6×19: Seeing Red

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Stephen DeKnight | Director: Michael Gershman | Aired: 05/07/2002]

I’m almost tempted to call this “Entropy, Pt. 2.” The first two-thirds of “Seeing Red” really do represent an extension of “Entropy,” made even more evident early in the episode when Willow and Tara are talking about what happened the previous evening. Also like “Entropy,” this episode, overall, lacks that little extra bit of umph to put it over the top, although it does end with quite the huge surprise. Even though it doesn’t quite get full marks, I’m pleased to say it’s still another very solid episode with plenty to talk about. So let’s jump in!

As Spike says, “So the birds are flying again, eh?” Willow and Tara are together again, happy, and giggly. Yay for them! Although Whedon knows how to crush our hearts, at least he generally gives his characters genuinely awesome final hours. While it hurts to be set up with happiness only to have it so immediately crushed, I’d still rather them have the happiness before all the death. Take close note to the red sheets on their bed and, well, all over the opening frame. There’s going to be a lot of hints of what’s going to happen leading to the end. This includes red shirts and Xander’s bloody nose. The title of the episode is the most obvious clue to this fact.

Picking up from “Entropy,” the Trio are continuing their plot by obtaining orbs of strength and invulnerability. While I find the Trio’s actions not only useful as a plot device, they’re also a great thematic device. When Warren sucks in the power from the orbs, Jonathan wants to immediately try them out himself — my guess is to be able to take Warren and Andrew down. Warren’s response is eerily familiar to what he said to them when he was about to force Katrina so have sex with him in “Dead Things” [6×13] before killing her. There he was also using an ‘orb.’ Sex, power, and dominance are all themes at work here. Warren’s become the epitome of a ruthless mysogonist. This is why taking Buffy down is of such importance to him as, despite how much she’s lost her way this season, she is still at her core an icon for women’s strength. When they fight at the end of the episode, she literally smashes his orbs, and strips him of all his power. Until he gets the gun, of course. Then Willow stips him of, well, everything. The use of continuity with “Dead Things” [6×13] here is a pleasure though.

Speaking of continuity, how about the awesome scene between Xander and Buffy in his apartment? Why is Xander so depressed? I’d argue it’s not mostly because of his situation with Anya. He’s depressed because his unquestioned idolizing of Buffy was misplaced. Xander puts Buffy on the spot for letting him down, and I think he actually, in a way, represents the viewer who had always looked up to Buffy, but felt she lost her way this season. Well, she did lose her way this season because she’s human, just like all of us. Her mistakes not only make her stronger (assuming she learns from them), but also make her a much more realistic character.

Although Xander’s hurting over this now, he’ll come to actually see Buffy as we all see her: a wonderful human being with an incredible capacity for love, but also a flawed one that makes mistakes — sometimes big ones. Additionally, this scene also reinforces the message of what often happens to high school friends when they grow up. Buffy tells Xander, “My personal life is none of your business.” Xander responds, “It used to be,” to which Buffy somberly nods to. They all are starting to recognize the separation between them as they’re fully growing out of their childhood and turning into different people than they were. As a side note, I also love Xander bringing up, once again, Spike’s lack of soul. This has been brought up a ton this season, for the obvious setup of Spike actually getting one. This scene may be quiet, but it holds a lot of weight in my book. Great character work!

I also like Xander and Buffy’s conversation at the end of the episode. Xander asks, “How did we get here?” This is followed up by Xander’s mature realization that maybe Buffy would have told him about her and Spike if “I hadn’t given you so many reasons to think I’d be an ### about it.” Buffy follows that up by saying, “I guess we’ve all done a lot of things lately we’re not proud of.” That’s sure an understatement.

Alright, time to move into Spike territory. Dawn went to talk to Spike! Perfect! I really have missed their interactions. Her intentions seem to be to genuinely ask Spike why he acted the way he did. He tells her, “It’s complicated, niblet.” Dawn accurately responds, “Everyone’s been saying that.” Spike also correctly states, “Must be true then.” Dawn asks Spike if he loves Buffy so much, how could he do that to her? Spike’s response is fair, “oh right, ’cause big sis’ was treating me so well up until that point.” What’s not fair is what happens later in the episode.

When Spike enters Buffy’s bathroom (which, by the way, feels squicky the moment he walks in), we can immediately see he’s wearing a black shirt — not a good sign. This conversation they have here shows just how much miscommunication is going on between them. Their entire relationship was built on mixed signals, “no’s” that meant “yes,” and, well, frankly, rough sex. When Buffy says “you know why” in response to why she couldn’t let Xander kill Spike in “Entropy” [6×18] , Spike shows that he really doesn’t know why. He says, “because you love me.” I hate to put any fault on Buffy for what happens to her, but her conduct with Spike has been manifesting inside the demon inside of him, and now he’s finally lashing out. Did Buffy deserve this? Of course not! No one deserves this, and the fault lies entirely on Spike for the action of it. But when looking back at what led to that action, I can’t help but see that Buffy had a part to play in it.

Buffy tells Spike she could never trust him enough to love him, and this is where the philosophical differences become apparent between these two. Spike says, “Trust is for old marrieds, Buffy. Wild love, it consumes.” Buffy replies, dead on, “Until there’s nothing left. Love like that never lasts.” I must say that I feel Buffy’s totally right, and Spike just can’t understand it. How could he with no soul? “Trust,” as Buffy sees it, is what we see between them in “Touched” [7×20] .

The attempted rape scene has caused a lot of fuss in the Buffy community, and I can understand why. The scene is raw, scary, and real. It’s not pleasant to watch, nor was it intended to be. Looking at this moment from a character perspective, though, as I always do, I have to say that it really works. Something had to happen with these two. Spike had to just leave the show, die, or do something so bad to Buffy that he’d need to get a soul to even attempt to make things right with her, despite the fact that having a soul makes him a new individual in the process. So, despite obviously not “enjoying” the scene, I did find it shocking and I did find it valuable from a character perspective. Due to their twisted sexual relationship this season, I’m not convinced anything else other than this would result in Spike fighting for his soul to be not just a better man… but to be a man (which is poetically said in “Beneath You” [7×02] ).

A lot of people complain that Buffy should have been able to easily get Spike off of her. I don’t buy that though. Under normal circumstances, yes, Buffy would be able to easily get Spike off of her. But here she hurt her back patrolling, gets hit again in that same area when she hits the bathtub struggling with Spike, and she’s emotionally drained because of her earlier conversation with Xander and now dealing with Spike here. Frankly, she’s too tired to initally do anything but try to convince Spike to get off of her. It’s only after her body instinctively realizes that she’s in real trouble that she snaps out of it and kicks him across the room. That makes complete sense to me, and didn’t feel at all like a ploy just to make the scene more shocking.

After Buffy kicks Spike off of her, Spike immediately realizes what he’s done and what he’s lost. Before I go into that, though, I’ve got to just say: Clem! Okay, so the scene in Spike’s crypt right after the attempted rape is also very exciting. Spike at first says, “What have I done?” Then he thinks about it for a second and says, “why didn’t I do it?” This dichotomy reminds me of what he sings in “Once More, with Feeling” [6×07] : “First he’ll kill her, then I’ll save her/No, I’ll save her, then I’ll kill her.” This represents one of the most interesting aspects of Spike right now, and it comes to a head right here. He has to pick which one he wants and run with it.

At first his thoughts move to the chip as he says, “Everything always used to be so clear. Slayer, vampire! Vampire kills slayer, sucks her dry, picks his teeth with her bones … But with Buffy… it isn’t supposed to be this way. It won’t let me be a monster. And I can’t be a man. I’m nothing.” Clem says, “Things change.” Spike’s response is spot-on: “They do… if you make them.” Thus begins Spike’s journey to Africa (or wherever it is) to have… his chip removed? Soul restored? I like how it’s purposefully left ambiguous here. But we all know now that Spike picked the right choice.

The episode ends in a pretty explosive manner, thereby launching us into the ending act of the season. Xander, outside reconnecting with Buffy, says, “I don’t know what I’d do without you and Will.” This, I must say, is a beautiful moment for the two of them, but is also a great segway into Warren’s murder of Tara followed by the prospect of, well, losing Willow completely because of it. Xander’s comments also will resonate in an ever larger way with his actions in “Grave” [6×22] . The final moments of this episode, though, are shocking, terrible, and completely intense. To be completely frank: I get chills every time I see the quick three-shot of Buffy lying on the ground bleeding, Tara dead, and Willow’s eyes lighting up with dark red fury.

I’d like to take a moment to officially say “good bye” to Tara, who’s always been an extremely sweet, likeable character. I must say that I’ve been especially pleased with how well developed she was this season. Tara really came into her own and became a full-fledged individual. Her death here is extremely painful, shocking, and absolutely awful.

On the flip side, though, I’d also like to take this time to applaud Whedon for his ability to show us that characters in his universes are not immune to death. It’s moments like this that remind us viewers that any danger we see on screen in this series could actually pose a real threat to the characters. This makes for constant heightened tension and overall better television. Starting out this season, I know all of us thought Warren was just a big joke, and that no real danger would come from him. Well, we were all proven wrong. The reason why I mention this is because in nearly every other show I watch, the writers continue to pump out these plots where the main characters are in dire peril nearly every episode, but never die (or if they do, it’s a fake-out and they come back). Permenant death is one big factor in making this show above so many others in stakes, tension, and quality. So while I’m sad to see Tara go, I’m glad that a show about fighting the forces of evil doesn’t let its characters endlessly go on unscathed.

Overall, “Seeing Red” is a little uneven in tone and doesn’t quite achieve the weight it desires, but it’s still a solid episode that continues the superb character work from the last few episodes. There’s a lot of game-changing material here and, for the most part, it’s pulled off extremely well. As much as I enjoy character episodes like this, though, I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the issues bubbling beneath the surface all season run wild, with Willow as the vehicle for the carnage. Coming up next…

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Whedon finally putting Amber Benson in the credits… in the episode where she dies? Totally cruel, totally sick, totally crazy, and totally awesome!
+ Willow finally catching on that something’s going on between Buffy and Spike (even though it’s over now). I love how Tara just blurts it out: “They’ve been sleeping together.”
+ I think Willow and Tara sum up Buffy’s feelings over Spike. “I’m just trying to understand.” -Will “So is she.” -Tara
+ Dawn’s giddiness over seeing Willow and Tara together again. Poor Dawn’s had a such a rough time in the last year. That was a perfectly acted moment by MT to reflect undiluted giddiness over something the character should be that giddy about. Me loves it!
+ Buffy discovers the Trio’s now old lair only to find buzzsaws! It looked surprisingly cool when Buffy side-jumps over one of the saws.
+ Anya failing miserably to reap vengeance for the weeping lady at the bar. Although, she did probably make the lady feel a bit better due her own problems.
+ Anya keeping herself busy by dusting all over the Magic Box while Xander longingly peers in on her.
+ Hey, look at that, what’s on Willow’s laptop actually half-way makes sense for a change!
+ I appreciate how the writers throw Xander an opportunity for a quick hook-up, then have him immediately turn it down. There’s no ‘I’m going to get back at you!’ adolescent crap for Xander tonight! Good for him!
+ Xander standing up to Warren and giving him a good punch was oh-so satisfying to see, even if it did unfortunately result in a broken face.
+ Spike is so distraught at what he did to Buffy he left his leather coat behind which, symbolically, means a lot.
+ Warren flying off in a jetpack is definitely over-the-top, but Warren’s reaction when he goes up and Buffy’s reaction of seeing it happen make up for it. This is just hilarious, along with Andrew’s failed attempt to copy Warren. Andrew also finally unambiguously alludes that he has a thing for Warren.

– Why’d they give Buffy all the blood at the end? Tara’s wound was entirely lacking of blood! Just one of those little nagging reality things…


[Score]

91/100

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126 thoughts on “6×19: Seeing Red”

  1. [Note: dimanche posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    Great to see a new review, Mike :D.
    As usual, you pointed out some things that I was unaware of before, like the red sheets and Xander’s bloody nose alluding to the shocking final act. It’s so obvious but I never made the connection before.

    The attempted rape is, for me, without a doubt the most painful scene in the entire series. I can’t even watch it properly – it’s brutal and feels utterly realistic. I know many were outraged and that there were a lot of differing opinions on if it should have been there at all and I myself have gone back and forth a couple of times on that subject, but a while ago I’ve settled on an interpretation that is quite similar to your own. Taking into account what had happened between Buffy and Spike previously and knowing now where the writers were heading with him, plus the fact that Spike had been in a state of limbo for quite some time, what follows (and I can’t believe I’m using these words) does make sense. It had to be something so horrible that Spike would willingly seek out his soul and it served just that purpose.

