 22, 2008.]

    This episode is just marvellous and definitely in my Top10 of BtVS.

    A small thing: it’s so sweet how when Dru is telling to the Annoying One & others her “Do you like daisies?” speech then Spike is watching this with the very careful look that says: “I know damn well she’s crazy but if one of you dares to laugh or act that she’s weird I’ll kill you all”. It’s also quite telling detail about Spike to my mind that the instant he turns to Drusilla his vamp-face disappears. I think there’s something human in the way he loves.
    Anyhow, these two really are wonderful multi-dimensional villains. And James Marsters is such a great actor.

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  9. [Note: Paula posted this comment on September 2, 2008.]

    I agree with Mike on that first Spike scene showing him 100% in character, but as for (all) the rest of the episode, perhaps not so much.

    But one of the things about this show that you just have to accept in order to be able to fully enjoy it is that it was a work in process. Few things were thoroughly thought out by the time they were introduced, and even if they were, minds got changed later. It makes things somewhat inconsistent, but I can live with it – hey, anything that made it possible to keep Spike on the show for pretty much the rest of the run instead of just a few episodes is more than fine with me! 🙂

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  10. [Note: Paula posted this comment on November 8, 2008.]

    I re-watched this last night on my second round of the whole show. I hadn’t really remembered how when you watch it all in the original sequence, this episode has a tendency to hit you like a ton of bricks. Not only are Spike and Dru such a breath of fresh air (metaphorically speaking), they also stay around and really change things instead of just popping by and getting staked, which I could easily imagine happening in some other show.

    Gotta love the extremely casual way Spike gets rid of Big Ugly (the bragging vampire from the beginning of the episode whom he lets Buffy kill just to see how she fights), by the way. 🙂

    Among my few complaints with this episode is that I have a hard time believing that Spike would really back off from a fight with a Slayer just because of a woman with an axe joining in – doesn’t look to me like he got much of an injury from Joyce hitting him with it, after all.

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  11. [Note: Sanjuro posted this comment on November 25, 2008.]

    I think this was the episode that made me go from really liking Buffy to loving it (even though I’d have to wait until Innocence for it to take off for good). I always get a kick out of Spike calling Angel an ‘Uncle Tom.’

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  12. [Note: Nix posted this comment on February 19, 2009.]

    The line of Spike’s you quoted about weapons making him feel ‘all manly’ is another shift of characterization in later episodes, where it’s plain that there’s nothing he likes more than a good round of fisticuffs, or, rather, plain old brawling — fisticuffs are too formalized for Spike.

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  13. [Note: Sam posted this comment on March 28, 2009.]

    It’s interesting that you speculate that Spike is instantly attracted to Buffy. Just because she’s really hot, is his mortal enemy, is dressed sexy and is dancing sexy when he first sees her doesn’t mean he wants to get her in the sack!

    LOL

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  14. [Note: Ian posted this comment on August 26, 2009.]

    @Nix: The line “chop her into messes” is possibly a reference to the particularly English dessert called the Eton Mess (http://www.joyofbaking.com/EtonMess.html). This is a dessert where the ingredients are basically chopped up randomly and mixed into a big mess in a bowl. I don’t know the character’s bio but it is possible from what we see of him before he was sired that William went to a public school like Eton as a child.

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  15. [Note: Kate posted this comment on September 5, 2009.]

    Does anyone else miss evil Spike? here he was the epitome of cool. but it wouldn’t of worked for him to stay like this.

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  16. [Note: Nix posted this comment on September 12, 2009.]

    @Ian: That’s definitely plausible. (I’ve eaten that, and it’s excellent, but I had no idea what it was called.)

    It’s possible that William went to Eton: he was certainly upper-class enough, and Eton’s been around forever (well, since a couple of hundred years after Oxbridge were founded), so it was certainly there. It’s a dead cert that he went to some expensive English public (i.e. private) school for effete upper-class twits ;}

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  17. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on September 15, 2009.]

    @ Nix

    I totally agree about Spike’s accent; although it improves in later seasons, he never quite gets the glottal stop – he tends to drop the vowel following rather than the ‘T’, which always makes me laugh and cringe slightly.

