Buffy 7×17: Lies My Parents Told Me

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: David Fury and Drew Goddard | Director: David Fury | Aired: 03/25/2003]

Uhh… yes, please? From the first time I saw “Lies My Parents Told Me” I thought it was one of those “big” episodes where complex situations and character growth won the day. From the revelations and growth Spike experiences to the depth and satisfaction we get in closure to Wood’s arc to the insurmountable growth Buffy showed in saying no to her former mentor when he was wrong, which finally turned her into the general she’s only been playing in name until now, what we’re looking at here is nothing short of a brilliant episode. Buffy was forced into the role of leader, by Giles no less, and has done the best she knows how — mistakes and all — so far. But it’s here where we see her make a tough decision on her own that puts her at odds with Giles.

With of all of that going for “Lies,” and I haven’t even mentioned many other bits going for it, I’m amazed that nearly everywhere I go I only see crap flung at it. Most of these complaints are leveled at Giles’ behavior and Spike, well, in general. I’m always willing to offer respect for an opposing point of view that I can understand, but most of the arguments I’ve read against this episode just don’t make any sense to me. As far as I’m concerned, this is an easy choice for a Top 25 list. As usual, though, I will present my case for the episode and let all of you decide whether I did it well enough. Although this time around, I’ve got some wonderful backup (keep reading after my review is done for a surprise). So, without further ado, let’s get to it!

To start with, what a phenomenal opening scene! In the rain drenched cityscape of New York City circa 1977 we see Spike sparring with Nikki Wood before that fateful encounter on a subway train (see “Fool for Love” [5×07] ). The comments these two exchange with each other includes some potent references and a hint of where the episode is going, from Nikki’s comment of Spike looking “wet and limp” to Spike’s response, “I spent a long time trying to track you down. Don’t want the dance to end so soon, do you, Nikki? The music’s just starting, isn’t it? By the way, love the coat.” It’s obvious Spike doesn’t just want to kill her; he wants it to be a challenge to kill her. Nikki tells her young son to remember “the mission” — a lesson Robin clearly loses sight of the more time passed after his mother’s death.

There are four major players here: Buffy, Giles, Wood, and who everyone is fighting over… Spike. Buffy obviously has a very complicated history with Spike, Giles has never liked him and sees him as a risk, and Wood is pissed about his mother’s death and subsequent lack of a normal childhood. For most of the episode, Spike is simply caught in the middle of it all. In “Get it Done” [7×15], Buffy and Giles had an argument over her decision to remove Spike’s chip — something Giles was understandably unhappy about. Here in “Lies” we see Giles bring a stone that will give Spike the opportunity to search his past and recognize what is causing the trigger. Good on Giles for trying to reduce the risk Spike poses.

To Giles’ credit, I agree that Buffy is a little too eager to have Spike romping around outside when the First can still trigger him to kill at any moment; that’s the one point that I completely side with him on. I get Buffy’s faith in Spike, but he can’t control when he’s triggered. But on the other hand, Giles is thinking in a very traditionalist manner in regard to Spike and doesn’t see the unique opportunity for goodness he represents; Giles doesn’t see the larger war of souls being waged against the First. The First is corrupting Wood by feeding his vendetta against a monster that doesn’t exist anymore. The First knows it can’t lose Spike to Buffy’s side, and it’s getting worried that it won’t get the opportunity to trigger Spike at an opportune time before the trigger is disarmed, so it would rather have Spike dead.

When Buffy says that Spike is their strongest warrior, she doesn’t necessarily mean in the physical sense. Spike’s redemption by its very nature shakes the foundation on which the First is built. Giles’ history as a watcher and his experiences with Angel feed into his opinion on the matter. He has never been friendly in regard to re-souled Angel ever since Angelus killed Jenny Calendar — we would be silly to ignore that. So, Giles’ motivations are complicated, but understandable.

Giles’ inherent dislike of Spike fuels his genuine logical concerns about everyone’s safety though. This is why he is susceptible to Wood’s plan to off Spike. I’m really pleased there’s absolutely no confusion between these two men over their motives and that the air is clear between them over Wood’s desire for vengeance. This way we’re not led to feel in any way that Giles was mislead. Wood makes a case to Giles that very much speaks to the type of man he is — a ‘do what must be done’ type. I find it totally in character for Giles to play the role he plays here to rid the world of his dislike and genuine concern around Spike. We saw this side of Giles emerge earlier most notably in “Helpless” [3×12], “The Gift” [5×22] (remember Ben, the relatively innocent guy who Giles killed simply because he shared a body with a dangerous evil being and was a risk to Buffy — hmm, sounds relevant now don’t ya think?), and in his decision to go back to England in S6 to force Buffy to take responsibility of her problems.