    I was very sad to see Tara go. Joss really knows how to torture us ;). He’s an expert when it comes to high drama. You could sorta tell that something terrible was going to happen from the beginning of the episode, and that it would probably have something to do with Willow and Tara, and I thought the bathroom scene was it. Warren shooting Buffy and killing Tara was a major additional blow. That last scene, with Buffy and Xander outside and Willow and Tara inside, feels so serene and peaceful, the lighting is very soft and bright and reminds me of the last scene in I Was Made to Love You, when Buffy comes home, finds the flowers and then sees Joyce lying on the couch. Feels like a punch in the gut, but I can’t help thinking how excellently executed it is.

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  2. [Note: Paula posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    Yay, yay, yay! Three cheers to Mike for being back to reviewing!!! 🙂

    Yeah, the near-rape scene… It’s a hard one to handle mentally because on one hand, this show is all about metaphors and rape is NEVER the victim’s fault, yet on the other hand here it’s difficult not to be of the opinion that Buffy ought to at the very least have seen it coming. I think I’ll settle at saying that this serves as a reality check for her regarding soulless Spike’s basic nature. The Buffy of S6 doesn’t love Spike, but while she doesn’t fully trust him either, she has come to trust him far more than has been smart. In addition to her back hurting and all that, it seems to take her a while just to realize that pleading just plain isn’t going to work here.

    The crying Buffy Xander finds in the bathroom a little later is, as far as I see, of course still simply shaking off the fright, but also sad and shocked that Spike had turned out to be capable of trying to do something like this to her. And probably blaming herself to some extent, since she asks Xander not to go after Spike.

    A few questions…

    #1 Didn’t Buffy ever explain to the Scoobies about Spike being able to hurt her as a side effect of her resurrection? (Tara died so soon, I doubt she explained things even to Willow.) Or would that have taken the discussion to territory Buffy would have felt too uncomfortable talking about?

    #2 Whatever happened with Spike’s coat, as he left it at the Summers house, yet next time it turns up in a box in the basement of Sunnydale High? Either there’s a plotting discontinuity here, or else they meant to show Buffy bringing the coat to the basement-bound Spike at some point in early S7 but it was cut out of some episode or something, I guess.

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  3. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    Good review, Mike, but I think you could’ve elaborated on connections between Spike and Warren.

    I’m a fan of the episode, although I’m not sure how much it functions as a faux-second parter to Entropy. Besides the facts it picks up the pieces of Entropy and begins the morning after the night before, I think the comparison stops there. It feels less like the conclusion of a two-parter to me, and more an episode to bide the time until Villains. It’s all set-up. Tough Love in s5, also ep 19, was much the same as it included some game-changing moments and gave a new kind of motivation for the characters, but I can’t help but feel it was just more solid as an individual episode. Nonetheless, Seeing Red succeeds in my book. The fight scene between Buffy and Warren is really cool, and the pro-feminist “goodnight bitch” kick was very satisfying – it harked back to Innocence when Buffy kicked Angelus in the cajones. And that’s a good.

    Paula: in regards to #1, remember Buffy thought for a long time that Spike could hit her because she ‘came back wrong’ or ‘as a demon’, so it’s natural she wouldn’t tell her immediate friends. Also remember in Dead Things, when Buffy found out that she didn’t come back wrong, she felt even worse because she knew it was really *her* having sex with Spike and being an ‘animal’. It would not have been logical for Buffy to rush to tell Willow and Xander, as she’d have to invite them into the world of this new Buffy who she kept for Spike only. (Also, the Scoobies’ burgeoning disassociation with each other, on top of the fact that Willow *made* Buffy into a target for Spike, would increase the liklihood that she’d not confide in them.)

    As for #2, you’ve just gotta fill in the blanks. Buffy probably did take the coat to Spike, but we didn’t need a whole scene to see that.

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  4. [Note: Jay posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    whoo you finally updated! Another great review man. I never thought of the red sheets and Xander’s nosebleed alluding to the title of the episode which is so simple and obvious looking back on it. I’m looking forward to the next review, keep up the good work.

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  5. [Note: Paula posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    Wilpy:

    It would not have been logical for Buffy to rush to tell Willow and Xander, as she’d have to invite them into the world of this new Buffy who she kept for Spike only.

    Of course not. What I was really asking here is didn’t she *ever* tell them – after these events. There’s pretty direct evidence that she hadn’t told Xander by the beginning of “Sleeper” in S7, and no evidence at all (is there?) that she ever did in the course of the rest of the show. That’s what I was wondering about.

    Buffy probably did take the coat to Spike, but we didn’t need a whole scene to see that.

    Well, this particular bit is such a big blank to fill in that one tends to wonder whether the writers had forgotten what they had done with that coat back in this episode, that’s all I’m saying.

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  6. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    “Of course not. What I was really asking here is didn’t she *ever* tell them – after these events. There’s pretty direct evidence that she hadn’t told Xander by the beginning of “Sleeper” in S7, and no evidence at all (is there?) that she ever did in the course of the rest of the show”

    What evidence in Sleeper, sorry? I’d say if everybody knew Spike tried to rape Buffy, they’d question his capability of that somewhere down the line. But I suspect this is one of those things, much like the whereabouts of Spike’s coat, that the writers didn’t deem necessary to touch on. In both cases I can see why they didn’t. But with things like Buffy telling the Scoobies that Spike has his soul, I think that was FAR too big an issue to NOT touch on.

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  7. [Note: Paula posted this comment on October 26, 2008.]

    Wilpy, quoting the “Sleeper” transcript from Buffyworld:

    “BUFFY
    Spike can’t be the one doing this. He couldn’t if he wanted to.

    XANDER
    Why not?

    BUFFY
    Well, for one thing, pain chip, remember? He can’t hurt anyone.

    XANDER
    Didn’t stop him from hurting you. (Buffy looks away)”

    Doesn’t sound to me as though she had explained. It does sound as though it’s a subject she doesn’t care to go into. But maybe it’s just me.

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  8. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 27, 2008.]

    It´s great to have you back on reviews, Mike!
    Amazing review, as always. You made some connections like with the red sheets that I´ve never noticed before. The near-rape scene is brutal and painful, but necessary.
    This episode is great because of all the character work, when Dawn talks to Spike and the talk Xander has with Buffy, and I love how everything is on gray area.
    Mike, I´ve said this before, but I´m dying to see your review of “Villains”.

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  9. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on October 27, 2008.]

    “Doesn’t sound to me as though she had explained. It does sound as though it’s a subject she doesn’t care to go into. But maybe it’s just me.”

    It’s not just you, I agree that that exchange pretty much concludes that Buffy didn’t tell him. (Who can blame her after the way he reacted to Buffy sleeping with Spike. The longer she put it off, the worse his reaction would’ve been had she told him.)

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  10. [Note: Paula posted this comment on October 27, 2008.]

    I just rewatched the S1 episode “The Pack”. Oh boy, did the hyena-possessed Xander’s aggressive moves toward Buffy remind me of the things that went on between Buffy and Spike here in S6 – including, but not restricted to, the attempted rape in this episode. Only back in S1, Buffy wasn’t even remotely turned on by that sort of stuff, but the S6 Spuffy relationship… well, you get the picture.

    This perhaps belongs more among the commentary on “The Pack”, but while Xander was “only” possessed by an animal spirit and not pretty much taken over by a demon like (soulless) Spike, the similarities in their behavior are pretty striking.

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  11. [Note: brad posted this comment on October 27, 2008.]

    Love the reviews! Quick note;
    “Why’d they give Buffy all the blood at the end? Tara’s wound was entirely lacking of blood! Just one of those little nagging reality things…”
    Tara was killed instantly, thus no bleeding (heart stops, blood flow stops). Buffy, very much alive, was leaking like a sieve.

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  12. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on November 19, 2008.]

    wilma, I am currently putting together my reviews for the next four episodes. I plan on releasing them all at once. I hope to not let that take too much longer, but history has proven it could take me a little while to get them out. Keep your fingers crossed. 🙂

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  13. [Note: Paula posted this comment on November 20, 2008.]

    Mike, very much looking forward to the next set of reviews! And I certainly volunteer to keep my fingers crossed so that you can concentrate on using yours for typing. 😉

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  14. [Note: faile posted this comment on November 20, 2008.]

    I’m so looking forward to the next reviews.
    I’m new to Buffy and have just finished the entire 7 seasons, without prior knowledge at all of *any* Buffy episode during its time. The S6 final episodes are so hard to watch, but I must concur very strong narratively. Maybe because I watch them in marathon mode, I went through S7 episodes missing Tara and I never got over her up until Chosen.

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  15. [Note: Sam posted this comment on November 22, 2008.]

    So, let’s see: Buffy is almost raped by Spike, and is then shot in the chest. Tara professes her eternal love and devotion to Willow, and is then killed by a stray bullet.

    When did this show turn into torture porn? Does Season 7 get any less sadistic?

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  16. [Note: HarFang posted this comment on November 23, 2008.]

    Porn? There isn’t a single thing to see! The most shocking and gory moment in the whole episode is when Willow gets splattered with Tara’s blood. There may be a certain sadism in placing the characters in such horrible situations, but BtVS was never about the characters having it easy. And as far as sadism goes, Season 2 was far worse than this. And if you think this is bad, brace yourself for season 7. After all, everything that happens in Seeing Red serves a purpose and ultimately leads to a happy resolution (which could not be said of season 2, and there are a few scenes in season 7 which might rightfully qualify as “torture porn”). The fact that so many horrible events just happen so close together is just a dramatic device. I don’t know whether you could really call it a climax, but things certainly go plummeting down right afterwards.

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  17. [Note: Sam posted this comment on December 3, 2008.]

    HarFang, I respect your opinion and respectfully disagree with it. Season 2 was not sadistic. Shocking and powerful, yes, but not sadistic. That’s because despite all the emotional problems they were dealing with, the characters always banded together as a unit to fight evil. This was not what was happening in Season 6 because-and the show’s writers have confirmed this, so I’m not just speculating-the message of Season 6 is that life is hell. It is painful and pointless, people–even your friends–are selfish, stupid, and will do the easy thing rather than the right thing, and then we die. No one will help you. Even death is preferable to life, according to S6, because then the suffering is over. In episode after episode, we watched a formerly valiant group of people do stupid, selfish things to one another that they never would have even seriously considered during the first five seasons. We also have to watch Buffy wish she were dead for most of the season.

    Also, in S6, the show seemed to turn into a Lifetime “men are evil” show. Buffy’s absentee dad apparently no longer loves his children. He did not send for Dawn to come live with him in Spain. He abandoned her after both his ex-wife and older daughter died [he surely would have heard about these events]. He does not send checks to help keep a roof over Dawn’s head. Giles ABANDONS the Scoobies [Giles!!!] after his Slayer dies, leaving them to fend for themselves against the ever-growing population of homicidal vamps and demons. Even after Buffy is resurrected, he STILL abandons them because he just doesn’t have the strength to help anymore. Xander dumps his fiancee Anya on their wedding day, causing her to re-vengeance. Spike drags Buffy into a destructive sexual relationship and attempts to rape her after she came to her senses and stopped the “relationship”. The show turned from an empowering feminist action-fantasy into an all-out male-bashing fest.

    P.S. I adored the first five seasons of the show, but stopped watching after “Normal Again”, so I know nothing of Season 7. If what you say is true, I probably won’t care for it. I hope the time comes soon that I am ready to pick up the series and finish it, because I think that Joss Whedon pushed the cruelty too far in S6. I hope that in S7, the path returns to a slightly more optimistic path, one that returns to the show’s original mission statement: Life can be painful, but it’s worth fighting for, and in the end, your friends and family will support you in the fight against evil.

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  18. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on December 3, 2008.]

    Sam, I think you would have enjoyed the very end of the season, which does not end on a sad note, but rather a multi-faceted note of hope, new life, friendship, and love.

    I understand and respect your frustration with S6, but the overall real life grittiness to it is what makes the group banding together after it that much more powerful. In S6 I felt the writers truly earned the emotion and the stakes of the world they had created. The season gives the entire series, to an extent, much more of a sense of realism and authenticity than it would have otherwise had.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to make a strong case for the season as a whole when I put together my comprehensive Season 6 Review. This season is certainly not without its flaws, but I think the risks it takes and the rarely explored areas it touches on are fairly unique and, for me, very fascinating.

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  19. [Note: Darth Bunny posted this comment on December 3, 2008.]