    However, I have to disagree about “weapons make me feel all manly” being out of character. One of the things that make Spike so cool (and yes, sexy, dammit!) is the fact that he’s entirely comfortable with his own masculinity; so much so that he’s not afraid to mock it himself. Later, for instance, when he mentions ‘talking big over a pint of blood’, he again shows that he’s not afraid to take the piss out of stereotypically male behaviour, including his own. These nuances in his character make it more believable and, for me, are a huge part of the enduring appeal of Spike.

    I would also say that the ironic take on his own masculinity makes him more convincingly British; Brit men tend to be more jokey and self-deprecating rather than going in for the kind of macho posturing that some American dudes go in for. DISCLAIMER: This ISN’T to say that British men all are cool and ironic while Americans are all ludicrous muscle-flexers, at all! Self-deprecation can be taken too far, as numerous Hollywood portrayals of effeminate Brits enthusiastically demonstrate. It’s just an acknowledgement of a certain stereotype that has *some* basis in reality and history. IMO, it has to do with the ‘conquering’ of the Wild West; the romance of the strong, brave frontier hero has deep roots in the American psyche.

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  18. [Note: Emily posted this comment on November 26, 2009.]

    Anyone notice the TV set in Spike and Dru’s room? Lol. I just noticed it. Spike’s loved TV since the very beginning! Great continuity.

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  19. [Note: Randy posted this comment on December 9, 2009.]

    @ Emily — I just picked up on that too. I loved that his last line in the episode was “Let’s see what’s on TV.” Soo very Spike.

    Also, did anyone else notice in the scene where Buffy’s painting the banner, she has a streak of red paint on her cheek in the same place Dru licks the blood off Spike’s cheek in their first scene? This felt like a bit of foreshadowing that the two of them were going to have more of a connection than just the typical villain/hero.

    As a recent convert (just finished the series a few days ago) I’ve got to say I’m thrilled that people are still so passionate about the show! This is a terrific site, Mike — It’s nice to see well-written & intelligent commentary…especially since everyone I know in real life is rolling their eyes at my newfound love of BtVS. I’m looking forward to reading more of your reviews. 🙂

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  20. [Note: Prophecy Girl posted this comment on February 12, 2010.]

    I agree with you Mike. I thought in the Spike watches Buffy scene you could probably have cut the tension with a knife. James M should really be credited for this though bcos I watched an interview with him where he confessed that it wasn’t in the script. He decided on his own to play an attraction to Buffy, though he admitted that the decision was “mostly inspired by watching Sarah dance.”

    LOL

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  21. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on April 8, 2010.]

    Maybe this doesn´t mean anything, but when Joyce is watching Buffy through that hole in the door while Buffy is slaying, I instantly remember “Restless” when Buffy encounters Joyce living in that wall. And in S4 like in here, Joyce is cut off from her life, a bit distant from her life.

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  22. [Note: buffbuff posted this comment on July 5, 2010.]

    the whole convo between Spike and Buffy felt very fraught with flirting and foreshadowing.

    i think my love of spike might be biasing that tho.

    I love this episode, and I noticed the crack in the wall thing with Buffy and Joyce too, buffyholic.

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  23. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 23, 2010.]

    The first scene with Spike and Drusilla are fantastic. They way they did the ‘almost kiss’ and then at the end they go for it again and just stop and he starts talking again. Drusilla is so hot and so creepy at the same time with those penetrating eyes.

    I don’t agree Spike has feelings developing in the Bronze scene just yet. However when he says to Buffy during their fight that weapons make him feel all manly and rubs himself, Buffy slightly smiles. I do agree his stare is slightly longer than it would have been on any other Slayer, but remember, he has never seen a Slayer dance with friends before or be so open for attack.

    One thing that bothered me was the guy Spike stands in front off and loudly says to call the police. He stops then smiles and keeps bobbing. There is no reaction from him at all. Dumbass.

    And, Spike kills (again) the Annoying One.

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  24. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on August 26, 2010.]

