Buffy 7×08: Sleeper

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Fury and Jane Espenson | Director: Alan J. Levi | Aired: 11/19/2002]

“Sleeper” does an surprisingly admirable job of following through with what was started in “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07]. Although not nearly as strong or inventive as “Conversations,” it’s a very respectable and solid follow-up that goes out of its way to begin showing us the scope of the First’s ambitious plans and its influence around the world. “Sleeper” is able effortlessly maintain a very slick pace that had a very firm grasp of my attention. Besides just striking the perfect tone, it also has some powerful character moments such as when Buffy confronts Spike about his evening activities, and when Buffy chooses to spare Spike’s life despite the fact he’s been killing again — albeit beyond his control — and wants to be dusted for it. Personally, I feel this is a very underrated episode.

Right when the episode begins, the writers give me a happy by picking up immediately after the events of “Conversations.” I particularly appreciated Willow’s early conversation with Dawn about what they both saw; both of their reactions rang very true to me. Willow was almost fooled by a very demonic presence while Dawn was left trying to convince herself that her mom really talked to her. There wasn’t anything obvious to make Dawn doubt the message, but Willow tells Dawn to express caution, and to not trust what she saw. The First’s message to Dawn is so convincing, though, that it’s almost impossible not to believe it.

Buffy comes knocking on Xander’s door at 4:30 in the morning asking about Spike. Xander asks if he’s in trouble. Buffy, with a very concerned look on her face, says, “I hope not.” If Spike is in trouble, of his own will, then that would mean her gut feeling about his newfound soulful potential is woefully misplaced, and has lead to dire consequences. Her reaction in this opening scene feels immediate, relevant, and real.

The conversation continues with Xander doing his best to not judge Spike unfairly — to be objective guy. Buffy, although at first trying to bring up objective points on her own in Spike’s defense, then just shakes her head and says, “No, mm-mmm. There’s something. I can feel it. He’s different. He’s changed.” When Spike arrives back at Xander’s, Buffy questions him but doesn’t really get anything conclusive. What makes the situation so difficult is the fact that non-triggered Spike genuinely can’t remember what he’s done at this point.

This leads to a scene where Buffy is following Spike in a crowd of people outside, trying to find out what, if anything, he’s up to. This sequence is really well-executed with a tense atmosphere, an excellent score, and genuinely invested stakes. Buffy, as a show, is simply so well built-up from existing pieces that even a scene like this one turns into something captivating to watch. On any other show this would be a fairly boring run-of-the-mill scene, but here it’s actually captivating.

When Buffy charges into Spike’s room with a boatload of serious accusations later that evening, after losing him in the street, Spike tries to defend himself even though he begins to suspect something’s not right. Their entire ensuing argument is loaded with some very important and emotional insights. Buffy’s pushing him into revealing that he does, indeed, spend time with ladies during the night, “But that’s all it is is time, ’cause, God help me Buffy, it’s still all about you.” He also emotionally says, “As daft a notion as Soulful Spike the Killer is, it is nothing compared to the idea that another girl could mean anything to me. This chip, they did to me. I couldn’t help it. But the soul, I got on my own… for you.” Wow. How is Buffy even supposed to respond to that, especially when it’s so obvious Spike is being genuine?

Later in the basement of the home Spike’s been storing his victims, the First triggers him to attack Buffy. He has the perfect opportunity to kill Buffy here. But at the taste of her blood, he remembers everything and snaps out of it, in complete abhorrent shock. The blood bringing Spike back to his senses was a little awkward in clarity when I initially thought about it, but it started to make more sense when I thematically connected it to S5’s blood theme, even harkening back to Buffy snapping out of Dracula’s thrall after tasting his blood in “Buffy vs. Dracula” [5×01]. The consistent imagery in regard to the power of blood makes this work.

When Spike exposes his chest for staking, expecting Buffy to do the job both Spike and the First expects her to do, I can’t help but feel a bit emotionally torn. Nothing that happened in this basement was Spike’s fault — he was being completely controlled by a manevolent and manipulative force, and there was not a reasonable thing he could have done to prevent it with the knowledge he had. Thankfully, Buffy sees it clearly as well — she’s smart in that she understands Spike was being used, and that the same force that is out to get all of them is likely the one manipulating Spike. This makes for quite a powerful scene where we see a huge blow dealt to the First. It knows that trust and compassion are very dangerous tools against its power.

Spike is actually a bit sad when Buffy won’t kill him — a part of him is in too much pain to keep going, which somewhat parallels what Buffy went through last season. Getting his soul back has been difficult enough, but having the First’s manipulations on top of it is understandably driving the guy nuts. And how ’bout that James Marsters? This guy is a really tremendous actor, and S7 gives him a ton of opportunities to flex those acting muscles. He’s just phenomenal in “Sleeper,” ranging from being terrifying to mysterious to heart-breaking to hilarious.