    @Sam:

    “The show turned from an empowering feminist action-fantasy into an all-out male-bashing fest.”

    I must disagree with this. It wasn’t just the men who screwed up. The main character arcs, Buffy and Willow, are both women. Willow went into a magic addiction and abused Tara. Anyone is capable of hurting anyone else given enough power, drive and lack of a moral compass.

    With Buffy, Spike didn’t ‘drag’ her into a ‘destructive’ relationship. If anything, Spike numerous times attempted to help her, although being Spike, he wasn’t always thinking straight. And as Buffy herself said, she was using him first before the rape. I won’t say she was asking for it, but being more honest to herself and her friends would have certainly helped.

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  20. [Note: Sam posted this comment on December 4, 2008.]

    Mike, thank you for your impassioned defenses of S6. I appreciate it. I really do love this show; it is one of the greatest works of continuing fiction ever created, possibly the greatest on television. I also graded the episodes of S1 through S5. 🙂

    I’m thinking of borrowing S6 this weekend and finishing it all the way through. I hope you’re right. I might be able to take the ride all the way to the S7 finale, and fewer things would make me happier than falling in love with BtVS all over again.

    Darth, I get what you’re saying, but I disagree. Willow’s magic addiction was clearly a metaphor for drugs, and in that case she was depicted as more of a victim [albeit a willing one], rather than the men of S6 who have all their faculties but choose to abandon and betray the women they are supposed to care for. Likewise Buffy, who felt vulnerable and isolated since her resurrection, entered into the relationship out of numbness. There was at least a psychological explanation for Buffy and Willow’s transgressions; the male characters committed their sins because doing the right thing in their cases seemed to just have inconvenienced them. That’s my take on it, anyway.

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  21. [Note: Paula posted this comment on December 5, 2008.]

    Sam, just correcting one thing from your rant: Buffy’s dad didn’t ever come to know about her death. Watch “Bargaining” again and you’ll see that the Scoobies had put BuffyBot in Buffy’s place in just about every sense, both to keep the vampires and whatnot in fear of the Slayer (because what with Buffy dead and Faith in jail, there was no real Slayer around doing the job), and to seemingly act as Dawn’s guardian so that they could use the Summers house and take care of her themselves. This doesn’t make Hank Summers a wonderful person, of course, but had Buffy’s death become common knowledge (which it didn’t), I bet he would have come for Dawn.

    I also recommend calming down a bit and watching the rest of the show, it’s well worth it.

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  22. [Note: Serena posted this comment on December 6, 2008.]

    Great review. I totally agree with you that *something* had to happen to get Spike off to get a Soul. But the “rape” scene really, really doesn’t work for me.

    Rape is such a loaded issue — but this really wasn’t rape in the classic sense. Real rape victims aren’t capable of throwing their assailants to the wall when they finally decide they’ve had enough. But Buffy clearly was capable of tossing Spike to the wall, since she did it. Buffy is the one who’s been physically dominant in this relationship (how many times have we been reminded that she’s stronger than him); and she’s the one who is repeatedly violent with him. In point of fact, you couldn’t have aired season 6 with the genders reversed (Biff the vampire slayer and Spiketta the morally-challenged vampire in love) because Biff would obviously be guilty of domestic violence and worse. To try to squish her into the role of victim and him into the role of physical aggressor just seems off key. Spike does transgress in this scene. As you’ve pointed out in many reviews, he really doesn’t understand her; and here it matters — he can’t see that he really needs to let her go. But painting it as “rape” with all that is normally understood by “rape” (a horrible crime because men use their superior physical strength against women) just is off. I think my problem here is that we just don’t have any vocabulary for distinguishing between various acts of sexual aggression. When it comes to killing people we have all sorts of nuances: murder in the first degree; manslaughter; etc. But with “rape” it’s all treated as if it’s in the first degree. And that’s just not appropriate in this case.

    That said, I agree that it works as a plot device to get Spike to get his soul. And it would have taken something just that dramatic. The problem is that it’s hard to think of a scenario where Spike would do something horrific to Buffy; but that’s what’s needed to spur him to the soul-quest. This device just carries a lot of baggage because we don’t have any nuanced understanding of “rape”; and it’s used to tip the scales between Spike and Buffy in a way that means that Buffy never really has to come to terms with her own very heavy sins in the relationshp between them.

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  23. [Note: LadyBug posted this comment on December 8, 2008.]

    It took me a long time to come to terms with the attemted rape thing, because it never made “complete” sense in my head. I would watch it and, though I was torn by what was happening to Buffy, I could not bring myself to hate Spike (and it’s not because I am and always have been his fan) Then it dawned to me. Technically, it was an attempted rape, because she said no, and he didn’t stop. BUT, I have first hand experience with abuse, of the kind one inflicts on those one loves. While rape is about power (I feel like the First now) over the victim, some forms of abuse are born of impotence and the unability to deal with intense emotions. The person who taught me about abuse was not a bad person, he was not evil, he was sick. And being how he was tore him up inside, yet he did it over and over again. More importantly, his abuse caused some of us to become abusive as well, for a while. Buffy was abusive first, she was “sick” first. She got better, and it was Spike’s time to lash out. Spike’s reaction to his actions speaks clearly of where he came from. So, now I am at peace with both Buffy and Spike, and it makes S7 All the greater because of it. To see how they’ve healed.

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  24. [Note: Leslie posted this comment on December 20, 2008.]

    I’m sorry, but I disagree with you. The rape scene felt totally contrived to me. I’ve watched all these episodes in quick succession, just as you have, and I find it immensely hard to believe on Spike’s end. At this point, Spike’s doing good is entirely motivated by selfishness. He’s still an essentially evil creature. But he’s also incredibly intelligent and insightful and insightful. I really can’t be expected to buy that Spike couldn’t see how counterproductive and outside his interest this would have been. I’m sorry, but I just give him more credit than that. Also, Spike and Buffy’s relationship, while disturbing, has time and time again been shown to be built on a MUTUAL violence. Spike enjoys the fact that Buffy can fight back and occasionally overpower him. Rape doesn’t really mesh with that.

    Also, I felt like we were all just expected to hate Spike after this. And I did accordingly, because I’m no rape apologist. But I felt like there could have been better ways to make Spike a less sympathetic character.

    P.S., I can’t wait until you get to Season 7, because quite frankly I’m beginning to hate it. I hope you can make me see it from a different perspective.

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  25. [Note: Exit8buffy posted this comment on January 19, 2009.]

    The death of Tara was very sad, but for the Buffy-having-more-blood thing, I think they didn’t want Tara to have lots of blood to show that she was instantly killed unlike Buffy.

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  26. [Note: Tara posted this comment on March 21, 2009.]

    Another reason as to why Buffy just didn’t throw Spike off her straight away: we’ve seen in The Freshman that Buffy’s emotional state often affects her Slaying abilities. She might be supernaturally strong, but she’s also a very damaged human being. I think the total shock and feeling of violation would have stunned her – as indeed, it does – especially as she is so rarely in a position of complete powerlessness.

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  27. [Note: Selene posted this comment on July 17, 2009.]

    As a rape survivor I have to say the bathroom scene was very difficult to watch. Oh, and for anyone who thinks it wasn’t rape, the minute Buffy says “No!” and Spike continues, it’s RAPE, plain and simple. That said, it was a very powerful scene provided Spike with a great send-off to go get the chip removed. That’s right. He left to get the chip removed, not to get his soul; it just so happened that the demon he went to ‘double-crossed’ him and gave him his soul instead.

    Oh, but the final scene with Willow and Tara was so beautiful and heartbreaking and finally scary when Willow’s eyes turned red.

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  28. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on July 17, 2009.]

    “He left to get the chip removed, not to get his soul”

    Actually that’s incorrect, and everyone associated with the writing of this show says that he did in fact leave to get his soul. However, if you don’t believe the people who wrote it, the most damning evidence against your argument is the fact that Spike can already hurt Buffy, obviously, so what would be the point of removing the chip? The chip removal was a mislead, and (un?)fortunately, it was the best mislead they pulled off on this show, because there are still people who believe the mislead was the real thing. If you really pay attention to the scenes at the end of S6 and what Spike and the demon say I think it’s pretty clear what his true intentions were, aside from the fact that like I said, there’s absolutely no point in him going to Africa to remove the chip when he can already hurt Buffy. Sorry, but I think you’re pretty wrong there.

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  29. [Note: Victoria posted this comment on September 15, 2009.]

    I think the “problem” that most people have with Season 6 is that the characters finally breathe as true humans. Before they were quirky, and normal in their abnormality just like us, but always morally higher and always a bit better than the rest of us.

    In Season Six our main gang hits a new low. Buffy is using Spike, even though it’s plain to see that she is hurting him emotionally. It’s written on his face, but she refuses to acknowledge his pain as real because she debases him and sees him ONLY as the demon he is, but with an obedience chip that was forced on him. And unlike some, I am not afraid to give Buffy half the blame for what happened with Spike. The cycle of abuse that they live in is something she miserably perpetuated throughout S6. She pulled him into it, though he was willing, and used him until she saw the light, until her “sickness” went away. Then she broke the momentum of the cycle abruptly, but Spike was still and object in motion, and he continued moving until he slammed right into her.

    Willow was abusing magic I have to disagree with the idea that Willow is somehow a victim of her magic. She is not a “victim” to her magic anymore than a person is a “victim” to their drug addiction… if you drive your own car recklessly and drive off a road, you aren’t a victim to your car, you are your own killer, the car is just your means of getting there. Willow’s unwillingness to compromise, her unwillingness to return to who she used to be, had dire consequences. This is oddly reminiscent of Gunn in S5 of Angel when he gets his mental power-up from W&H in exchange for what he outwardly believes is nothing but knows, inwardly, deep down, will result in something catastrophic (and oh man, does it ever). It can easily be said that, had Willow not abused her magic, and had Willow and Tara been together, normally, they might have been elsewhere, doing something completely trivial, rather than in the bedroom having steamy makeup sex that entire night before. While it isn’t Willow’s fault that Tara catches a stray bullet from Warren, it can certainly be said that they may not have been in that bedroom so cozy and quite-so-post-coital without Willow’s early abuses under their belts.

    Xander, in my opinion, is abusing his moral high ground by being unforgiving and unwilling to budge on his opinions of those around him. He leaves Anya at the alter, returns and I don’t know what he expects to find, but he practically acts blameless in the face of Anya’s “betrayal” and expects her to forgive him with an apology and an explanation. Oh, yes, and let’s not forget that both Xander AND Buffy initially failed to see the signs of Willow’s magic-abuse. Both were caught up in their own lives, which, is forgivab-ly human.

    Anya sleeping with Spike is exactly what Xander and Buffy deserve to find. But it is also a low. However, it is a prime example of both Anya and Spike giving in to their inner demonic roots. They are both hurt and spurned, they both see in one another a kindred spirit. Within them both was someone who was once something great and feared, but was then “neutered” by one or all of the Scoobies. It only seemed natural that they find comfort in that.

    This is also another example of Spike’s own inner demon coming around. A few weeks earlier Spike would have empathized with Anya’s pain, especially in his loathing of Xander, but he wouldn’t have slept with Anya because of his certainty and love for Buffy. And therein lies the snapping point for Spike. He truly believed that someday she would come around. The fact that Spike, the human side of Spike, the poetry-writing William side of Spike, the hopeless romantic within him that SO many people forget about, wanted Buffy to turn to him someday and see the light, see the goodness within him that somehow coincided with the demon. But she didn’t, in fact she dismissed him so abruptly that, like I said earlier, he was an object set in motion (on a side note: throughout this season, and especially this episode, it feels that everyone is an object set in motion). And thus, Spike snaps.

    Now about the almost-rape or the rape, however you choose to see it, don’t get me wrong, as a woman who was raped, I certainly don’t think it’s a matter that should be taken lightly. I do, however, feel that I can say that Buffy set the events in motion that lead up to Spike’s emotional mis-interpretation that night, and possibly Faith might have had a hand in it to. During the Great Body Swap of Season Four, Faith, in the body of Buffy, comes on to Spike for the first time, and speaks in terms that surely his chained-demon could understand perfectly. “Pop you like a bottle of warm champagne” ring a bell? Now, while Buffy certainly also perpetuates this cycle of violent, meaningless sex, perhaps that is where the first real spark of a possibility really came from for Spike. He had no idea he was looking into Faith’s soul, he just saw this dark, crude, sexy, violent demeanor coming from his blond little Slayer pal. Sure, he’ll find out soon enough it wasn’t Buffy, but unlike Riley, Spike doesn’t see the darkness as an entirely unfortunate thing. Like he said in S7 when he sees Faith again, “Those aren’t words a man forgets.”