    This is James Marsters revealing his experience of the Bronze scene:

    As an actor, I right away played an attraction to Buffy, even though Spike was fully in love with Drusilla. There was a scene, my very first day of shooting, where I was hunting Buffy, not to fight with her, but just to observe her and see what her fighting style was. And I’m looking at her in the Bronze and I’m kind of walking through the crowd, watching her dance, and there was something both very much of a hunter, “I’m going to kill you”, but there’s also heavy sexual undercurrent, and that just came off the day (laughs) watching Sarah dance, really.

    But, you know, Spike was the perfect boyfriend, so he would never go beyond that. But there was that attraction immediately, and by the time we get to Season 4, it’s developing.

    So Mike, you were right.

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  25. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 15, 2010.]

    Perfection.

    See, I’m not spoiled. I only saw a few Buffy episodes when the series was live, and am now redisovering the show on Netflix, watching in order. Prophecy Girl was the best single Buffy episode that I saw live, and sure enough it was the best in my S1 review.

    But School Hard is better. It has Spike the Scenery Chewer. It has Dreamy Dru. It has Principal Snyder and Mom amusingly together, and Mom finally developing some appreciation for her daughter — thank God, because that ongoing schtick of Buffy the Unloved at Home Vampire Slayer was S-T-A-L-E. (Pronounced “bitca.”) It has the Cordelia/Willow bonding. Well OK not exactly bonding.

    Let’s face it, the episode has everything. And it doesn’t set a foot wrong from minute 1 to minute 45. Especially minute 45. Spike tossing the kid into the cage, and frying him had me grinning like an idiot when the credits were rolling. I’m loving this show! Bring on the next episode!

    (OK, I spoke too soon, having just watched Inca Mummy. Ick. But that’s for a different review.)

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  26. [Note: Rose posted this comment on November 29, 2010.]

    Loving this review,and this episode!

    I’m just imagining what Buffy would have been like if Joss had decided to kill Spike off…and thinking about how different all 5 seasons following would be. Spike actually has such a huge part in both plot and character development from this point on…thank goodness he stayed! Dare I say that BTVS wouldn’t really be BTVS if that had happened?

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  27. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on February 13, 2011.]

    The introduction of Spike. This episode almost can’t be wrong because of that. Although I have to say that upon subsequent re-watchings of the series, it is hard to get worked up about Spike knowing his character development throughout the series. He just isn’t nearly as scary as he was the first time through. He is still super sexy though.

    I never thought of Spike watching Buffy as sexual (although reading the quotes above, I realized that it was supposed to be). I always just thought that he was instantly fascinated with her as if he knew straight off that she wasn’t your typical slayer. I think most slayers were focused and their lives were training and hunting. I think it was interesting to him that this slayer was out having fun with her friends. It made her more interesting to him. At least, that is what I believed, but I do like the thought that from Day 1 he had some attraction to her.

    Killing the Anointed One was one of my favorite parts of this episode. It was the final clue to let us know that “this isn’t your typical vampire”. He’s special. He’s Spike.

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  28. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on April 17, 2011.]

    Re-watching. I just thought to myself that it’s actually quite sad, Joyce’s “Nobody lays a hand on my little girl” near the end. Like all mothers, Joyce is obviously distraught at the idea of someone hitting her daughter or being violent with her. But her words here are so empty, because there’s ultimately nothing she can do about it. Buffy regularly receives super-whalings from super-villains that Joyce could never, ever stop. I often feel so sorry for Joyce in that she’s even less capable of protecting her child than ‘normal’ parents. I’m thinking too about how Joyce would feel about Buffy’s future violent relationship with Spike. Sad.

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  29. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on April 18, 2011.]

    Spikes sexual attraction to Buffy is predatory. What turns him on is the whole situation and anticipation of what he plans to do to her. He may find her attractive but what really turns him on is the hunt and the thought of taking her life, and the memories that are brought back of how he felt killing the other two slayers. When spike does later come to fall for buffy it’s a lot to do with her personality as he gets to know her, her strength and the way we always want what we can’t have. She is obviously very sexy but in school hard i think it’s the chase and the sweet memories of the other slayers he killed that excite him.