One thing I admire about “Sleeper” beyond what I’ve already said is that, despite the dire tone, it still makes time for the funny. The scene where Anya snoops around Spike’s room while he’s sleeping is utterly hilarious. It begins genuinely tense, but then abruptly switches to comedy in a way only Buffy can seem to do right. Once again, Anya ends up providing pure comedy gold. Thank you for existing, Emma Caulfield! I also admire Spike’s restraint here — he very well knows the hurt his actions back in “Entropy” [6×18] caused people, especially Xander. This is a stark contrast to pre-soul Spike, who probably would have given into the opportunity, regardless of the consequences, or as Anya hilariously states, “soulless Spike would have had me upside down and half-way to happy land by now.”

The cliffhanger with the axe going for Giles’ head is incredibly effective because this show is well known for its abrupt killings of main characters — I honestly wouldn’t put it past Whedon to do something like that. It also baits me, as a viewer, into desperately wanting to see the next episode. So while I don’t have any problems with it here, I’m not nearly as wild about the follow-up to this moment. More on that later.

“Sleeper” has a mix of all the right ingredients for a wonderful episode, while making next to no mistakes; it certainly didn’t make any major mistakes. Although it’s not a mind-blowing, intellectually complex and/or challenging episode, it exceeds at progressing the Season 7 arc in a way that stems from the characters’ decisions in crucial situations. Buffy’s faith in Spike and acceptance of his plea for help is not only powerful, but also the beginning of what will build into an amazing connection between the two of them leading to Spike’s stunning redemption. Overall, it’s an excellent well-rounded episode backed by some great performances.

 


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ The episode continuing right where “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07] left off.
+ Anya’s reaction to being asked to watch Spike.
+ Buffy’s candor about what Holden told her about Spike with both Xander and Willow.
+ The girl Spike takes to the back alley in the street kind of seems like an older version of the “bad” girl he sires in “School Hard” [2×03].
+ Poor Spike. The First is controlling him, and is even using Buffy’s persona to encourage his unknowing murder spree.
+ The irony of Buffy saying Spike’s “the only one that knows for sure” about the missing women. Poor Spike doesn’t have a clue what’s going on yet.
+ Buffy’s response to being asked if Spike is her boyfriend: “N-n-n-n-n-n o.” SMG nailed it. 🙂

– Spike’s fight with a vampire girl (that has some really bad vampire make-up on) at a club rubbed off as a little overly cheesy. Though I did appreciate the funny moment where the band stops playing when the vampire explodes, then just continues like nothing happened. Aimee Mann’s off-hand comment later about how she hates vampire towns is pretty funny too.


Foreshadowing

* Spike is humming “Early One Morning” as he digs a grave for his latest victim. We, of course, know that this is the song that “triggers” him, thereby disabling the chip and allowing the First to control him (see “Lies My Parents Told Me” [7×17] ).


[Score]

90/100

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60 thoughts on “Buffy 7×08: Sleeper”

  1. [Note: Tom_Kippling posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    Hey Mike,
    It`s another great review. I`m just wondering why you don`t even mention that strange guy in the “Buffy following Spike through the crowd scene”. I mean the guy who plays “Early one morning”. You would think it simply had to be the First, but then again he seems to be just a regular street musician. That one just got me thinking (I’m having to much thoughts).

    Oh, I almost forgot. It is a very good episode, but, please, it deserves a serious deduction for that bloody cheesy “That`s all it was to you – A One Bite Stand?”-line!!

    Keep up the good work and thank you once again for your efforts.

    Like

  2. [Note: Paula posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    Wow Mike, great to see a new review! I too like this episode (and the next) a lot, they’re not perfect but they’re quite effective.

    One thing I wanted to point out: when Buffy confronts Spike in his room about the girl she saw him walking away with, neither gets into enough detail for it to become obvious that they’re actually talking about a different girl and different night. As Spike sort of mentions to her (“It’s boring, it all bleeds together”), the First’s influence really is blurring up his current existence for him to such a degree that he can’t keep up with the whats, whens and wheres. Now he can’t really remember a thing about last night, only the girl he gave a cigarette to in the bar the night before – it’s her he comes to look for later, in order to prove to Buffy that he isn’t killing anyone. And in his current mental state (not just the post-insanity but the sort of depressed aimlessness as well), I do buy him not really catching on until now, particularly what with the new soul to blame any weirdness on.

    Also, gotta love Buffy’s chat with the bouncer.

    @Tom_Kippling: Maybe the street musician just happened to play that tune, but I suspect the First was somehow influencing the musician as well.