This is precisely what Giles tries to explain to Buffy as he distracts her in the graveyard. He’s not trying to justify his decision when he tells Buffy about making hard choices; he fully believes it. He tells her, “while I’m not technically your Watcher anymore, the fact that your life is such chaos only underscores the importance of the lessons I can impart to you.” … “It takes more than rousing speeches to lead, Buffy. If you’re going to be a general, you need to be able to make difficult decisions regardless of cost.” Giles’ case becomes stronger when he gets Buffy to admit that if she was asked to sacrifice Dawn to save the world now, she would. This is a powerful moment that really shows just how much Buffy has grown from “The Gift” [5×22]. While Buffy’s decision in “The Gift” [5×22] — to all just die if there’s no other alternative but killing Dawn — was in many ways admirable and certainly understandable, it wasn’t the smart move. Giles’ argument to her there was the correct one, and it’s the same argument he uses here in his case against Spike.

My one regret with this scene is that Giles didn’t bring up the fact he killed Ben, which would have completely brought his argument full-circle. What kills me is that the scene was in the script but got cut for time. Anyway, Giles ends his argument by painfully telling Buffy, because he knows Spike’s death will cause her pain, just like poisoning her in “Helpless” [3×12] and telling her Dawn must die in “The Gift” [5×22] and leaving her in S6 did, to “stop playing the role of general, and start being one. This is the way wars are won!”

In total, Giles puts together an understandable and largely convincing argument that I can sympathize with. There are two problems with his approach though. The first is that he doesn’t realize that by keeping Spike by her side, Buffy is making a hard, risky call, and it’s not just fueled by her feelings for Spike. The second problem is that Giles is thinking in outdated terms. He sees Buffy’s connection with Spike as a weakness — as something clouding her judgement. There is likely a little bit of truth to this, but the connection these two have built, especially over S7 so far, is far more powerful and positive than Giles realizes. The strength these two give to each other is a large part of what leads them all to their ultimate victory over the First.

Clearly Giles has always been very much a father figure to Buffy. When Giles is blatantly lying to Buffy about why they’re in the graveyard, betraying her trust in him once again — albeit for what he views as a just cause — I can’t help but think back to “Helpless” [3×12]. That’s the very first time Buffy saw another side to Giles, and it was the first hint that he’s occasionally susceptible to traditional methods of accomplishing what needs to be done for the greater good (although to his credit, he didn’t like that “test” one bit, but did what he deemed was ‘necessary’ of him). The true lie here, I think, is that Giles is Buffy’s mentor anymore. As far as I’m concerned, she’s made it; she’s a viable leader and a mature adult at this point. Is she perfect? No! But Buffy has the experience, skill, and knowledge to lead these Potentials. In “Never Leave Me” [7×09] Giles told Buffy it’s all up to her. Well, Giles, it’s time to eat your own words. It’s time for Giles to now follow Buffy. Can he do that? Fortunately, after this episode, yes, which continues to speak well on Giles as a person, despite the mistakes he, too, has made in his life.

But reaching that conclusion is not an easy one for the likes of Giles and Wood due to their backgrounds, personalities, and the fact that they haven’t seen, first hand, the connection Buffy and Spike have built. We as viewers have a much clearer picture of the story, which leads us to more easily accept what Spike is becoming and the potential Buffy sees in him. “Never Leave Me” [7×09] set the stage for all of this when Buffy professed her faith in Spike’s potential to be a better man. Spike saw something amazing out of Buffy that day, just as Buffy witnessed something amazing out of Spike at the end of “Beneath You” [7×02], and since then he’s doing his best to live up to the faith Buffy has put in him.

Wood, on the other hand, wants to kill the person that took his mother away from him — another understandable motivation. What Wood completely fails to realize is that that person does not exist anymore. His pain and anger is blinding him to that fact, and he makes a mistake in taking it out on Spike. Here in “Lies” it’s not Buffy that is clouded when it comes to Spike, it’s Wood, and to a lesser extent Giles. When triggered, Spike doesn’t suddenly become the Spike of old, he becomes very much like the Ubervamp was: a mindless instinct-based animal. Killing that animal doesn’t avenge the death of Wood’s mother, it only jeapordizes their likelihood of defeating the First, which is why the First sends Wood after him.