    Anyway, I didn’t feel that the premise was contrived at all. It was hard to watch because they made it so very realistic. Most rapes occur between two individuals who are, at the very least acquainted somehow, but often between two people who are familiar. In this case, Spike has already had his snap moment, the humanity building within him, the hope he was holding on to, fell through. This leaves plenty of room for Vampire/Demon Spike to take the moment to move forward. Remember, unlike Angel/Angelus where Angelus is essentially a chained prisoner in the mind of Angel/Liam and only occasionally has active persuasive powers over Angel(and I’m not talking about the times when he experiences happiness, Angelus does convince Angel to do bad every now and then when Angel is weakened by thirst or pain), Spike actively shares time with both his human-remnants and his demon since the introduction of his chip. Spike had to learn how to be human again. Soulless, his demon technically still has reign, but I’m going to assume that Buffy’s goodness and willingness to fight not only spoke to his demon but also helped his human-remnants influence the demon (remember, some Vampires DO love… we’ve seen examples of this in AtS with the vampire mate who was seeking revenge… no I’m NOT talking about Twilight, I swear!).

    Anyway, Spike has been let down by Buffy, but he’s essentially trying to make her see that she’s wrong about him, about them, about herself. But without a soul, Buffy refuses to see Spike’s goodness as anything but selfishness (which, admittedly I think it was a 50/50 split between doing it to impress Buffy and doing it because he generally cares and made a promise to her to do his best). Spike doesn’t really like this answer, and his demon obviously does not either. It must have been a hard thing for the demon-within to take, especially after knowing the true Angelus and seeing just how nauseating a fluffy, warm or good-emotion was to him. Pride injured, hope-faded, Spike did the only thing he knew how to do at that moment. He had to regain control of the situation, and persuade Buffy, as he always had before, to see what she needed to see. If anything, his demon was also probably trying to gain control again, to gain the upper hand, to do what was in his nature to do. Only, that night, it all just went wrong.

    So Spike tried to rape Buffy, Buffy, in her shocked and weakened state, obviously took a moment to get to the Yes This Is Happening To Me moment. Luckily for her, she still has super-strength, and she pushes him away quickly. He tries to make apologies, and I think he truly meant it, but he also knows that apologies mean nothing in the face of what he almost did. And as Buffy pointed out, it didn’t mean anything to apologize because SHE stopped HIM, thus putting her back in control.

    I think, when Spike leaves Sunnydale, he’s not looking for a soul specifically. I especially think, after watching S5 of Angel, that he is looking for so much more than just his soul, but his soul is the first step. I think, when the demon in S7 gave him what he wanted, Spike wanted to be human, or at least regain his humanity, that was probably the general want/need/wish that was circling around in his mind. Whether that meant removing the chip and showing Buffy that he could be a man without it, or gifting him with his soul, or returning him to his mortal humanity, I don’t know.

    While I’m sure that there were probably a few other options for bringing Spike around to this ultimate goal (and, btw if you watch Angel, I’m very VERY sure that Whedon had and still has in the Dark Horse Comics, MAJOR plans to go forth with the Sanshu prophecy), I cannot see any other way that didn’t result in a direct attack on Buffy herself. Xander aside, Spike would never harm one of the Scoobies. He’s fond of Willow, Tara, and Dawn (BTW, does anyone think the nickname Little Bit might also stand for Little Buffy-In-Training? Or is it just me making up double-meanings?) and he would never hurt one of them, or Anya. Despite his loathing towards Xander, I think he understands him, man to man, and his frustration with his inability to be useful to Buffy.

    No, Spike would know better than to go through Buffy through one of her friends. If he did THAT would be totally out of character for him, to suddenly revert to MoreEvilThanUsual!Spike, that would be a slap in fans’ faces. Spike would have to attack Buffy directly. Since Buffy is actually stronger than him, any physical sparring would have been rather pathetic on his part, and even if she did leave him bloodied and bruised, NOT enough of a reason to go on a soul-search (… you know what I mean, not ACTUALLY a SOUL search.. the metaphorical kind).

    Spike would have to cross into a horror he probably hasn’t committed since… Well… Actually, a previous incident of Spike-and-Rape never came up as far as I can remember. He’s talked of killing babies, slaughtering whole towns, but unlike Angelus, where it is actually outright very-implied that he more than “enjoyed” himself with various female-victims that Darla would bring him as gifts, it was never outright SAID that Spike did more than kill, maim and burn. In fact, his ridiculous devotion to Drusilla (to the point where he gets VERY angry and upset with her when she cheats on him with The Immortal or various slime-demons and things), implies that perhaps this is something he’s NEVER done before, and certainly isn’t something he’s done within the context of the BtVS/AtS timeline since his appearance in S2.

    And in fact, Spike/William has always had a very soft spot for women and his ideals toward them. First Cecily, in his human life (who apparently turned out the be Halfrek the vengeance demon? wth Joss?) his mother, whom he wished desperately to save and whom he loved even as a vampire, and then Drusilla, who he worshiped and sacrificed so much for, and then Buffy. I’d imagine his record with sexual violence against women is relatively clean… for one of the most feared vampires of his time. Oh! His relationship with Harmony I don’t really count as a real relationship because that was quite obviously a rebound from the Dru-Drama. I think he wanted someone who wanted him more. But… note the fact that he chose the pinkest, human-est vampire ever with her Unicorns and her fluffy pens. Spike was good at the killing and destroying bit, but never at the truly being “evil” bit. I have a huge theory about that, and why Angelus was more evil compared to Spike, but this post is going on forever, and I’m pretty sure you are tired of reading it. 🙂

    Btw, it’s also implied that until S7, Spike never sired anyone else other than his mother. Most of the members of Darla/Angel’s family make themselves known pretty fast. Master makes Darla makes Angel makes Dru makes Spike. I’d assume that Darla made a few minions for Master, and Angel, other than Dru, I think did not enjoy siring unless they had a special ability (in Dru’s case, her precognition). He even seemed annoyed at the eager, childlike addition of Spike to their group, but grew to be somewhat fond of having a man around. I think after the horror’s of siring his own mother and then having to do away with her, and also because siring does usually involve a level of attraction or… necessity for companionship, Spike would never have found reason to sire someone else because Dru was his companion.

    Anyway! I REALLY don’t think Spike had ever crossed into that territory of actual sexual violence (and the consensual, rough sex from earlier in the season, or in general the rough sex vampires tend to have, is not the kind of sexual violence i mean. i am talking about RAPE). I really do think Spike was genuinely horrified at himself. That kind of horror, that goes beyond ANYTHING he’d ever done before, would surely be more than enough to catapult him towards his destiny.

    … Is there a conclusion from this long rant? YES! I think it had to happen like this, I think Joss Whedon did an overly-amazing job of building to it and then portraying it because I still turn away anytime I get to that part in the episode. It was very real, and not contrived. I mean, the only other way I can think that Spike would be THAT horrified with himself was if he had tried to sire Buffy in some way, or if he had gotten close enough to go in for The Slayer Kill and had gotten lost in the moment. Both scenarios though, are something he’s done before, and two things I think he wouldn’t have been nearly as horrified about. It’s harder to almost destroy someone you love and still have to look them in the eye afterward, than to actually destroy them and have to live with yourself alone in that.

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  30. [Note: Elizabeth posted this comment on October 27, 2009.]

    Hi Victoria,

    I read your awesome post, and am close to convinced that Spike probably hadnt raped before, but I seem to remember a quote from somewhere in early season 7, where Spike is confessing his sins to Buffy, and says something like “i know exactly how much blood to leave in a girl so that she still cries when you…” He couldn’t finish the sentence, and I was just wondering what you thought.

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  31. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on October 27, 2009.]

    @Elizabeth: I don’t know what Victoria thinks, but I always assumed he was talking about draining someone. He knows how to leave just enough blood that she’s still crying when he leaves her to die. You know, something along those lines.

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  32. [Note: Lucy posted this comment on November 17, 2009.]

    @Elizabeth

    I always got the impression that Spike was talking about raping girls there, too. There’s an Angel episode in season 5 where they have to fight a slayer and Spike and Angel say that they had done ‘worse things’ (than abusing the slayer when she was a little girl) so I think that they had. It’s not much of a stretch, they WERE evil demons, after all.

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  33. [Note: Zaphe posted this comment on December 20, 2009.]

    @Elizabeth & Lucy

    I had the feeling that they are talking about torturing them – Spike is known for torturing his victims with spikes. He was not known as a rapist in the Vampire notes that the Watchers Council has.

    Also in Ats S5, the slayer girl that was insane, in the show it was said the she was tortured rather than being sexual abused. So when Angel and Spike said they did worse things, I think it implies worse kind of torture like that insane slayer did to Spike (she cut off his hands).

    I am in no way think that torture is better than rape in any case at all, I just want to point out that this is how it came across to me.

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  34. [Note: Sarah posted this comment on April 25, 2010.]

    I don’t think that the bullet was a mistake. Even if Tara’s death had been instaneous, there still would be leakage, but the heart wasn’t pumping anymore so it would have been slower. Tara was shot through and through. Since she was on her back, the blood went out the back because of gravity. Buffy’s wound was to the front and the bullet stayed lodged in her chest. Since there was no exit wound, the bloos had nowhere to go but up. So Buffy bled a lot through her front; Tara bled through the back. Buffy’s blood was seen; Tara’s wasn’t.

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  35. [Note: Aisha posted this comment on May 27, 2010.]

    Ugh! Poor Jonathan. Andrew is spineless. But Warren is actually dangerous. All of the Scoobies were so caught up in their own business that they neglected to see how much of a menace Warren was becoming. What is also surprising to me is that the sense of urgency I thought necessary to take Warren down after they discovered he murdered Katrina still wasn’t there. To me, he is one of the least worthwhile villains of the entire series because he should have been taken care of a long, long time ago.

    The Spike/Buffy scene was devastating. As was Tara getting shot. I feel that Mike brings up excellent points about the episode, but the end result was pretty strong. We all know that Warren will pay. The prospect of Willow seeking revenge is downright scary. I also think that Willow’s grief and anger manifested itself in much more terrifying and destructive ways than Buffy’s ever has over the course of the series. This is probably the result of her power in magics (especially dark).

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  36. [Note: debisib posted this comment on December 9, 2010.]

    this season is EASILY my favorite. A lot of people dont like the character arcs but i appreciate them more than ever for 2 reasons.

    1- the basic emotional value of the show isnt based purely around romantic love, but around love, hate, fear, all of the normal emotions that complicate every day life. Depression manifesting in Buffy, while spike is utterly confused the entire season. He has no idea how to act to make him happy, or if he even can be.

    2- How creatively different the setup to each episode is. There is almost no 1-episode bad guys. The majority of this season ties in from episode to episode( not that they didnt before, but there was usually one monster per episode to give them something to work on). In this season, the amount of monsters were extremely limited and the vamps pretty much were used to give a reason for Buffy to be near Spike.

    But about this episode, I cant believe how many people are not OK with the ‘rape scene’ Yes it is difficult to watch because at this point weve become attached to Spike as a good guy, and this totally throws us off that path. But from Buffy’s previous actions, its hard to assume her no means no. The first time they had sex, they were pummeling each other first. THEY BROKE THE HOUSE DOWN LITERALLY!

    She took advantage of him in ‘GONE’, clearly. Plus she admitted to using him. I’m not condoning his actions, but I can see why he felt like using that strategy might be what she wanted… He was assuming, based on previous experiences, that the way to get with Buffy, is to more or less force it upon her in a rough fashion. its not right, but she never gave any impression that this should be any diff than any other time.

    5

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  37. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on December 30, 2010.]

    This was a good setup episode for the final three episodes. It resolved a bunch of lingering issues (Buffy’s will she/won’t she with Spike, Xander/Buffy tension, EVERYONE finally knowing about Buffy/Spike) before the big battles ahead.

    With the whole rape scene, I don’t think Spike really realized what he was doing at the time. He just thought that if he could just have sex with her again, then she would fall in love with him. This is NOT an excuse by any means. Just what I think his thoughts are. It’s a tough scene to watch but an important scene. I think it is a stark reminder that Spike does not have a soul and it is the catalyst for him to go get one.

    LOVED Andrew jet packing into the roof. So hysterical and so Andrew. I think Andrew is my favorite side character of the series.

    I liked the scene with Xander and Buffy at the end. Xander starts to realize what an ass he has been. Nice to see.