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  3. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    mike, awesome review. And I am so glad you gave this episode the recognition it deserves, I too feel this is very underrated.
    One thing that I want to add is SMG as the First. You say James Marsters does a wonderful job and his acting range is great (it’s true), but SMG is also great and completely nails it, as Buffy and as the First.
    Keep the good work, mike!

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  4. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    So, I’v read your reviews since a month now and I loved them! I even devoured them, from season one to this episode. And I haven’t comment yet to tell you that’s a pleasure to read you! Stupid Marion!

    Sorry for my english though, i’m french! 😉

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  5. [Note: Tara and Willow posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    God,a new review! Well Done Mike! I agree with everything!Please hurry up with your other reviews!

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  6. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    First of all, thanks to everyone for all the comments.

    Tom_Kippling: The sole Con in my Pros/Cons section was meant to encapsulate that one cringe-worthy line. But I totally agree with you.

    Marion: Thanks for the kind words! No worries about your English. I can already tell it’s better than many native speakers.

    Tara and Willow: Thanks for the enthusiasm, but I recommend that you savor each review a little longer, ’cause soon there won’t be any left to hurry up with! 😉

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  7. [Note: starboxer posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    Your review [i]rocks[/i]! No, really.

    But seriously, it does. Good call with the snapping to attention via blood thing. I hadn’t ever really even thought about it too much, but that makes sense.

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  8. [Note: Sam posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    Terrific review, Mike. It rocks like an electric solo in the midst of a sea of soft acoustics.

    This is a GREAT episode. The scene in the basement is incredibly creepy, and I love the extended sequence where Buffy is out searching for Spike. There’s something so haunting and melancholy and… final about it; it’s a feeling that actually looms over the entire season. It’s very poignant without falling into the abyss. You do a great job of illuminating this season’s strengths. Thank you.

    Incidentally, I think that this episode’s title should and the next episode’s title should be switched.

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  9. [Note: Nix posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    There’s a simple explanation for how the musician came to be playing Early One Morning: the First could simply have *asked* him. In my experience street musicians get little enough attention that they’re outright gratified to play whatever you ask (as long as they know it). (Sure, the First is incorporeal and only appearing to the musician, but how would the musician know that? From his POV this could just have been a random punter.)

    Now the abrupt switch away as soon as Spike is out of sight, *that* is harder to explain. (Perhaps the ‘musician’ actually *was* the First. Musicians die too.)

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  10. [Note: Adam posted this comment on April 6, 2009.]

    Great review and great episode! I love this episode and, while I respect your opinion, I think the fight with Spike and the girl vampire was done pretty well.

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  11. [Note: Sosa Lola posted this comment on April 7, 2009.]

    Awww, love how Xander’s attitude toward Spike mellowed a lot, and fans still say he never changed his mind about Spike. I don’t blame them, though. You need a telescope to see Xander’s character development in S7. I hate you, writers!!!

    Seems that Willow took care of Dawn just fine before Buffy arrived, this is the start of Willow taking the big sister (or mom) role to Dawn instead of Buffy.

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  12. [Note: Suzanne B posted this comment on April 7, 2009.]

    P.S. I really thought I would see something about Andy Hallett passing away. I understand though, since he was on Angel, but… Anywhoo, just a bit surprised, is all.

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  13. [Note: Suzanne B posted this comment on April 7, 2009.]

    Oh, I usually don’t check the forums. I’m not really that computer-savy. But thank you for letting me know.

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  14. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on April 7, 2009.]

    Great review Mike! I agree that this is a great and very underrated episode.

    As far as the busker singing ‘Early One Morning’ goes, I think its a lot more powerful to think of this as an ordinary busker who made a song choice at random. For me, the only interesting part of the First is the notion that it exists inside each one of us.This is what makes the First freakishly relatable and virtually unbeatable. If the busker really is just your average guy then this demonstrates the First’s influence within every human being.

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  15. [Note: Leaf posted this comment on April 7, 2009.]

    Really enjoying these reviews Mike.

    One thing that always strikes me about this episode is Xander’s change in attitude (which can be seen in other S7 episodes as well) towards Spike. I’m sure there is a whole essay – and I know there is a load of fanfic – on how these two relate to each other throughout the series, but this and the next episode are probably the ones where it is the most obvious though I kinda wish they’d done more with it later (see also: Spike and Dawn). I suppose really the change in attitude (on Xander’s part) is more to do with Buffy than Spike as he seems more willing to trust her judgement this season (ignoring Selfless).

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  16. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on April 8, 2009.]