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  30. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on April 19, 2011.]

    @nix (if you still come here, I know that post was a long time ago but I hope this helps) ‘Chop her into messes’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s ‘Othello’-Act 4 Scene 1. Othello says to Iago ‘I will chop her into messes’, speaking of Desdemona. I think it’s quite appropriate for Spike to quote Shakespeare, especially with what we later come to learn of his life pre-vampire.

    At that particular point in ‘Othello’ Iago is persuading Othello to have no sympathy for Desdemona and to kill her, although Othello is finding it hard to switch his feelings off as he still loves her and has a very hard time forcing himself to kill someone so beautiful.

    I think this is interesting considering the love/hate relationship spike later comes to have with Buffy. Even in this episode part of what makes killing a slayer so exciting is that they are so strong, skilled, powerful and, as far as we have seen, beautiful. Spike respects these characteristics which make taking them down so enjoyable to him, and so I think already he has a love hate relationship with them even if it is in this screwed up way of loving to kill them.

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  31. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on December 22, 2011.]

    Wow, deadlego’s analysis of the “chop her into messes” line is a good case for even more foreshadowing. That’s really interesting!

    I would also add that Angel telling the Scoobies that once Spike starts something, “he doesn’t stop” is another good piece of foreshadowing in this episode. It certainly is an overall character trait, but in particular it makes me think of his obsession with Buffy in S5, his determination to protect Dawn “to the end of the world” even after Buffy died, and his quest to regain his soul at the end of S6.

    Like

  32. [Note: Ivy posted this comment on January 3, 2012.]

    I love this episode. This is because, first of all, I love Spike. Ahahah.

    While watching School Hard I really saw spike as a threath to our Slayer, he looks so sure that he’ll kill her and for a moment there I really thought he would.

    But then Joyce saves the day, I always wondered why did Spike run away after saying “women”, I don’t get it, but, I am probably too demanding 🙂

    Anyway, I just love how they introduced Spike: he is so cocky with the other vamps, yet so loving and caring when it comes to Drusilla, that says a lot about his personality!

    I think that when he said to Angel you were my Sire, he meant that he is his “grandsire” and maybe that he is his sire in the sense that is angel that made him a monster(as he says in Destiny AtS).

    Anyhow, I really loved the episode from the first time I saw it 😀

    Like

  33. [Note: Odon posted this comment on January 16, 2012.]

    One possible reason for Spike running off is simply that he was so thrown; as he says later, a Slayer with family and friends is something new.

    Like

  34. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on January 17, 2012.]

    I enjoy the Die Hard feel to this episode, its what really kicked off season two in my opinion. From Spikes’ introduction it was set to be the whirlwind it was!

    Like

  35. [Note: ItAin’tAeschylus posted this comment on July 28, 2012.]

    Hi All. This is my first comment on this site, but I’ve been reading a lot of your reviews lately, since I’ve been watching the series in my spare time. The show’s very evocative for me; I remember when it was first on, even though I didn’t watch it regularly back then.

    Some random comments about Spike (or “Spoike”, as Drusilla calls him). I was always impressed with Marters’ acting technique; even though I agree his accent in this episode is questionable. I’m not English, but to my ears it sounds, first and foremost, as if he’s not sure which English accent he’s really going for. That was my impression to some degree much of the way through the series, actually. But even given that, I wouldn’t say he does an ineffectual English accent or impression overall; it’s still more convincing in later episodes than some actors I’ve heard in other things (including Brit actors trying to do American accents). Think, for example, of Angel’s attempt at an Irish accent.

    Not to over analyze anything here (heaven forbid ;)), but I think this overall impression of Spike being British comes partly from Marsters’ use of his whole body to play the character. He interjects something physically foreign about Spike (at least for American audiences). An earlier poster mentioned the character’s use of irony about masculinity: this quality is expressed in Spike’s physical movements and his occasional theatrical qualities (which I love), as well as the way he delivers his lines. No doubt Marsters’ stage training helps him draw from a well of resources in this respect. He really “sells” Spike as a full character. Spike’s always been my favorite character on the show, for many reasons.