    And, of couse, the big end scene. I remember the first time I watched this episode. I was shocked that they did this. Of course this kicks off three of my favorite episodes (behind Hush) in all of Buffy. Evil Willow is so badass. (More on that in my next comments).

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  38. [Note: CoyoteBuffyFan posted this comment on January 14, 2011.]

    Funny thing – I actually just saw guy who played Warren in another show and I realized that I still hate him, even when he is not Warren. LOL

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  39. [Note: Lovely posted this comment on March 6, 2011.]

    I used to watch this show back in early 2000s. It recently came up on Netflix and I decided to watch it again. I was immediately taken by how sweet and emotional was the Willow/Tara relationship. Watching this episode made me so sad. I do not remember feeling this sad when I first saw it 10 years ago. I guess, I am just getting old. And it is interesting to see that after all these years, people are still discussing this show online.

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  40. [Note: Flyte posted this comment on March 28, 2011.]

    Lovely, I was having the exact same thoughts, hence reading this site! When I saw Tara’s death the first time, I thought, damn, that was harsh, this time around, I actually really quite upset. I genuinely think that getting older has made the whole season so much harder to watch.

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  41. [Note: A posted this comment on May 4, 2011.]

    I knew Tara died before I even started watching Buffy, and so it was hard watching her whole character arc because I knew how it turned out. Bah.

    Anyway. I don’t think the attempted rape was contrived at all, as people have said above. I hate that it happened, and the fangirl in me wishes they could have made up and fallen in love and lived happily ever after. But there’s a reason there’s no in-character fanfictions where this happens- because it /doesn’t/ fight the characters. At all, even in season seven. *shrug*

    Warren… God. I’ve only watched that last scene once (sometimes I watch just the beginning with Willow and Tara because it’s so cute) and after reading all the comments I think I might do it again. Warren is to me one of the most evil Big Bads. Because he’s not a god looking to get home or a machine made to kill or a mayor with a soul or a manifestation of evil. He’s a human, WITH a soul, and he’s still a murderer and an attempted rapist.

    Which brings up the whole “Warren vs Spike” in the evilness category (since thier track records are similar, even though Spike’s is a few decades longer…) but I almsot feel like evil!Spike from the beginning is what Warren might turn into if he had had the time. Instead, he gets skinned. And quite honestly I wasnt’ too upset, even though they had a good case for Willow’s humanity. (“Bored now.”)

    (What was with Warren’s random reappearence in season eight, anyway? That was stupid.)

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  42. [Note: SpikeFan posted this comment on May 4, 2011.]

    Haha yeah I totally agree with wishing it never happened. Hence my name here, I really wish that it could have been the fanciful happily ever… but alas it was important for both characters, and in order for the establishment that there needs to be trust in order for there to be love, and not just passion. Of course I love Spike’s questioning at the end when he says “what have I done, why couldn’t I do it”. Him being stuck in the world between monster and man. Whether to be guilt or frustrated. Which sets up the mild suspense to whether he is on a mission for the removal of the chip or the gaining of his soul.

    The soul makes all of the difference and like you said the evil factor is in favor of Warren because he does all of this WITH a soul, and Spike is a very unique vampire, and we see that. Like you said Mike the rape scene is a very special prospective, unlike anything I have seen on TV before, the viewing of the scene while incredible hard to watch is special due to the switching perspectives and the altering empathy allows one to the rising emotions and thought process of both sides.

    When I think of Spike I always think of Monster Inc (stay with me on this one). The Monsters are not particularly evil (some are) and go about daily lives, but in order to sustain their daily living they must harness the screams of children, much like Spike needs blood (particularly Slayer blood). HOWEVER, what they find out is much more valuable than screams is laughter, much like a Slayer’s or Buffy’s love is much more important than his blood lust for her. Well that my mediocre connection.

    Like

  43. [Note: Lissie posted this comment on October 4, 2011.]

    Great job as usual! I’ve been reading these for a while, but rarely commented, but a really lovely job.

    One thing I noticed in your ‘cons’ section:

    “Why’d they give Buffy all the blood at the end? Tara’s wound was entirely lacking of blood! Just one of those little nagging reality things… ”

    I believe that they did this because Tara was shot straight in the heart, immediately killing her, and thus stopping the blood flow, which meant that other than the initial spray of blood caused by the bullet entering her body, there wasn’t much blood. Buffy, on the other hand, was shot somewhere ‘over by the left ventricle’, so she was still bleeding a lot. This is not only realistic, but also tells the audience that no, Buffy isn’t dead, yet again, which heightens the emotions surrounding Tara’s death.

    I hope that all made sense, and I love your reviews, by the way! 🙂

    Like

  44. [Note: snowflakesaway posted this comment on November 2, 2011.]

    **About why Buffy is bleeding so much and Tara isn’t..

    I’m not sure if I’m right about this, but Tara was shot right in the heart, killing he r instantly, and Buffy wasn’t. Since Buffy’s heart is beating, she bleeds, but since Tara’s heart isn’t, it isn’t pumping blood, ergo she doesn’t bleed.

    Great Review as Always, Mike.

    Like

  45. [Note: Gon posted this comment on November 14, 2011.]

    As everyone in this site I love Tara. Seeing Amber Benson in the credits was something I really enjoyed and I want to see it as a reward for her work (and not as something cruel).

    But I would like to point out something not very positive about Tara in this episode. She told Willow Buffy had been sleeping with Spike. For us, viewers, it’s not such a big deal, because in the previous episode everyone else knew it (Anya, Xander, Dawn…), but Tara couldn’t know that at that point.She had promissed Buffy she wouldn’t tell her secret to anyone and she betrayed her confidence.

    Like

  46. [Note: Alex posted this comment on November 14, 2011.]

    I agree that Tara ideally wouldn’t have broken her promise to Buffy, but I think it’s both understandable and realistic that she did. She was keeping a secret from her partner about her partner’s best friend, which was OK while Willow didn’t suspect anything, but as soon as Willow started to speculate on the situation I think it would have been a little unfair for Tara to keep her in the dark.

    I’ve been in situations involving close friends and/or family where someone’s promised someone else that they won’t tell me something, but once I’ve started talking to about the situation they’ve said ‘OK, they made me promise not to tell you, but I think you need to know this’. Tara also knew Willow well enough to trust that she’d be discreet about it and wouldn’t go storming off to Buffy yelling ‘YOU DID WHAT?!’

    You’re right, though – it seems less of a big deal because we know that the rest of the gang already know about it and that Willow would probably have found out in a couple of hours anyway.

    Like

  47. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on December 10, 2011.]

    ‘SPOILERS’

    Good:

    -Willow and Tara together. They kiss three different times this episode just to make the ending worse. Dawn all excited to see them again.

    -Fantastic acting by James and Sarah in the bathroom scene. Such a difficult one to shoot.

    -Warren pushing Jonathon through the barrier without even knowing he would survive. What an arse.

    -The fight between Warren and Buffy. Creepy Andrew shouting, “Kill her! Kill her!”

    -Jonathon saving Buffy or telling her how to defeat Warren.

    -Andrew trying for the cool escape but failing.

    -The ending.

    Bad:

    -Just having Willow and Tara kiss to make the ending worse.

    -Tara was standing so far from the window I doubt she could see Xander.

    -Tara and Willow didn’t even move even though they would have heard Warren shouting and probably went to the window to look.

    -The scene with Buffy and Dawn smiling at Willow and Tara in the living room is eerily similar to the happy scene in ‘I Was Made to Love You’ when the girls smile at Joyce feeling better.

    Like

  48. [Note: Dave posted this comment on January 1, 2012.]

    Definitely goes in my top 5 episodes. Raw, brutal, harsh and honest. Wonderful stuff, even if it’s tough to watch at times for obvious reasons.

    Like

  49. [Note: Ivy posted this comment on January 7, 2012.]

    I think everyone pointed what was important out already 🙂

    I like this episode, one of my favourites but it’s really difficult to watch because of all the pain and harshness in it.

    The attempted rape scene was just awful, but I have to admit that I think Buffy should have seen that coming. I mean, every time she and Spike talked during season 6 she said something but meant the opposite, confusing an already confused soulless Spike. Spike simply can’t understand that this time Buffy really means NO when she says NO. This scene always makes me cry, it is simply so sad, as the rest of season 6. Everything that could have been between Buffy and Spike was destroyed during this season,culminating in the AR.

    To make things worst, after the AR there is Tara’s death. I’ve always loved Tara, always so kind and nice and understanding. And I loved her relationship with Willow, she was the only thing keeping Willow from going “dark” as we see later on.

    The ending of this episode breaks my heart every single time I watch it.

    Like

  50. [Note: Alexei posted this comment on March 30, 2012.]

    The rape scene, why is Buffy wearing sneakers and the bath rope? Maybe she wants to take a shower while wearing sneakers ?:D

    Like

  51. [Note: Helen posted this comment on June 18, 2012.]

    The attempted rape scene was horrible to watch, especially considering that Spike/Buffy is one of my favorite TV couples. It made sense and led to a major character breakthrough for Spike, even if it was painful.

    That being said, I find the fan response to this compared to other instances of sexual violence in Buffy to be slightly disturbing. I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about Faith trying to rape Xander back in Consequences and I consider Willow’s mindwiping of Tara and their subsequent sex to be rape (Willow, in essence, did not allow Tara to choose to be intimate). However, from what I can tell, there was a huge fan outrage over this episode, and I’ve seen many complaining on the internet that Buffy should not have allowed Spike back into her life and that she doesn’t act victimized. I’ve rarely seen the same for these other incidents. I think it goes to show that even in the fan community, there is an inherent gender bias. I doubt this scene would have been as controversial had it been the other way around- Buffy beats Spike to a pulp in Dead Things, and she doesn’t even apologize on screen.

    I’m not trying to insult anyone, and I’m not going to try to make excuses for Spike’s behavior. What he attempts is awful, even if Buffy did help to drive him to that state. If they made up immediately it would have felt extremely off, so I believe that the writers did a great job with slowly reconciling them after the AR. The guy needed to do some serious soul searching, and this event just spurred him into action.

    Like

  52. [Note: Janice posted this comment on June 29, 2012.]

    //I’ve never heard of anyone complaining about Faith trying to rape Xander back in Consequences//

    Helen, I’ve just gotten through my first viewing of the series, and as I tiptoed onto online forums and comments such as this, that was a point I immediately noticed. I definitely called the scene in Consequences “rape” but it’s not seen as such, apparently, if a woman is the aggressor? (Or is it that Spike is such a well-loved character that the AR is all the more upsetting to fans?)

    I didn’t see the series when it was on originally but definitely had heard about Tara’s fate (one of the few things I knew about going into the series), but didn’t know when or how, so throughout S5 & 6 I found myself cringing anytime something happened to her. I didn’t fall in love with her as a character until S6 but when I did I fell hard, and boy did I miss her presence greatly in S7, when the gang fell into such a state of emnity and chaos, and Giles was hardly around, and no longer represented a sort of mature, moral force when he was around. (The fact that her and Willow’s relationship feels to me, as a lesbian who has been in a relationship nearly 20 years, very real and superbly handled, is a subject for an entire essay on it’s own. Suffice to say that after 20 years it still seems very fresh and very brave for a TV show…and that depictions of lesbians couples rarely match that level of reality and respect for the characters after 20 years is disheartening to me. But all the more reason BtVS has quickly become my favorite TV show of all time.)

    Mike, great reviews, I’m really enjoying your writing here. I hope to comment more in the near future.

    Like

  53. [Note: fray-adjacent posted this comment on June 29, 2012.]

    Janice, I partially agree about lack or response to Faith’s sexual assault/attempted murder of Xander, though I have seen viewers talk about it a little. I do think there are other additional explanations for the lack of response relative to that of Spike’s AR of Buffy, though the idea that women can’t rape men is probably also one of them:

    1. Like you say, Spike is more loved, and many of the people who love him at least to some extent want him to be GOOD, at least to Buffy.

    2. The victim was the show’s primary protagonist, who has long been an icon of female empowerment. It was very scary to see her in this position.

    3. The way the event was filmed was much more realistic, also making it more scary. It was also a longer scene.

    4. There is no follow-up within the series itself on Faith’s assault of Xander. We never see either character (or Angel, who stopped it) reflect on the experience at all.

    And, if you’re interested in more discussion, please do check out the forum!

    Like

  54. [Note: Jacob posted this comment on August 1, 2012.]

    Why do you make it sound as if no other show has the balls to kill of main characters? Maybe at the time of airing this may have been the case, but for non-procedural shows, killing of main characters isn’t as rare as you make it out to be. For obvious reasons, strictly case-of-the-week type shows are an exception.