    I find this episode a bit forgettable as it tries to make Spike into a threat when he simply isn’t anymore. Even if he is killing all those people, we as an audience don’t care about those victims. Maybe if one of Dawn’s pals from Lessons or Help had been killed by Spike, the stakes would’ve been raised. Even then, we’ve still seen (soulless!) Spike in all his emotionally raw glory. There’s just no recovering when the writers, during several episodes in the past, deliberately skewed the dynamic so that Spike became more sympathetic than the heroine whom we’re supposed to be rooting for here. As it stands for me, Buffy stalking Spike in Sleeper was the ultimate borefest, and unfortunately it takes up a chunk of the episode. Also, regarding that street scene… when did Sunnydale get so HUGE?!

    I also found the general premise of this episode a little off-putting, and by this I mean the focus on Spike. Realistically, Buffy would have knocked Spike unconscious straight off, chained him up in the basement, researched the imminent-death-foretelling ghosts that you’d think would take a larger priority, and come to the conclusion that they were the First… all an episode sooner. To me, this episode (and the next for that matter) smacks of biding time, filler content and appeasing Spike fans. I do, however, love the conversation between Buffy and Spike in the bedroom and, well, everything Anya was involved with. The music this season (not just a shout out to Aimee Mann, but the week-to-week episode scores) proves to be the best in a long while.

    One thing nobody seems to mention is the big black bouncer at the club who checks out Buffy and says she could skip the entire queue of people. I like it when the show acknowledges how hot SMG actually is. She looks great around this point.

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  17. [Note: Paula posted this comment on April 9, 2009.]

    @Wilpy: On the subject of Sunnydale, IMO it makes limited sense to complain about the inconsistency and nonsensicality of the town (including size, population, geography…), because beyond vaguely explaining some stuff by referring to the influence of the Hellmouth and/or the Mayor, the writers have never even pretended Sunnydale to make any sense. From the start this town has emphatically been whatever the current plotting requires.

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  18. [Note: wilpy1 posted this comment on April 9, 2009.]

    Yeah, but that doesn’t make it good writing. I mean, in previous episodes, it was stated The Bronze was the only night club in town, yet in this episode, there appears to be a whole boulevard of them.

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  19. [Note: Sam posted this comment on April 10, 2009.]

    S7’s one major flaw so far this season, IMHO, is that the writers seem to have all gotten crushes on Spike at the expense of all the other characters. This would have been fine if Spike actually had a redemption arc, but he never redeems himself; in fact, after he gets his soul, he behaves even worse! He assualts poor Anya in the Bronze when she finds out (good thing getting a soul cured his hatred of women!), and he murders a bunch of people under the First’s influence and vamps them to trap Buffy. The Son of Sam claimed that a demon inside his neighbor’s dog made him kill those people, but he still got life in prison.

    Apparently, however, the fact that he has a soul excuses all sorts of monstrous behavior to Buffy, the fans, and even the writers now. The First tried to get Angel to kill Buffy in “Amends”, but he refused to give in. Spike, however, seemed not to be quite as strong-willed, but then that makes sense. After all, he didn’t seek out a soul to become a better man. His reason was selfish: Spike went to get a soul so that he could have sex with Buffy again. Nothing so noble about that.

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  20. [Note: Sam posted this comment on April 10, 2009.]

    This problem is further amplified by that fight with the black vampiress at the Bronze. The scene is clearly played in sympathy of Spike, except in reality, she would be the victim. This season’s worship of the hot bad boy Brit with the cool leather jacket also goes against the show’s original mission statement, which portrays the social outcasts as heroes. The computer nerds, the dateless losers and the socially awkward were the ones who saved the day at the beginning of the series. Now, apparently, the guy who inspired Billy Idol’s look gets all the love, all because he looks good with his shirt off.

    Will anyone besides the neglected, abused Anya call Buffy (and everyone else’s) irrational love of Spike this season, or will she pay the price for daring to criticize the others?

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  21. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on April 10, 2009.]

    I pretty much agree with everything that Sam and wilpy1 said. I have a couple more complaints about this episode. In CWDP, the writers were trying to misslead us to thinking that Spike has become evil again. But immediately early on in this episode they make it clear that it’s not really Spike doing these evil things but rather that he’s been controlled. I think it would have been more interesting if they played up the ‘Spike’s evil again’ -misslead a little more. For example they should have left out the part where the First as Buffy tells Spike to kill that woman. Also when Buffy confronts Spike about killing that woman, Spike could have gotten angry at Buffy for accusing him and warning her about doing it again without proof. Instead he gets completely whimpy about it and we get the clear idea that it’s not really him doing these things.

    The other complaint I have is about Anya’s ‘funny’ cover up of why she’s in Spike bedroom. Yes, Anya being blunt about sex stuff was funny for the first one hundred times but it’s getting really tired now. I was just rolling my eyes during that whole scene: “Uh, not this again…”

    I guess another small complaint about the Anya-bedroom scece is that between cuts Spike’s blanket gets pulled lower and lower so that finally you can see that he’s not wearing any underwear. Was that seriously necessary? I can just image the writer of this episode going between takes on the set and pulling Spike’s blanket lower and lower: “Ahh, just little lower…that’s it..a little more…”

    ….sigh

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  22. [Note: Sam posted this comment on April 11, 2009.]