    As another poster said, I never bought that Spike would be driven away by an obviously non-trained (fighting-wise) Mom with an axe. Knowing Spike’s character in retrospect, I’d possibly believe the “mother” thing might ward him away emotionally and force him to change tactics, given his own troubles with his mother AND the fact that Slayers draw strength from their human ties. But it’s not necessarily depicted as an emotionally-driven tactic here, so it seems a bit silly to me.

    Anyway, love the episode and love Spike.

    Like

  36. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 29, 2012.]

    Welcome to… the site? Eh, the forum is where all the fun stuff happens.

    Anyway, as I’ve argued elsewhere: I don’t think Spike’s retreat here is about Joyce or mothers or anything. I think it’s about the way he sees his fights with slayers.

    It’s no coincidence that he fights Buffy alone, with no direct assistance from his minions. It’s no coincidence that he stalked her with a distinctly sexual vibe earlier, in the bronze, his eyes on Buffy and Buffy alone, utterly ignoring her friends. Because that’s to him with his fights with slayers are all about. In “Fool for Love” he calls it ‘dancing.’ “That’s all we’ve ever done” he tells Buffy. And to him it is. It’s a dance with death, the ultimate in-your-face he can shout at the universe as a vampire: to seek out the one person vampires are supposed to fear, and fight her. Kill her. Consume her. To Spike it’s intensely personal (and sexual) and a large part of his identity as a vampire.

    So what would -you- do if you’re on a date and suddenly your date’s mother bursts in shouting “stay away from my daughter!” Nevermind the axe.

    Yeah, he could still have fought them both, but the mood was utterly ruined. -This- isn’t why Spike fights slayers. It’s supposed to be about the two of them. “A slayer with family and friends. That sure as hell wasn’t in the brochure.”

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  37. [Note: ItAin’tAeschylus posted this comment on July 30, 2012.]

    Haha. A “date”. Amusing that you put it that way.

    I see what you’re saying. But because Spike’s IS so into killing (err dancing with) Slayers, I figured he’d be a little more resourceful in terms of getting Mom out of the way, even without having to kill her. He managed to get all the other school pain-in-the-ass bystanders out of the way (my “Godfather” reference for the day).

    And what if Boxer Rebellion Slayer’s Mom had shown up when Spike and that Slayer were dancing? Would Spike have packed it all in suddenly, or figured out some work-around?

    There are reasons that may make sense why Spike’d abandon the chance of killing a Slayer because her Mom showed up, but I think in this, Spike’s first episode, it wasn’t well suggested to ME why he would.

    Like

  38. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on July 31, 2012.]

    I admit that I only came up with this explanation after watching the entire series, so I agree that it should have been better explained in the episode itself.

    Still, I do think that it’s a valid interpretation even without taking the later canon under consideration. Even when taking this episode by itself there’s a very heavy sexualised predatory stalking vibe to his actions.

    As for getting others out of the way: it’s a big plot point in the early season that slayers normally fight alone. They keep their family and friends very far away from their slaying, if they don’t cut them out of their lives altogether a la Kendra, that is. Buffy is the exception to all the rules. I think that’s why it makes sense for Spike to be so surprised by Joyce’s intervention. That to me was clear even on first viewing, thanks to the “brochure” comment.

    Like

  39. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on August 9, 2012.]

    Having read over the posts on this matter i had a few thoughts of my own when it comes to Spike and his reluctance to kill Joyce during his battle with Buffy.

    Now these thoughts, are based on watching the entire series so bare with me if they are a little of the mark.

    – Spike we discover through his back story has or had (pending on which season you watch) a problem with his own mother, his attachment to her when he was not only mortal but when Dru turns him its the first thing we see him want to do; is to turn his own.

    -Mother Vamp doesn’t turn out to be one of his better ideas.

    Could it be that Joss foresaw this development or a trait of Spikes character so early?