    Like

  55. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on August 1, 2012.]

    Jacob, at the time I reviewed this episode I had seen very few shows kill off central characters. In the last four years I’ve caught up on a lot of shows and have seen it more than I had before, but I’d argue it’s still not all that common even today. Now, I obviously can’t watch every show out there, but I do tend to keep up on a decent number of shows — some on the networks, some on cable, and some on premium — and I have to say that Buffy still stands out in this regard. That’s not to say it’s literally unique, but rather among a smallish group of shows. Too many shows that live in a dangerous universe still chicken out on making you scared for the central characters’ lives.

    Like

  56. [Note: Janice posted this comment on November 5, 2012.]

    – QUOTE -Janice, I partially agree about lack or response to Faith’s sexual assault/attempted murder of Xander, though I have seen viewers talk about it a little. I do think there are other additional explanations for the lack of response relative to that of Spike’s AR of Buffy, though the idea that women can’t rape men is probably also one of them

    Thank you for that response (and I’m sorry for not seeing it sooner – I’ve been puttering about on LiveJournal quite a bit lately; one of the nice things about LJ is I’m notified of responses to my comments) The points you bring up make quite a bit of sense, particularly now that I’ve met more people in fandom and have gotten a wider view of fan responses to the show.

    Like

  57. [Note: WCRobinson posted this comment on July 30, 2013.]

    Wow, I just realised that Tara has a real tough time in 19th episodes.

    Brain sucked in Tough Love, and shot in Seeing Red. Nice. Even New Moon Rising had pain for her, though it ended on a happier note.

    Like

  58. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on November 1, 2013.]

    As to the Tara/Buffy blood discrepancy, remember that the blood on Tara was from the exit wound whereas with Buffy it was the entrance wound. Of course, in real life the exit wound should be much worse than the entrance but it does make sense that the amounts of blood would be different. Also, you do see that Tara’s blood was sprayed onto Willow’s shirt whereas Buffy’s just remained on HER shirt.

    Like

  59. [Note: buffyfan posted this comment on November 7, 2013.]

    “Hey, I had this cousin, who got resurrected by some kooky shaman… (chuckles) Whoo-boy! Was that a mess.” is clem referencing Darla from Angel here?

    Like

  60. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 20, 2014.]

    I think Spike is expecting Buffy to fight back when he attacks her and that this will lead to sex. It’s almost a conditioned response from their earlier interactions; it doesn’t make it right, but does make sense.

    Like

  61. [Note: EdwardH posted this comment on January 21, 2014.]

    About Buffy not fighting back early on, when she fell and hit her back on the tub it was a severe blow to her spinal cord, which cold be part of the reason for her slow response. Although shock and disbelief are probably enough of an explanation.

    Like

  62. [Note: JustAnItalianGuy posted this comment on March 22, 2014.]

    I personally think that the Spike’s dichotomy, in Once More With Feelings, is expressed better by the first part of Walk through the fire in which Spike sings
    “The torch I bear is scorching me
    Buffy’s laughing, have no doubt
    I hope she fries
    I’m free if that bitch dies
    I’d better help her out”

    Like

  63. [Note: Odi et Amo posted this comment on April 28, 2014.]

    I have always felt this to be among the finest of Buffy episodes. It’s just relentless, penetrating, shocking, and moving. It services the season plot and the characters remarkably well. It’s filled to the brim with deep and grave moments – both immediately powerful and resonant to the end of the season. Astonishing and deeply chilling how Buffy can be connecting to Xander for the first time in what seems like years, to be covered in blood the next instant. Tara’s death and the attempted rape are stark without being cauterized, intense without being blunt, masterfully acted without being melodramatic.
    In short, this is easily a 100/100. Not at all uneven in tone, and almost leadenly heavy.

    Like

  64. [Note: SnoopyWoodstock posted this comment on June 10, 2014.]

    Why didn’t anybody ever remind Xander that he tried to rape Buffy. Just like with Spike, it took Buffy pushing Xander off her to get him to stop.
    I get Xander being angry and hateful to Spike for the AR, but he should remember he tried to do the same thing.

    Like

  65. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 10, 2014.]

    The one time where Xander attempted to rape Buffy was when he was possessed by a hyena spirit – hardly something he should be held accountable for, given the circumstances. Spike, on the other hand, is fully guilty of what he tried to do and as a result deserves all the spite and hatred he gets.

    Of course, when Spike gets a soul in “Grave” the game changes and the rules become somewhat murkier. But as of “Seeing Red”, I think it’s unfair to call Xander hypocritical.

    Like

  66. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    This might have been brought up already, but there is something that has always bothered me about Xander’s response to the AR. It was a horrible scene, and I make no excuses for Spike’s behavior, but I’m always a bit perturbed by Xander’s reaction. I completely understand his protective attitude towards Buffy, but Xander also attempted to rape Buffy in “The Pack” when he was possessed by a hyena. At least, Spike showed genuine regret after the AR, whereas Xander claimed he couldn’t remember what happened and never even apologized. Since his actions are never brought up again, I always think of it when Xander comes down very hard on Spike. I do think Spike deserves the harsh treatment, but it’s sort of hypocritical coming from Xander.

    Like

  67. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    Yes, but how much more should accountable should an individual without a soul be than someone whose being possessed by a demon? You’re saying that Xander is not be accountable because he was possessed, but Spike is fully responsible even though he’s similarly possessed by a demon as a vampire. One of the issues after Angel got his soul back was the debate among the Scoobies of whether Angel was really to blame for the actions he committed while soulless. I just don’t think its a black and white answer. Not to say Spike isn’t entirely wrong, but I don’t think what Xander did was all that different

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  68. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    But Spike is the demon. Once you re-ensoul him, he is a different person and I think it would be wrong of the Scoobies to condemn him in season 7; however, up until “Seeing Red” he is deserving of all the hatred he gets.

    Like

  69. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    OK, I see what you’re saying. However, Xander does continue to fault Spike in early Season 7, so I still think it is hypocritical. At least Spike is apologetic. Xander has never even acknowledged it.

    Like

  70. [Note: Joy posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    As Boscalyn said, Xander hates Spike for the AR to such a great extent precisely because he never dealt with his own shame for attempting to rape Buffy.

    Had Xander acknowledged what he did, apologized and made amends to Buffy there’s a strong liklihood that he would have seen the similarity between what he did and what Spike did. Instead he stuffed it and his shame festered.

    “The Pack” was one of the few times when the writers didn’t follow through with consequences. It seems like they subtly address those consequences now in the Xander/Spike dynamic. In S7 “Selfless” they will briefly touch on Xander’s “kick his ass” lie from S2 “Becoming” but sadly it gets lost in the chaos of the moment.

    And BTW, poor Buffy! Between Xander in “The Pack”, Giles in “Helpless” and “LMPTM”, Angel/Angelus, Parker and Spike, it’s no wonder the girl has built some serious walls around herself.

    Like

  71. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    To be honest, I think none of this has anything to do with “The Pack”. It’s a real stretch to say that episode influenced anything to come. It was a poor season 1 stand-alone with no relevance to the greater scheme of things whatsoever, and I don’t think it has any bearing on “Seeing Red” or the attempted rape at all.

    Like

  72. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    I don’t think any Season 1 episode dealt with consequences that well. From the very first (two part) episode, where’s the consequences of Xander having to deal with his best friend being turned into a vampire than dusted. Where are the consequences of Willow having a real connection to someone who turned out to be a demon/ computer virus? Where are the consequences of Cordelia nearly getting mutilated?

    Buffy was such a different show back in Season 1, that the thing that became one of the show’s greatest strength was nowhere to be found. That’s why I grade The Pack much higher than most. It doesn’t do anything well that Buffy would come to do well, but for the type of show Buffy was back then, it was probably the best overall episode.

    Like

  73. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on June 11, 2014.]

    I don’t think Xander’s actions in “The Pack” are in any way related to his anger at Spike. Xander, at best, tolerates Spike, which is considerably better than he ever treated Angel. I think it’s more directly related to Xander’s habit of putting Buffy on a pedestal, as also seen in his bitter response to finding out Buffy and Spike were sleeping together.

    I was just pointing out that, in retrospect, I find Xander’s harshness somewhat hypocritical. I should add, though, that Xander tends to be the most frustrating character for me, even though he can be hilarious and, in many ways, is the most human of the characters.

    Like

  74. [Note: Winsy posted this comment on June 16, 2014.]

    So is there a real difference/distinction between being possessed by a hyena
    vs being possessed by a demon?

    Anyway, the AR storyline was character assassination. The writers must have known that this would make a lot of fans of the show who already hated SPike hate him even more and those who didn’t hate him hated him after the AR scene.
    A lot of people ended up not caring about his redemption storyline in season 7.
    I for one didn’t hate Spike, but I did hate the AR. Joss did say on the commentary he didn’t want to make their relationship and Spike’s redemption in season 7 like Luke & Laura from GH. I think they did a great job with it.

    Like

  75. [Note: SanFransisco posted this comment on June 17, 2014.]

    I never liked the scene when Dawn goes to Spike’s crypt. When she talks to him about sleeping with Anya and says “If you wanted to hurt Buffy, congratulations it worked.” I know Dawn saw the hurt look on Buffy’s face and talked to her about it, but I feel like what Dawn told Spike caused Spike to think that Buffy was hurt because maybe deep down she really loved him. I’m not trying to undermine Spike’s AR or blame anything on a teenager, but Dawn really shouldn’t have talked to Spike about something she barely knew anything about. Buffy really didn’t tell Dawn much about what happened or her feelings for Spike.
    His interpretation as to why Buffy was hurt about it was that she really loved him, but still wouldn’t admit it.

    Like

  76. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on October 18, 2014.]

    Spike raped and tortured girls. He admits it himself. Don’t whitewash the character. And the fact that Spike shows remorse does not excuse his behavior. This isn’t Twilight or some bodice ripping romance novel….

    Like

  77. [Note: B posted this comment on October 26, 2014.]

    Season Six of BTVS, is often sited as one of it’s worst. It’s not it’s one of it’s best. This season has been copied by countless shows. Every show since has tried to duplicate the Dark Willow storyline, to varying degrees of success. This is a smart show that took it’s character where they needed to go organically. Bravo, Mutant Enemy writing staff you raised the bar so high every genre show since pales in comparison. Marti Nixon deserves the credit since Joss only wrote the musical episode and Xander’s world saving speech in the season finale.

    Like

  78. [Note: Cotten posted this comment on June 11, 2015.]

    Just finished seeing Seeing Red and I know its a bit after the fact but hey here goes…

    I know there has been alot of controvarsy over the attempted rape but tbh I could see why the writers decided to do it that way. I also know that there was alot of Xander hate over this last few episodes and I can see why. Hell, I always though that he needed his ass good and throughly kicked in S2/S3. Dont get me wrong…I like his character like I do all the main characters. But the one thing that has always bugged me about this episode is by what right does he have to critize Buffy on anything? He is partly responsible for what everything Buffy has been through and done this season. I do get the themes they were aiming for so i guess my complaint is more plot based. If Im reading something wrong about this or Im misinterepting the episode plz say so.

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  79. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 2, 2015.]

    I hate to be that guy but looking back I can’t escape the feeling that there could have been a better way to get us to Dark Willow than this.

    Like

  80. [Note: Zach posted this comment on August 2, 2015.]

    The most loved possession of hers dies? What better way could there have been?

    Or do you mean the way it was handled on a plot level?

    Like

  81. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 2, 2015.]

    Perhaps both. It just doesn’t seem as interesting that the character’s motivation to turn Dark is totally out of her control (though I guess she did resurrect Buffy which started all this wackiness). It’s just not as effective as her having a more deliberate and cool-headed turn which looking back might have been the better choice. Supernatural Season 6 really just sheds a light on all the flaws with the way they handled things here, and I know I won’t shut up about Supernatural Season 6 but almost everything they attempted to do here was done so much smarter and elegantly than Willow’s dark turn. GO SEE IT!!!

    Like

  82. [Note: Krssven posted this comment on August 3, 2015.]

    It’s an old trope, but there aren’t many plot events better than ‘death of a loved one’ for generating both angst and motivation for darkness. Personally I feel that Willow makes a cool (though not level-headed) decision to surrender to her grief. She is still herself and goes out of her way to ensure Buffy doesn’t die, but declares later that she doesn’t intend to ‘come back’ (or presumably survive) her darkness. For me, the way she goes off the deep end was perhaps how I’d expected it to happen, but a genuinely evil Willow would’ve been horrifically out of character. Willow never had any motivation to turn against the scoobies but her personality was extremely addictive when it came to ‘power’. She used it to hide her own insecurities and replace personal confidence with magical confidence. In late S5 when Tara is rendered insane by Glory, we see the early signs of Dark Willow, which is where her true path towards what happens at the end of S6 begins. At the time, she didn’t have quite enough raw power to keep herself going and do much damage to Glory, but over the course of S6 she rectifies this and discovers a way (power boosting – via people like Rack and draining magical items) of making herself even more powerful.