    @Jarppu: While I understand your grievances, I actually like this episode a lot. I even love the boulevard tracking shot–sorry, wilpy, I just love that big boulevard, even though it has no reason for being here. My main issue is the overall way that this season handles Spike (too much love) and Anya (not enough). Other than that, this has been a good season so far.

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  23. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on April 22, 2009.]

    @Wilpy: Yes, Gellar is a very pretty woman, but at this point in the show, she was looking pretty darn emaciated. Still is, really. 8S

    Also, about all the people: She doesn’t live in a tiny town…I’ve always gotten the gist that she lives in a city of about 100k or so. Roughly the same size as mine, I’m thinking. If you go to the main “going out” areas at the peak times, there will be a lot of people out and about, so that scene wasn’t unusual at all.

    I will concede that they do warp facts about Sunnydale to suit their needs, though.

    @Sam: Yes, Spike wanted to have a sexual relationship with Buffy again, but that was not the sole reason for him to get his soul back. He wanted to prove to her that he could be a better man, be a man period, because in his own twisted soulless way, he did have intense feelings for her that went beyond just the physical.

    Whether you could consider those feelings to be love, whether you consider a soulless vampire to really be capable of love, is irrelevant, because HE believed his feelings were love.

    @Jarppu: While Anya’s constant bluntness about sex may annoy you, I think it perfectly consistent character-wise. That’s just part of who she is as a character. For her NOT to say or do something like that would be strange and out of character.

    And honestly, there are shows that are much worse with the sex-related jokes, etc. Like “That 70s Show.” My god, the entire, what…7?…seasons is nothing but a giant sex joke. ugh. Now THAT is when it gets tired. haha

    –Okay, there was more I wanted to say about various things, but I’ve forgotten what they were now, and I’ve got to head to bed, anyway. haha 8S

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  24. [Note: Emily posted this comment on June 18, 2009.]

    Mike, great review! But there’s a big parallel between this episode and “Selfless”- and that’s the scene at the end of the big fight in the basement, which I automatically connected to the basement scene where Spike is talking to the First in “Selfless.” Look at the two transcripts:

    “Selfless”
    Buffy: Spike.

    Spike: I’m in trouble, Buffy.

    Buffy: I can help you.

    Spike: I could never ask. Not after…

    Buffy: It’s different. You’re different.

    Spike: I could never ask.

    Buffy: Spike, it’s me. It’s you and it’s me, and we’ll get through this.

    Spike: Never…

    Buffy: We’ll get through this.

    “Sleeper”

    Buffy: There’s something playing with us. All of us.

    Spike: What is it? Why is it doing this to me?

    Buffy: I don’t know.

    Spike: Will you… Help me. Can you help me?

    Buffy: I’ll help you.

    I think the parallel between the two scenes is beautiful. At first, Spike feels that he can’t even ask Buffy for help after what he did to her. Now, though, he sees her throw away the stake, refusing to kill him- taking the first step to show that she wants to help him. Which is really all he needs at this point to propel him to ask for help, because he’s so desperate for it after all this pain the First caused him. I also think that this is a step forward for their relationship- a step towards forgiveness on Buffy’s part and on Spike’s part, it’s a step towards accepting help from the one person he never thought he could ask.

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  25. [Note: treadingthedark posted this comment on August 2, 2009.]

    Loved this review. Sleeper is actually my favorite episode of the season. The emotionally vulnerablility of “do it quick okay?” just about killed me. The Anya stuff was hilarious, and Buffy really showed her compassionate, loving side.

    The Buffy fight in the basement was great, I also loved Buffy’s Sunnydale search for Spike and her chat with the bouncer. But that fight scene in the bar, besides the utter cheesiness factor, why is a brand new fledge almost kicking Spike’s ass? Unless he turned a stuntwoman or a martial arts expert that fight was ridiculous.

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  26. [Note: Zaphe posted this comment on December 18, 2009.]

    I actually agree with Mike that Spike is one of the most fascinating characters. His character development goes beyond just a big bad boy with leather jacket and British accent. As other poster already pointed out before Spike was the original outcast before he was vamped. All his behaviour after he becomes a vampire was a way of him to try to counteract that image. Even the soul-getting is a way to prove to Buffy that he cant be a better man like Leelu said.

    I feel very strongly for this character, putting the good look aside, because he is constantly struggling searching and finding a way to prove himself. His treatment by his peers as human, by Dru and Angel, then Buffy the constant put down is the drive to his various behaviors. Spike never believed he is the champion even after he saved the world. It was only until he met Fred in Ats who as a relative stranger treated him like one that gave him confidence and eventually beat Angel. All his journey to reach such point is very relatable, interesting and fascinating.