    Another theory is similar to yours Iguana; that to Spike the battle or dance with a slayer is primal, its whats done and its done and fought out alone not with the aid of others. Its to the death, his or theirs. Joyce was an unexpected snag in this ritual.

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  40. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 13, 2013.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.

    Like

  41. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 15, 2013.]

    Great job, mike. You definitively made me think of some stuff I´never thought of that and that one about Spike being disgusted with Angel switching sides while he (Spike) will be helping Buffy later on is a nice catch.

    Like

  42. [Note: WCRobinson posted this comment on July 15, 2013.]

    Brilliant rewrite! Never noticed how MUCH the dialogue between Buffy and Spike has sexual underlying meanings… just watched “Something Blue” and it is very apparent (even before the spell xD)

    Like

  43. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on July 20, 2013.]

    Great update, Mike. I still think this one’s a full A, but I understand where you’re coming from.

    You’re doing a wonderful job with these detailed rewrites. I can’t wait to see your new grades for the rest of the season!

    Like

  44. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on July 20, 2013.]

    I’m just as excited as you are! If only I could just make those reviews magically appear… but we all saw what happened when Willow tried to have her will be done. I guess I’ll just have to put in the time and do the work. 😉

    Thanks, everyone!

    Like

  45. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on December 4, 2013.]

    Note to Mike: the lemonade that Willow recommends to Cordelia would not be tasteless without the sugar – it would simply be very sour.

    Like

  46. [Note: Monica posted this comment on December 4, 2013.]

    I seem to have weird, conflicting opinions on this episode.

    I always seem to think I love this episode. When I briefly try to remember it in my mind, I think of it as an episode I really enjoyed. It introduced two integral characters and had a cool attack on the school that mixed the two lives Buffy tries oh-so hard to keep separate. Sounds good.

    However, I enjoy it much less once I actually watch it. I felt it was done a little sloppily, and seemed a little after school special-ey. I feel like in hindsight this episode is good, since it all connects to more, but as an individual plot is flounders a bit. I also felt Sheila got a pretty large amount of screen time for no reason.

    What I did absolutely love, for some inexplicable reason, was the music that played whenever the scenes focused on Drusilla. I can’t figure out which one, but it reminds me of a particular video game, one that used lullaby-type music once showing a character or scene that’s supposed to have a level of insanity. It added this cool eeriness to her character, and was just very unique and enthralling. It kills me that I can’t figure out where I connect that music to.

    Like

  47. [Note: danny posted this comment on December 15, 2013.]

    Love this episode, Spike And Drusilla are brilliant characters that really brought this episode to life, Its a shame that spike will never be as good again as he was in this episode

    Like

  48. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 2, 2014.]

    Despite the sexual undertone, both Spike and Buffy seemed merely fascinated by one another. First off, Spike has seen two slayers and killed them both, but both of their lives were probably very monotonous. Their lives revolved around hunting and killing vampires, they probably didn’t have much of a personality like Buffy. And the same goes for Buffy, she’s seen some vampires, Angel’s a vampire with a soul so he’s an exception. But all the other vampires that Buffy’s faced so far have mostly been mindless, dumb, killing machines. The Master himself is also an exception here because he was some different kind of vampire, considering he turned to bones instead of ashes and his obvious looks. Even that black preacher vamp who may have even come close to having a personality, was killed off quite quickly by Buffy herself in ‘When She Was Bad’. And then Spike comes along, he’s obviously smart since he decided to test her abilities here. And he has a personality, too! This leaves them both in awe of each other. A certain fascination, simply put. I didn’t even get all the sexual undertones and the whole Buffy being on her period thing till I read your review. I guess that is what they were going for. But this was my initial analysis of it.

    Anyway, I LOVE this episode. On my second watching of the show, I come to realize how much of a game changer this episode is. It really IS a breath of fresh air! The whole Sid and Nancy with fangs vibe that Dru and Spike give off is chilling. They’re so creepy, twisted yet surprisingly sexy and alluring. I also like how this makes the viewer think that they’re the Big Bads of the season. But then by the end of the season, we’re left with a huge twist and it turns out that Angel of all people is the Big Bad and Spike ends up HELPING The Slayer. I remember watching this season the first time and becoming absolutely hooked and amazed by it’s brilliance.