    The lead-up to Willow’s Dark Turn is handled poorly with the magic = drugs rubbish, but once the real meat of the season’s ‘plot’ is kicked off (Warren getting the orbs onwards), they find their ground. The season needed some form of true Big Bad to focus the action and provide a little relief from the awfully heavy-going Buffy arc(s). With a genuine Big Bad to fight and Buffy well off her game, Willow’s true leadership skills could’ve been tested and her descent into dark magics explored further. It’s clear that in response to Glory she really dug into the magical locker to try and hurt her in what was a clear case of ‘you hurt me, now I’ll hurt you’ that is strikingly similar to her pursuit of Warren. Pitched against a genuinely dangerous enemy we might have got a more well-balanced Season Six. Instead we got Buffy being depressed, Willow being on ‘drugs’ and lots of fanservice in the form of Buffy/Spike sex, and lots of it. Personally I enjoyed the Buffyverse and the plot/action as much as (and in tandem with) the character development. People disliked the season because they didn’t get much plot, just character work that generally only worked if you were interested in characters named Buffy* or Spike.

    *Yes, the show is named after her. But you can’t focus on one character for seven seasons. At times in the show’s last two seasons, we really don’t need it to be quite so much about her. As Buffy herself got older, more characters made the show an ensemble piece. By S5, the balance was perfect and every character got something. We didn’t realise what a positive effect this ensemble cast had until a number of characters are stripped away in/by early S6. Buffy/Willow/Dawn/Xander/Anya/Spike is an unbalanced cast and allows too many often-annoying characters (Dawn, Xander and Anya in particular) to get too much of the dialogue. That’s all they get though – Buffy and Spike get all the characterisation.

    Like

  83. [Note: Skie posted this comment on August 8, 2015.]

    First of all I would like to thank you for your insightful reviews on this site, really helped me to appreciate the series even more. It’s also the reason why I decided to join this site. I’m always looking forward to a good discussion. 🙂

    Now to the issue here, which is, at least for me, the ONE big scene I cannot forgive the writers. This is of course the infamous attempted rape scene. You state in your review that it works, but I completely disagree with that. For me, it doesn’t work at all. Even when I first watched this scene, I found it to be completely OOC for both, Buffy and Spike. And second, it is NOT NOT a smart move to have wanting a person to change by an attempted rape , to get a soul no less. I’m sorry to say that but I think, only a man could think this incident to be a good catalyst for the desire to change.

    Further conformation for my opinion came along in form of an interview with James Marsters.
    (http://411mania.com/movies/411mania-interviews-james-marsters-buffy-the-vampire-slayer-angel) Sorry, I tried the link tag but it just links everything after it. Doesn’t seem to work for me.

    JM: “I do understand why they did it but I still think it was a mistake.” And “Even though Buffy is super strong, even though she kicks him through a wall at the end of it, how it plays to the audience changes when you change the sex that way. It worked out and everything but I’m not really sure it expressed what the author was intending and on that score it was not successful. I think it was a big risk for everybody but I think if she could have found a female character to express that with it would have gotten closer to what she was trying to say, and I’m not really sure that we got there with that episode.”

    Some other good point is this little video from Buffy Fanmeet in December 2014:
    (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4gLGaa3FNI)
    Fans asked him about this scene. And this is very telling where it went wrong. It even came so far that JM refused to play the scene initially but anyway had to go through because otherwise they would have fired and sued him. If the actor, which knows the character the most, does not want to play that scene, then something really has to be wrong with it. So what they actually intended to show was the most humiliating, painful day for Spike but what they got was the other way round, the one for Buffy. Joss Whedon asked his writers to tell each other about their specific day. And a female writer told them about how her relationship with her boyfriend was over and in an attempted to fix it, she threw herself at him, believing if they had sex one more time it would amend their relationship. Her boyfriend rejected her in the end and who would have expected a different outcome since a man his physically stronger than a women. So for the male part it is annoying but not threatening. BUT if you reverse the sex, it gets a wholly different dynamic and it is a rape scene. The funny thing is, that Marsters pointed this fact out and Joss Whedon was all “oh no Buffy is a superhero, it’s not a rape scene”. And then, spectacularly stupid they put into this scene all the necessary ingredients to be perceived in the only possible way, a prime example of a “typical” rape scene. Buffy with not much clothes on, her being her back hurt so she can’t effectively fight back, Buffy pleading (whenever did she plead in a fight?? Remember “School Hard”, Spike saying “You don’t strike me as the begging kind.” Hell yeah, she isn’t.). And Spike is wearing the black shirt again and acting like he doesn’t love her. Whenever they fought, they exchanged snarky comments with each other. As soon Spike heard her pleading, he should have realised something is different and stopped that instant. I REALLY don’t get, what the writers wanted to show us.

    The other unbelievable thing is, that Buffy would forgive him so easily in Season 7 and even wanting an intimate relationship again. Come on, all that trust is gone. Of course people might argue that what about Willow but hey, Willow was influenced by a dark power, whereas Spike had his own free will and LOVED Buffy above all else!! Remember when he let himself almost be tortured to death by Glory and at this time he didn’t have so much to loose than now. Something else, which really annoyed me, was that he apparently lost his friendship with Dawn. That was something genuine between them and have it taken away from Spike by this is quite awful.

    What they should have done is using Spike’s real strength, namely his phenomenal perception of other’s people feelings. There lies such a huge possibility. He always was a master in this, be it in “Lover’s Walk”, “Something Blue”, “Doomed” or in “The Yoko Factor” where he brilliantly manipulated all of them. This just makes it stronger because he can do this even with the chip, ah yes, the chip, which conveniently doesn’t work on Buffy anymore.

    Well, I’m not a writer but how about the idea that Spike reveals that he had a sexual relationship with Buffy for a long time while all her friends (especially with Giles there would have been powerful) are there and trying to force Buffy to him again by having her friends rejecting her and ultimately Buffy rejecting her friends and therefore leaving Buffy for Spike alone. He would get this idea by witnessing Xander’s reaction when he had sex with Anya. But then he sees the hurt in Buffy’s eyes and she makes the decision to stay with her friends because she would rather stay with them, even though they are disgusted about what she had done, than to stay with him, the monster. With this background, the viewers would actually buy more into the story, that Spike was trying to get the chip away. The writers wrote these scene on purpose with Spike by saying, “she will get what she deserves”, a monster not a friend.

    So the trigger for his actions to get a soul should not be what he can be and do, a monster, but what he can’t be or become, a real friend and lover, which Buffy could accept and trust and choose over her friends. For me, that would by far be the more powerful message. A scene, which shows what he can’t be but instead we get a scene, which shows what he is. Spike tries to be the man, as he states in “Beneath You”, which she deserves and made him fit and he undergoes this change because without a soul, he can never be this person.

    So, for all the mentioned reasons, I treat this scene as just NON-canon and enjoy the rest of the show. 🙂

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  84. [Note: Skie posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    It seems that I can’t edit my post, is that correct? If no, then sorry for the double post.

    Edit:
    I have no idea how Joss Whedon is as a person but I think it speaks volume that he wouldn’t listen to his actors, SMG and JM. JM didn’t want to do the scene but was forced to do it because he was contracted. I think a writer should listen to his actors and if one of them feels so uncomfortable doing this scene that at the end of this shot he is mentally a wreck, this should you really get thinking.

    Just would like to add a comment from this site (http://whedonesque.com/comments/28208), where they also discuss the attempted rape scene after reading the interview with James Marsters. One of the commenters, Shapenew, made also a good point, with which I totally agree:
    “I agree that it was a real mistake, because rather than a woman being desperate, knowing that she cannot literally force the issue, it is a man who *is* trying to literally force the issue. I would like to know if the writers were thinking that the subtext is that, unlike a normal human man and a normal human woman, Spike on some level knows that Buffy can throw him across the room (as she does), so he can’t really force the issue (as indeed he can’t), or if they were trying to set up something so unforgivable that Spike feels the need to transform himself by getting a soul. It just left a miserable message, though. I love Spike as a character and was glad he remained on the show and I accepted it in drama/fantasy terms, but as a message – “Sure, you can go back to being friends a guy who tried to rape you if he really cleans up his act,” which is alas how it played on some levels – it was not one I could or can get behind.”

    This goes in the same direction with the superhero stuff that JM mentioned in the interview on youtube I posted above.

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  85. [Note: Noah posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    I’ve been aware of these interviews, or at least ones like them, for a while. But neither they or your posts have altered my feelings on this episode or scene for a number of reasons. I think it will be easiest to just try to respond point by point to the most important statements that you make.

    1.

    And second, it is NOT NOT a smart move to have wanting a person to change by an attempted rape , to get a soul no less.

    Spike is already a rapist. He’s already a serial killer. He’s already got a history of the most brutal, horrific crimes imaginable. What’s different at this point is that he’s in love with the person he’s trying to hurt (“You always hurt the ones you love”). When he committed crimes just like this before, he didn’t care about the person he was killing/raping. Now he does, and so he’s able to feel some measure of the pain he’s caused, and he cares about how what he’s done will affect Buffy’s perception of him, something (another’s perception) he’d never cared about with anyone else. The attempted rape itself isn’t the key variable that made this action different from the ones in the past; this was Spike being Spike. The difference is Buffy, and how he feels about her. You may still think that the shouldn’t have portrayed such a thing, and that’s fine. But not smart? That’s a very intelligent situation for the writers to have created.

    2.

    If the actor, which knows the character the most, does not want to play that scene, then something really has to be wrong with it.

    As someone who’s done both writing and acting, I say, “Hold on there!”. I won’t say that an actor can’t have a deep conception of a character, or even that the writer’s is always greater than the actor’s. Some characters are thin as origami paper on the page, but played by good actor who makes them interesting on stage or screen. Spike is not one of those characters. James Marsters is a fabulous actor, but Joss Whedon is also a phenomenal writer who knows his characters inside and out. They are part of him, part of him that he knows very well, and comes to know through the process of creating.

    3.

    The funny thing is, that Marsters pointed this fact out and Joss Whedon was all “oh no Buffy is a superhero, it’s not a rape scene”. And then, spectacularly stupid they put into this scene all the necessary ingredients to be perceived in the only possible way, a prime example of a “typical” rape scene. Buffy with not much clothes on, her being her back hurt so she can’t effectively fight back, Buffy pleading (whenever did she plead in a fight?? Remember “School Hard”, Spike saying “You don’t strike me as the begging kind.” Hell yeah, she isn’t.). And Spike is wearing the black shirt again and acting like he doesn’t love her.

    People have different memories of the same conversation, even when neither is lying, so taking one person’s account of a situation as fact isn’t necessarily going to yield accurate knowledge of that situation. As they say of jury trials, eyewitness testimony is the least reliable evidence. The one thing we all have that is objective and indisputable is the show. What does the show say? As you point out, it says rape. Buffy’s comment to Spike is, “Ask me again why I could never love you.” It isn’t, “Ask me again why I won’t take you back” She’s saying, “See, what I’ve told you all along, that you’re still a disgusting monster, is true, and the proof is that you just tried to rape me.” Xander refers to it as rape two episodes later. It will be referred to as rape by Buffy and others in season 7. If the writers were unaware that they were writing an attempted rape scene, they also seem to have been unaware of that unawareness as well.

    As for Whedon saying Buffy is a super hero, he’s right. I never thought for a moment that she would actually be raped. That doesn’t make watching the scene any less tense or sickening, or absolve Spike in any way. But as a viewer, I know that even a wounded Buffy is stronger than Spike. Now, if we assume that part of the intent of the writers was to make a scene as Marsters describes it, does that knowledge have sufficient weight to alter my perception of the scene? Probably not. What I suspect happened, though, and I recognize I could be 100% wrong here, is that their original intent was as Marsters describes, but that it was changed in the final production. Either way, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is what’s in the show. And as I said above, that’s pretty clear.

    4.

    The other unbelievable thing is, that Buffy would forgive him so easily in Season 7 and even wanting an intimate relationship again. Come on, all that trust is gone.