    I’m sorry that it is such a long post but I feel people who says that too focus on Spike being the Big Bad is cool may be doesnt understand the depth of this character. It is about how a social outcast who tries to be big bad to cover his social inapt, then fumbles, struggles to eventually finds himself.

    Besides JM’s acting is absolutely a wonder in this show besides SMG and AH.

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  27. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on December 21, 2009.]

    @Zaphe, don’t worry – your post isn’t very long at all compared to some of the comment posts!

    I think you’re right on when you say that people who dismiss Spike as the cool, leather-jacket wearing bad boy are misinterpreting the character. Nicely put.

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  28. [Note: Zaphe posted this comment on December 22, 2009.]

    Thank you Shannon and please excuse my bad English. I know it’s silly to feel so much for the character but I cant help but feeling protective of Spike after watching what he had been through and how hard he tried to be a better man all on his own amongst all odds and redicules without any encouragement from anyone.

    I feel compelled to defend him a little when I see that he got trashed not only within the show but out of it as well 😦

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  29. [Note: Iris posted this comment on June 22, 2010.]

    Hi Mike,

    First of all I just wanted to say how much I have enjoyed your site. I found it about four years ago and have been lurking ever since. I have rewatched the series a couple of times while checking out your recaps and reading the comments. Your site has greatly enhanced my appreciation and understanding for this amazing show as well as pointing out little gems of continuity and character development. I know this has been a labour of love for you, and it is evident in the quality of the content.

    Maybe one day I’ll comment on an episode or season, but for now I just have a question. Buffy’s comment implied that Billy Idol stole his look from Spike. Was that ever mentioned anywhere else in the series. Because I don’t recall it. Or are we just supposed to assume that because of the timelines given in Fool for Love? I know this is a small point, but it has been bugging me.

    Again Mike, thanks for such a great site and I look forward to reading your season seven review and the comments from everyone else.

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  30. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 22, 2010.]

    Thanks Iris! The Season 7 Review is a little over half done now. Hopefully the wait won’t be too much longer. 🙂

    As for the Billy Idol thing, I’m not sure. Nothing pops out to me at the moment.

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  31. [Note: Michael Carruthers posted this comment on October 25, 2010.]

    I watched this episode last night, and a lot of things The First does in it don’t make any sense. Why is it even trying to get Spike to bite Buffy? It states a number of times later in the season that it wants Buffy alive – the Ubervamp & Caleb both pass up multiple opportunities to kill her. I get why The First is messing with Spike, but why instruct him to bite/kill Buffy?

    I think your grade is overly generous to a pretty “good” episode that failed to really stand out in any way. I liked that it followed directly on from CWDP as well, and there are no out-right bad moments aside from the “one bite stand” line, but I can’t feel fascinated by what’s going with Spike here. It’s just not all that interesting. They try to make him a threat, and like someone said earlier here, it just doesn’t work all that well.

    Great review though.

    Like

  32. [Note: projectrunaway posted this comment on November 2, 2010.]

    James Marsters is truly phenomenal in this episode. I must admit I often feel very sad that he didn’t get more critical acclaim for his work on Buffy. “Sleeper” reminded me a bit of Whedon’s later series, “Dollhouse”, which also makes use of the sleeper concept.

    It’s so satisfying to watch these season 7 eps with the guidance and insight of this wonderful site. Thanks to all who contribute.

    Like

  33. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on November 6, 2010.]

    To Micheal, I think the First is trying to get Buffy to kill Spike. Eliminate the one who can give her information (as it will try in Never leave me by commanding Spike to kill Andrew).

    And yes, Buffy is imobilized by other vamps. However I’d argue that The First isn’t worried about that. At least he knows Buffy can get herself out of this kind of situation quite easily. And frankly I find it a little fascinating that The First sometimes this season is really admiring of Buffy. Actually she’s the only person he aknowledge as a person. Even Caleb doesn’t hold a great interest in its eyes.

    Like

  34. [Note: yippers6 posted this comment on December 31, 2010.]

    once again i love this episode butdid they really think at the end that spike couldn’t hear them talking about him. I mean vampires have wonderful hearing abilities. They didit in “Him” too.

    Like

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

    This is not among my favorite episodes. It’s an ok one IMO. My favorite scene is Anya getting caught searching Spike’s room and then pretending to want sex. Hilarious.

    I’m pretty sure that I have never seen so many people in Sunnydale as there were when Buffy was trying to follow Spike. LOL (After I wrote this I saw that others had commented on this too…glad I’m not alone because it is one of the first thing that I thought about when I watched this episode.)

    Spike is so hurt that Buffy doesn’t believe him. Kind of sad. I love Spike’s search for the girl that he had a flashback about. It really highlights what souled Spike is like. Doing the right thing.