With everyone’s motives set into motion, we’re left with Spike trying to make sense of all of this. In the first flashback we see Spike reciting his imfamous poetry to his beloved mum. Although it’s easy to make fun of William’s life and closeness with his mom — sadly a very American stance — what’s important to realize is that William’s mom is the only substantive relationship in his life, despite desiring a relationship with Cecily. This becomes particularly important when he later, as a vampire, makes his mother an immortal.

Now freshly vamped, his “mother” tears into him with one cruel comment after another, claiming that no one could compare to his mother for his affections and even that he would rather be together forever with her than another woman. Spike, being beaten up by Wood at this point, is finally realizing his root issue: that the vampire he created was not, in fact, his mother and that there is no need to dig into himself over what she said of him. In his mind he is finally able to apologize to his actual mom for doing what he did — a realization that frees him from his trigger thus invalidating Giles’ entire case against him. With this new realization, he imparts what he’s learned onto Wood, after giving him a proper beating, in a conversation that connects the dots between Spike and Wood.

The episode’s title plays into all of this by referencing the relationships between Spike and his mother, Wood and his mother, and Buffy and Giles. The most important relation centers around Spike though. See, I don’t believe William’s mom thought his poetry was all that bad. I think she thought it was good simply because he was her son and he got enjoyment out of it. When he vamps her, though, she cuts into him with all kinds of mean words. It seems like she’s revealing her true disdain for William’s life and poetry; revealing that lie. This is what Vampire William takes from the experience, which plays a huge role in shaping the vampire he becomes. What’s interesting, though, is that this is not the lie that the title is referring to. The lie is how that’s not really how his mom felt about him — the demon set loose in his mom simply used her memories to inflict pain against him. This is the key realization Spike makes while being pummeled by Wood.

Wood, venting his anger, explains that Spike “took my childhood. You took her away. She was all I had. She was my world.” Spike responds “And you weren’t hers. Doesn’t that piss you off?” … “I know slayers. No matter how many people they’ve got around them, they fight alone. Life of the chosen one. The rest of us be damned. Your mother was no different.” Wood says, “No, she loved me.” Spike then closes with, “But not enough to quit, though, was it? Not enough to walk away… for you. I’ll tell you a story about a mother and son. See, like you, I loved my mother. So much so I turned her into a vampire… so we could be together forever. She said some nasty bits to me after I did that. Been weighing on me for quite some time. But you helped me figure something out. You see, unlike you, I had a mother who loved me back. When I sired her, I set loose a demon, and it tore into me, but it was the demon talking, not her. I realize that now. My mother loved me with all her heart. I was her world.”

All of this comes together when Buffy runs to Wood’s place to find out what’s going on and she finds that Spike bit Wood but let him live on account of the fact he killed his mother. Buffy then articulates all the themes that have been bumbling around the episode. She says, “I lost my mom a couple years ago. I came home and found her dead on the couch.” … “I understand what you tried to do, but she’s dead.” … “I’m preparing to fight a war, and you’re looking for revenge on a man that doesn’t exist anymore.” … “Spike is the strongest warrior we have. We are gonna need him if we’re gonna come out of this thing alive. You try anything again, he’ll kill you. More importantly, I’ll let him. I have a mission to win this war, to save the world. I don’t have time for vendettas.” The episode then comes full circle when Buffy tells Wood that “The mission is what matters.” This, of course, connects with what his mom told him as a child.

Before the final scene of the episode, there’s a brief but important little moment where we see Buffy stopping by Dawn’s room and stroking her hair like she used to do back in Season 5. It’s a small emotional gesture that speaks volumes about Buffy’s heart and empathy for her family and friends. Despite her devotion to “the mission,” it’s still these people that keep her going.

The final moment of the episode involves Giles making his final point about what he did only to get utterly shut down by Buffy. This episode — and particularly this moment — is where Buffy actually becomes the general Giles was talking about in the graveyard earlier. While Giles will remain a valued friend of hers, he is no longer her teacher. Buffy has now not only asserted herself as an adult, but also as a leader. Ironically, this is exactly what Giles has been teaching her the entire series right up to his own words in the graveyard in this episode. He told Buffy “it’s time to stop playing the role of general, and start being one.” Well Giles, you got your wish. This moment represents the climax of seven years of wonderful character development for Buffy. It’s to Giles’ credit, as I mentioned before, that he has no problem letting go of his own ego to follow her leadership now, as we see in “Chosen” [7×22].