    What trust? Buffy trusts Spike to watch Dawn because he knows he can’t physically hurt her, and that he seems to like Dawn, and definitely has feeling (however selfish) for Buffy. She doesn’t trust him beyond that. She tells him things she doesn’t tell her friends, partly for the reasons that Spike explains in his song in “Once More, With Feeling”, but also partly because he shows her affection. Essentially, she tells him things like you tell your dog. You don’t consider it a person, but it won’t judge you and it will still love you no matter what you say. But you don’t trust your dog in the same way as you would a friend or lover (not saying people don’t trust dogs, or that I don’t, it’s just a different thing). Actually, she has far more trust in Spike in season 7. And for good reason.

    As for forgiveness, I don’t think it was easy. I guess that’s a matter of opinion. It’s also a matter of philosophical belief whether you think someone deserves forgiveness, or whether, as Giles says back in season two, it doesn’t matter what they deserve but what they need.

    5.

    That was something genuine between them and have it taken away from Spike by this is quite awful.

    This is the kind of statement that I’ve never understood, but that a lot of fans make. Nothing was taken away from Spike. If we’re going to treat Spike as a kind of person, capable of having things like friendships, we have to accept that he acts and that there are consequences. The loss of that special relationship was his fault, if having it was his doing.

    6.

    So the trigger for his actions to get a soul should not be what he can be and do, a monster, but what he can’t be or become, a real friend and lover, which Buffy could accept and trust and choose over her friends.

    That’s not a bad idea, but it’s for a different character and a different show. Spike’s soul-getting is motivated by two things: the desire to be the kind of man who would never hurt her, and his horror at what he is. The first is the culmination of his loving Buffy arc; the second is the culmination of one of the effects of that arc. Vampires in the Buffyverse are defined by a couple of characteristics, but among the most important are these: no empathy, and no capacity for self-reflection (literally and figuratively). I think it’s obvious how the motivations I described just now mesh with these characteristics: this action allowed Spike to have two things that no vampire is supposed to have, empathy and accurate self-knowledge. That’s the metaphor of the soul-getting.

    In your scenario, Spike goes to get his soul because he wants what he can’t have, which is a relationship with Buffy. But that’s a selfish motivation. He would be getting the soul not because he’s decided that what he does is wrong, and, by consequence, that what he is is wrong, but because he can’t have what he wants. But that’s not what makes a soul. What makes a soul is morality. Whedon is very strongly influenced by the work of Albert Camus, who said that it was a large part of his mission in life to combat nihilism, the belief that nothing matters, the consequence being that there is no morality and no purpose to life. Of course, Camus believed that there indeed was no (knowable, at least) inherent meaning to the world, but that this leaves human beings free and obligated to create meaning by rebelling against this absurdity. In other words, If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do, as Tim Minear coined it. According to Camus, being stuck at the point of nihilism, without rebelling, results in implosion (suicide The Myth of Sisyphus), or explosion (murder The Rebel, The Stranger). In the second case, as with vampires in BtVS, this means that one can satisfy all of one’s desires and pleasures with no guilt. Spike is one such a nihilist. His change comes about not because he wants Buffy, or a relationship, or anything at all, really, which is just more self-centered seeking for pleasure or possession (listen to the definition of love that he gives Buffy in this episode), but because he experiences a moment in which he he feels for her as if he were her, also known as empathy. After this experience, he is able to recognize clearly, from feeling the pain he caused and caring, what a monster he is. He feels that it is wrong for him to have what he did. He then fights back (rebels) against it. Voila! Morality. A soul. For me, the way that the writers actually wrote it is much more meaningful, powerful, and in line with the mythology and philosophy of the series.

    7.

    I have no idea how Joss Whedon is as a person but I think it speaks volume that he wouldn’t listen to his actors, SMG and JM.

    As I’ve argued, I think Joss was right in this situation. The show is Joss Whedon’s creation, not Sarah Michelle Gellar or James Marsters’. And Joss put a heckuva lot of thought into it. That doesn’t mean that the actors shouldn’t have been able to or didn’t contribute. I’m sure they did, and that’s great. But I don’t think for a second that standing up for his philosophical and artistic vision (not just his, “Oh, hey, that would be freaky”) reflects badly on Whedon at all.

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  86. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    While all this talk about empathy and stuff is interesting I wonder if we could have achieved the same end goal without bringing rape into this necessarily. Sure he did this kind of stuff in the past but having to witness it is a whole other thing and if the actors were indeed this uncomfortable with the situation perhaps alternatives should have been considered.

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  87. [Note: Noah posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    Unfortunately, rape happens in the world. If the show is going to be true to life, that’s got to be an avenue open to it. Making people uncomfortable by causing them to confront things in themselves and in the world that they’d rather not is one of art’s great purposes. Perhaps the same themes could have been expressed through different material, but I don’t think a rape is out of bounds as subject matter or because it makes people uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable. I’m sure it’s much worse for people who have experienced sexual abuse in their lives. But I’m writing about a show where one of the character’s thinks it’s sadistic to make someone go through these painful experiences (as a kind of metaphor for metaphor), and another thinks it’s necessary. I tend to side with the latter. And I know from painful experiences of my own that have been reflected in these shows that it does lead to self-knowledge and that the discomfort was usually worth it.

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  88. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    I think my problems that have emerged with this scene over the years are less to do with the content of the piece as much as the story-telling around it. In fact a good amount of the criticism from this site at least been more on the story than the subject matter. As iguana-on-a-stick has pointed out the episode had to twist the situation for things to turn out this way and the rape is more about it’s effect on Spike than on Buffy. It’s just problematic on the whole and it’s hard to shake that feeling.

    Also is there anything where Joss talks about this scene cause I typed “joss whedon seeing red” on Google and I can’t seem to find anything.

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  89. [Note: Noah posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    I’m probably starting to sound like an apologist to some people, but I don’t really agree with those criticisms either. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this episode, let alone the context, at least a year now, but I don’t remember having a real problem with it. I’m presuming that the twisting Iguana is referring to is Buffy’s injury, though there may be others. Well, I just don’t find that very twisty. Buffy gets hurt quite a few times, and usually when she’s down about something (consciously or unconsciously), as is the case here. So the fact of her being hurt seems not out of place or overly bendy to me. Now, the fact of Spike attempting to rape her while she’s hurt isn’t surprising either. Given the places that they’re in, remember her physical injuries are metaphors for emotional injury, it simply seems like the natural concatenation of events for Spike to make a move then, both when he’s at his most detached and she at her most vulnerable. Again, I might get a different impression if I watched it again, but that’s my memory of it at present.

    As for focusing on how it affects Spike, that seems only natural to me. If Buffy had been raped it would have been different. Focusing on Spike after that might have seemed callous, depending on how it was done. But in this case, Buffy is alright, though shaken up, and Spike is reeling from his actions. That’s not to say that he’s the victim, but sometimes it’s interesting to focus on the perpetrator, and the show, as I tried to demonstrate above, makes very good use of the opportunity that focus provides for philosophical exploration. I would add that this isn’t, as I often see written about this and other incidents, “using” Buffy as a tool or assaulting her character in order to grow a male character. That’s a strange way to look at a show to me. I don’t like to impute motives to writers in that way. What happened happened because the characters were who they were (if the writers are good, and these were), and then the characters respond to their actions and the consequences of them as the writers think they should. That what it seems like to me, at any rate. If the characters were acting significantly out of character to the point where it was clear they weren’t characters but mouthpieces or what have you, that would be one thing. But, again, as I argued above, I don’t see that going on here.

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  90. [Note: Noah posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    That’s not to say that Buffy didn’t suffer, that this didn’t affect her, or that experiencing attempted rape isn’t harrowing or damaging. But Buffy seems to get through this situation fairly well considering how horrible it must have been for her, and that seems in character for her.

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  91. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    So, here’s a question: with all of the controversy surrounding Spike’s attempted rape of Buffy in “Seeing Red,” why is there little to no discussion about Faith’s attempted rape of Xander in “Consequences?”

    The two scenes are very similar. The victim shrugs the rape off quickly and without any lingering effects, and the rape is used primarily to progress the rapist’s story. So why does no one care about “Consequences?” The only real difference is that the victim is a man, and the way the scene is shot isn’t as deliberately shocking. The content is ultimately the same, though.

    I vacillate on how exactly I feel about “Seeing Red,” and I’m not entirely convinced of either side, but I do think it’s somewhat hypocritical for anyone who strongly condemns “Seeing Red” to ignore “Consequences.”

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  92. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    Well as iguana mentioned in your forum discussion with him a little while in my Spike soul topic a lot of it does have to do with how it was presented and the context. Since the manner in which a scene is shot is going to have a strong effect on how we feel the gritty filming and editing of the scene is meant to make us feel real bad about the situation.

    You also have to consider that the Seeing Red attempted rape involved two far more important characters to the series. Buffy, our main protagonist who had become a symbol for feminism and female ass-kickers and Spike a character who many had grown to love in his time in the series and for whom his arc to become a better person was an investment for many people. So putting these two in a rape scene with Buffy as the victim and Spike as the aggressor, was going to be problematic for various reasons.

    In order to be more fair to your comparison I decided to watch that scene in Consequences again. I think on of the main differences is that while Xander is asking Faith to stop it never results in the begging that Buffy is made to do. Also the Faith scene quickly leads to her choking Xander which is considered the real threat in the situation not so much the sexual assault, whereas as in Seeing Red there is no desire in Spike to kill Buffy in that moment but only to get to the sex which I believe is another reason the scene is considered so raw. There is also music whereas in the Seeing Red the music only begins after Buffy kicks Spike off.

    I also have mixed feelings on the scene at times but I might be leaning more towards the negative these days due to the story problems people have brought up.

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  93. [Note: Zarnium posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    I think that’s dodging the issue somewhat, though. The trappings are different, but it’s still a rape that is used for similar story purposes, and I’m especially not convinced that murder-rape is better than standard rape. And if we want to bring external societal connotations into the mix, there’s plenty in “Consequences” when you consider that the quick brushing off of Xander’s rape could be indicative of society’s tendency to not take male sexual abuse seriously. Buffy’s scene is at least treated very seriously at the moment it’s happening, while Xander’s scene is a lot more “standard” even though he was in more danger, and there’s even less follow-through for him than there is for Buffy.

    Now, I’m not convinced that “Consequences” is an irredeemable tripe-hole either, but I think it’s on roughly the same level as “Seeing Red” in terms of how it handles rape. If we’re going to condemn one, let’s condemn the other, too, instead of letting it off on a technicality.

    (To add even more fuel to the fire, another problematic scene is the one where Spike tries to drink from Willow in “The Initiative,” which I also mentioned in my forum posts. It’s clearly supposed to be a metaphor for rape and sex, but the second after it happens, we’re expected to laugh at it. At least Xander and Buffy’s scenes weren’t played for comedy.)

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  94. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on August 11, 2015.]

    If we’re referring to story purposes whereas Consequences was merely a scene to show how unhinged Faith was becoming whereas Seeing Red’s was the basis for the rest of Spike’s arc in the series and the fact that it’s harder to put aside is a big thing for why it’s possible problems are more discussed.

    It also should be noted that the sexual assault on Xander did not go as far it did with Buffy as Xander is still fully clothed whereas Buffy is in a bathrobe while Spike was trying to “get inside” *shiver*. Also while Faith allured to the want of sex she only got so far as to forcefully make out with him before decided to go for the choking. While forcing someone to make out with you is definitely wrong it is not quite as shockingly grim. While murder-rape is definitely worse than regular rape of course given that Faith’s assault wasn’t as severe as Spike’s when it transitions to the choking we’re not meant to view it as someone raping and then killing their victim but rather her changing her mind and deciding to kill the mere mortal in front of her.

    Also I’d say the trappings are about as important as the content here since how something is executed and perceived is going to dramatically effect it’s meaning and response.

    I also decided to watch The Initiative scene since I figured it might get brought up and here’s what I got to say. While the scene definitely has allegories to rape and sex the key is is that it’s an allegory and in fact Spike is trying to bite Willow. Even more important is the fact that Spike failed in his attempt at said biting and we all kind of knew that he likely wasn’t to going to succeed since making Will a vamp or dead at this point would be odd. Will’s reaction is also important as she doesn’t show shock or fear at what she just experienced which ensures that we’re not meant to be too concerned for her well being here whereas with Buffy you can clearly see she is distraught over what happened to her. Also the comedy is more directed at Spike’s impotence anyway.

    Also if you think that all three of these episodes depicted rape poorly than that is your prerogative but the fact of the matter is the other two episodes are not what caused this controversy. Mainly cause SR drew a lot more attention on it’s subject matter .

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