    Aimee Mann’s line about hating playing vampire towns is kind of reminscent of The Lost Boys to me. It’s kind of silly though because the entire town of Sunnydale doesn’t believe that vampires exist but Aimee Mann does?

    I agree with others that The First does not necessarily want Buffy dead in this episode. I think it was more hoping that either Buffy would kill Spike or that this would irreparably destroy their relationship so they wouldn’t work together anymore. Just a thought.

    Like

  36. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on December 18, 2011.]

    This is actually a good episode as many of the first part of Season Seven eps have been.

    As was mentioned, the incredible acting by James Marsters in the basement scene. The way he looked at Buffy and then down at the stake and then slowly moved across and opened his coat was fantastic. As was the tear falling just afterwards.

    I just wish the season could keep going the same way.

    Like

  37. [Note: Antoinette posted this comment on April 15, 2012.]

    i saw people commenting about how they were surprised about the amount of people there were in the scene where buffy was following spike, and how they were confused on how there was another club. i always just assumed they werent in sunnydale, that they were just in another city next to sunnydale. i live in southern ca and idk if its like this in another places but you always drive around to different cities. i drive to different cities everyday. another theory can be that sunndale could simply have grown over the years. i mean its not improbable that another club could have opened in the past 7 years.

    Like

  38. [Note: hd posted this comment on February 11, 2013.]

    I recently rewatched this episode and if I’m not mistaken during the scene when Spike goes out, right before we see Buffy tailing him, the guy playing the harmonica changes the music and plays the trigger.
    Am I imagining this?

    Like

  39. [Note: hd posted this comment on February 11, 2013.]

    Thanks!
    I thought someone here must’ve mentioned it and when I saw nothing I figured I was wrong, so thanks.
    BTW I love your reviews! every time I watch the show (often:)) I find myself back here.

    Like

  40. [Note: Monica posted this comment on December 2, 2013.]

    Hm, I’m surprised to say the least about the general acclaim everybody is awarding this episode. Until now I’ve always thought this episode to be horribly unpopular. I personally hate this episode, as I believe it epitomizes all of the problems with the seventh season. It focuses too much on the (arguably, of course) uninteresting Crazy!Spike storyline. I can actually confidently consider this one of my least favorite episode because it lacks the cheesy charm of episodes like Teacher’s Pet, Where the Wild Things Are, and Go Fish.

    Like

  41. [Note: Nebula Nox posted this comment on December 30, 2013.]

    @Sam – many years later – Spike may have sought out his soul in order to give Buffy what she deserves, but Angel never sought out his soul at all.

    Like

  42. [Note: Eloisa posted this comment on August 6, 2014.]

    Has anyone above mentioned the bit where Anya threatens to bite Xander’s ass and Xander says “It wouldn’t be the first time.” Hilarious!!!!

    Like

  43. [Note: Vincent posted this comment on April 22, 2015.]

    I liked two or three moments of the episod. When Anya has to find a reason after being caught, for example. Or the final fight, with Buffy finishing them off one by one. But… the rest was confusing, and again, boring.
    I can’t handle it : this season bores me. I’m glad they stopped the series at the end of this one, ’cause I have the feeling they had nothing more to say.

    P.S : I therefore like this season’s villain. It could be anyone, anytime, which is kind of thrilling and scary. I just wish they could handle it a bit better ; it wasn’t clear at all in this episode.

    OH ! And I have two questions :

    1) How did Spike bite all the women with the chip in his head ?

    2) I don’t get the “I have a soul, I regret all my murders” idea. I mean, there are villains with a soul. Faith has a soul, I guess, but she didn’t really regret her first human-murder. So can you explain it tom me ? Is it because William, like Angel, was a really good and tender men before being turned into a vampire ? Do they have the same reactons with their soul back because they would have been incapable to kill a fly if they hadn’t been transformed ?

    (Hope my english is good enough too make it all clear)

    Like

  44. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 22, 2015.]

    The soul is a metaphor for “conscience.” Some people can ignore their conscience, or are put into situations where they can justify acts they wouldn’t normally commit. Angel (Liam) and Spike (William) adhered to their consciences in life. Liam may have been a drunken womanizer, but he wasn’t a sadistic murderer. William was as gentle as can be. Therefore, after regaining their ability to empathize, the acts they committed were too much to bare.

    Faith is funny, ha. You’d have to watch the spin-off they gave to Angel to really understand her. Matter of fact, slight spoiler but, you may be a bit surprised later in this last season of BtVS. If you’re confused, I suggest looking up a summary of the episodes she appeared in Angel.

    As for “evil” people with souls, like I said, they just ignore them. It’s no different in real life. Some just aren’t held down by empathy and can commit atrocities without the capacity for, or despite, guilt.