    Oh, and Cordy and Willow at the end were so funny! Why didn’t anyone get them out? Xander was also hilarious throughout this episode. He jinxed their Parent-Teacher meeting!

    All in all, this episode introduces one of my favorite characters and is quite fun and nicely paced. It’s a thumbs-up from me!

    Like

  49. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on May 12, 2014.]

    I really enjoyed how Snyder, at the end, said he was warning the guy who got killed NOT to go outside – when he was actually encouraging him…

    Like

  50. [Note: slayerfemme posted this comment on October 5, 2014.]

    I didn’t read through all the previous comments, but… just one question…

    Anyone else notice that there were like 8 people at what was supposed to be the parent/teacher night for an entire high school (or at least an entire class)? Where are all the other parents? …and teachers? …and students?? lol

    Like

  51. [Note: slayerfemme posted this comment on October 5, 2014.]

    Also — as for the other slayers of the past, and the above comment that they probably didn’t have personality like Buffy, and Spike’s comment about “family and friends”… that seems to be kind of a weird assumption. All we know about the past slayers at this point in the show is that they were female. How many women out there don’t have a personality, family or friends? e

    Idk, it just seems weird to me to assume the other slayers had no personalities or lives other than killing vampires. Why would that be the case? Why is Buffy so different?

    Thoughts?

    Like

  52. [Note: Joy posted this comment on October 6, 2014.]

    Past slayers were probably more like Kendra, whose parents gave her to her Watcher at a young age. She had no friends or family because those things were considered distractions from the work of being a Slayer. All she knew was how to obey her Watcher’s orders.

    Like

  53. [Note: MustardOfDoom posted this comment on December 29, 2014.]

    Yes! I noticed that as well and i’m surprised people don’t mention it all that much. it’s a great reference/call back in Restless. It’s probably not important but it’s cool that it’s in there.

    Like

  54. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on February 19, 2015.]

    I personally don’t believe Joss and the writers thought that far ahead as far as Spikes initial reaction to seeing Buffy for the first time and the supposed sexual undertones in their quips (although they are obviously sexual in nature, I just think they’re merely playing at the seasonal theme and their similarities when it comes to “trash talking”), especially since Spike was never meant to last even a full season at that point. He became a breakout character due to fan reaction and ultimately because Joss loved him and James Marster’s portrayal.

    That being said, it is definitely a refreshing episode at the very least. The Master was fine and menacing, but he lacked what this series eventually became about: “character.” The annointed one is even worse. Spike and Dru, however, even if never meant to become as big a part of the mythology initially, were much needed. One more season with a generic villain and it might have suffered.

    I personally don’t see much in the way of substance other then some clever lines that may or may not foreshadow events and character mindsets. I think it’s just a fun but necessary breath of fresh air compared to the mythology episodes prior to it. It’s an extension to the season opener, saying “we’re going to slam with you with a lot of character drama but while we’re at it, you’ll also occasionally have a really good time getting to experience the lighter sides of these magnificent characters.”

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  55. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on February 19, 2015.]

    It doesn’t matter if these things were deliberately thought out in any kind of detail at this point in the show — these were still seeds being planted that the writers could either use or ignore in the future. In the case of Spike, they built on what was played out here quite brilliantly down the road.

    An author’s original intent is certainly of interest, but art takes on a life of its own and can be interpreted validly in ways the author never originally intended. All that really matters is if the evidence is there within the text (and subtext) of the show to support it.

    Like

  56. [Note: wade1055 posted this comment on March 16, 2015.]

    In this episode we again see Giles affection and care for Buffy he was ready to leave Jenny in the library by herself to go help Buffy. This could have also been a precurser to how the relationship between him and Jenny would be. Buffy would always take a place ahead of everyone in Gile’s mind including himself.

    Like

  57. [Note: arjpsj posted this comment on February 19, 2016.]