    Like

  45. [Note: Vincent posted this comment on April 22, 2015.]

    *can you explain it TO me
    ** tender MAN, not men
    *** reactions, not reactons haha

    So, ok, thank you, the soul concept is clearer now.
    But I still don’t get why Spike killed all those people in this episode. HOW did he do it ?

    Like

  46. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on April 22, 2015.]

    It’s explained a bit more in the next one. Though to be honest how exactly it was done is still a bit questionable.

    Like

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

    Some time gone since the last comment but I hope someone will still read it. 🙂

    First of all, great review, MikeJer, as are all the others I read so far. I agree, this episode has a lot to offer, especially emotionally but “Never leave me” has also very revealing Spike/Buffy conversations. But back to this episode. As much as I liked the depth we get into Buffy and Spikes minds due to their conversations and especially the trip back to Spikes past in LMPTM thanks to the trigger storyline, I don’t like the concept of the trigger at all. I think it would have been way more powerful if the First had tried to talk and manipulate Spike into helping him instead of just ripping Spike of his own will with this trigger.
    But then again we have seen enough of evil Spike and it probably wouldn’t fit into his arc if he would be tempted to evil again since he worked so hard to get his soul. Hm, maybe it would work if Spike believed something is wrong with Buffy or the Scoobies or they are in danger and his actions will help to resolve this. I think I would even buy more into that since Spike is quite crazy and confused at the beginning.

    If it really had to be a trigger then at least let the chip work. This just caused a mess for explaining why the chip doesn’t work when triggered. Since it was established that it had nothing to do with Spikes believes or state of mind. The chip worked independently of Spike, see the episode “Family”.
    Spike would still be useful to the First since he still can attack Buffy (so I also never liked this idea of Buffy not being recognized by the chip as human anymore, plot-contrived, so we can have the abusive relationship between Buffy and Spike in Season 6). It would have been far better if the First, with his manipulative skills, would have tricked Spike into believing he had killed all these people. I’m sure the First has enough foot soldiers around to do the job and since he can impersonate Spike it would be easy to let Holden belief it was Spike that sired him. So Spike would be used to get in contact with these people, so he would have still guilt that he led these people to their deaths. The First can’t do it since it would be awkward for people talking to themselves and also this way, people would see Spike and give Buffy reasons to believe the rumors. After getting them to the place the First wants, the victims would be tricked into believing Spike sired them, for example by Spike or the First pretending to bite them whereas another vampire does to job. Afterwards Spike can still dig the graves for the people, which would make Spike believing even more that he had killed them. Then, let them find out in “Never leave me” that the trigger still works. With the chip still working, Buffy’s decision to let him be around with people wouldn’t come of as such a suicidal decision.

    The whole storyline of being able to control Spike thanks to his memory about his Vamp-mother just let’s Spike to be seen very weak. Basically we have the same with Angel in “Amends” but there we have Angel being able to fight it off even though it was established later in the series that Spike is dealing far better with his soulless history than Angel. Yes, spike just got his soul back and was in a moral dilemma and not very well fit mentally but so was Angel after coming back from hell. And how would the First know about the story with Spike’s mother, even more so, why would he know how much that effects Spike. Was it every established that the First can read minds?

    What was actually the point in having Spike get triggered? It can’t be getting him killed by Buffy since the First would not know that Spike would get useful. With all the history with the Scoobie gang and his craziness I think it very unlikely for the First in foreseeing Spikes importance. I always believed the whole purpose was to get Buffy alone into this cellar so Spike could kill her or help to kill her.

    Like

  48. [Note: JennA posted this comment on August 19, 2015.]

    It’s my theory that Spike killing people under the First’s influence that causes the chip to malfunction later on in “Killer in Me.” The First supressed the chip so he could kill his victims without obstacle, but it still had all of this built up “punishment” to dole out. When they break the trigger in “Lies my Parents Told Me”, no more evil dampening effect and it overloads. Just my 2 pennies 🙂

    Like

  49. [Note: Yez posted this comment on August 19, 2016.]

    I don’t know if the first can read minds, but i think he knows people weakness, in conversation with dead people, the girl who talks with willow told her things that only tara knew

    Like

  50. [Note: Juan posted this comment on August 19, 2016.]

    Well, angel never fought for his soul, he only finds a purpose when he knows buffy (when she’s 15 by the way), and i never really see him feeling regret for jenny’s murder. And in his show he let darla and drusilla murder people on w&h

    Like

  51. [Note: Revenge Demon posted this comment on September 15, 2016.]

    This episode dosnt deserve an A (help was so much better than it…. ) The spike focus can be a little tiresome in s7… I love spike but his crazy persona was taking too much of the season.. especially when in retrospective its the last season…

    Like

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