    Hi
    First time commenter but Buffy is my all time fav show and I have watched it on repeat ever since it premiered.
    I can’t even begin to say how ecstatic I am to have found this site; MikeJer you are a true visionary, the thematic links you have grasped, interpreted and divulged on here is incredible. I love this show and this site is the perfect companion piece so bravo!

    Buffy and Spike are my absolute fav characters, individually and together. With regards to this episode, I agree that the writers were seeding a unique relationship between the two. There is often a fine distinction between violence and sex; the aggressions and passions can overlap and intermingle.

    Marsters picked up on this (the guy is such a talented and layered performer) and plays the predatory (is there any other word which perfectly captures the overlap between aggression and passion?) vibe perfectly. I love the idea someone put forward that they immediately are fascinated by each other; that mystery and learning of each other’s characters is how the grow to trust and eventually end up on the altruistic love later on.

    Like

  58. [Note: Samm posted this comment on February 19, 2016.]

    I don’t think they were seeding a relationship at this stage, but the way JM interacted with SMG definitely allowed it to be followed later on, which it was. And i still think at this stage Spike was still planned to die in a few episodes.

    Like

  59. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on February 24, 2016.]

    That’s why I often smile at reviews/comments where people believe they can see in Season 2-3 ‘foreshadowing’ of plot elements in, say, Season 6. It’s very easy in retrospectives to pick apart each performance or line of dialogue and say that this foreshadows x or y that we only know about because we’ve seen those future stories already. There are fewer genuine ‘foreshadows’ in Buffy than retrospective reviews have made us believe, as the very act of a retrospective colours perception of it.

    The Buffy/Spike ‘relationship’ has no evidence for it prior to Season 5 except for a brief half-episode in ‘Something Blue’. Now, it’s likely that this was on Whedon’s mind during the writing of S4, as he was quoted as saying he planned each season while writing/producing the season before, but to go any further back than ‘Something Blue’ is just seeing patterns that aren’t there.

    Another example is Willow’s sexuality in S4 – this was hinted at in ‘The Wish’ and especially ‘Doppelgangland’, but they were only hints – Willow is clearly more open in terms of sexuality than she believes, and has meaningful relationships with both men and women over the years (making her bi, not lesbian). This was introduced because doubts over Seth Green’s commitment to the show left a potential avenue for a big change in Willow’s development as a character, but had he decided to remain on BtVS it’s perfectly possible that Willow would never have gone down the road she did.

    A lot of the real, genuine ‘foreshadowing’ in the show occurs with Willow. You know from a very early point that WIllow’s dabbling with magicks will get the better of her at some point in her future. This element was predicted among fans very early (various points of Season 3 is where most started calling it, but some did even earlier) and represented one of the more popular fan theories in online discussions. It was obvious that this was something we would eventually see, and as S4-5 wore on you could really see that thread being built on consistently. S6 took the wrong approach to Willow’s ‘magic problem’ arc and didn’t do enough work early on to convince us that (quite rightly) Willow’s primary problem is herself, not magic. She simply doesn’t have the right kind of personality to protect herself from the Power that comes with magic. By S6, she’s even referring to herself as powerful, which is a massive difference from the beginner witch we saw in S3.

    As you say, art is constantly changing and being re-interpreted, especially as it is being made. Small threads within a performance or drawing of a character in a slightly different way can be built upon later as a show develops. It’s rare (and very difficult) to put all the threads into place from an early point. How many fans of X-Files or Lost believed at first the writers/creators knew what was going on from the very start, only to realise they were making a lot of it up as they went along (exactly where is often debated).

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  60. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on February 25, 2016.]

    But in all honesty, I see your point. It’s just Mike and we on the forum acknowledge it is unlikely most of this foreshadowing is intentional. We just feel that the end result validates their efforts regardless. Intention as far as writing means little; only the art itself and how it binds into a cohesive whole is what matters.

    Like

  61. [Note: maxi106 posted this comment on August 8, 2016.]

    My favorite line from this episode is when Spike walks into the Bronze and says “Somebody call the police, there’s a big guy out there trying to bite someone” it’s the perfect thing to say to get the slayer’s attention.

    Like

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