“Lies My Parents Told Me” is a complex and rousing episode that gets at the very nature these characters, analyzes them, and then evolves them. Buffy, Giles, Wood, and Spike are all never the same after what transpires here. Although this is a huge episode for Spike as he completely regains full control over himself and his destiny, it’s an even bigger episode for Buffy as we see her step completely out of the shadow of her youth to take on full leadership of her army. Buffy is one hell of a complex individual — one that we completely understand in regard to just about every aspect that makes her who she is. In terms of pure character growth, I think this is the capper to Buffy’s journey. We’ll see her faith in Spike pay off big in the final arc of the series.


[Rick Osborne’s Analysis]

Just over a month ago Mike and I made a scandalous backroom deal to release my thoughts on “Lies My Parents Told Me” alongside his review. My purpose in writing this piece was not to usurp our dear reviewer, however, but to offer his readers a unique perspective on what I feel is one of the best episodes of Buffy. For this reason, I will not be discussing all the accomplishments and flaws of the episode, since this is a duty we entrust to Mike’s more comprehensive process. Instead I intend to focus on several core themes and characters.

I chose this particular episode first and foremost because I feel it is a pivotal episode in the series, perhaps even the best of the seventh season. But it also happens to be one of Buffy‘s most obscure episodes, one whose probing character studies and thematic insights lurk behind a rather straightforward plot. These subtleties are unusually dark and complex, even for a Whedon show, and that, gentle readers, is where I live! So without further delay, off we go!

“Lies My Parents Told Me” (LMPTM) is probably the most ambitious episode of the series. Despite being a solid character study of Spike, it also manages to explore the psyche of the Slayer within the greater context of the struggle between love and leadership. In both of these pursuits, the episode inspires a profound discomfort in the Buffy fan because its message challenges our preconceptions about the show’s characters and, more still, its purpose. Can the Slayer really live a normal life? Can Spike really be absolved of all his crimes? Is Buffy truly alone? These are all questions LMPTM explores, and its answers leave all but the most uninvolved of viewers wary of what the show has become.

The best way to approach this multitude of ideas is to focus on the unifying aspect of the episode: its title. Almost all of LMPTM’s intentions are developed through three parental relationships, each of which revolves around an implicit lie from parent to child. The first such relationship, between Spike and his mother, is the primary focus of the episode that provides an insightful glimpse into Spike’s character. Since it’s been clear for several episodes that mommy’s singing triggers him into frat boy-slaughtering fun, the first question that comes to mind is: um, why? The answer seems to be rooted in the sense of security Spike’s close bond with his mother provided him. His mother was the only person who actually loved him for what he was: a sensitive, dare I say ‘unmasculine’ man who wrote poetry and lived at home with his mom. She affirmed what was an otherwise forgettable life ridiculed by everyone else.

But after turning his mother into a vampire, Spike is jarred by her rejection of the very life she gave meaning. With his masculinity insulted, his affections perverted by incestuous overtones (eww, anyone?), and his admittedly terrible poetry exposed, Spike is no longer insulated from the criticisms of his peers. The qualities of William’s personality — humility, gentleness, loyalty, and expressiveness — were all vulnerable traits because they contradicted the ambition and rationality others expected of him. That even his mother could not love him underscores why Spike the vampire takes on an almost opposite personality: violent, lustful, and cruel.

It goes without saying that Spike would have been a very different vampire had he not sired his mother. In the course of 40 minutes, viewers come to understand the contradictions inherent to his character. For most of his ‘demon career,’ Spike was an unusually skilled vampire, having killed two slayers and survived over a century. Yet his ferocity as a villain was always undermined by a powerful emotionality that left him vulnerable to jealousy and recklessness. What made Angel such an effective villain was his lack of humanity. He killed because it amused him, because the suffering of others inspired a pleasure so removed from human feeling. Spike’s crimes, on the other hand, were driven by the most powerful of emotions: rage, lust, jealousy, and despair. He might have been dead, but Spike was the quintessential human. He sought prestige and power in order to redeem what he saw as a worthless human life, but that pursuit left him vulnerable to mistakes because, at the end of the day, we can never really escape what we are. There are certain immutable qualities we possess that must be reconciled with what we want to be, not removed from it. Thus Spike meanders through a century long career of terror mired by unstable relationships with Drusilla and, later, Buffy. He can’t really separate the violence from the love, even when one gets in the way of the other.

Recognizing that contradiction, Spike reclaims his soul at the end of season six. For the first time he must confront his mother’s rejection as an ensouled being with a conscience. He certainly can’t relish in a redemption filled with violence and destruction. But, without a viable response to his mother’s rejection, he can’t exactly revert to his former human self either. That’s why, when presented with a lullaby once sung by the mother whom his life disappointed so deeply, Spike is ‘triggered’ into the killing machine that freed him from the mediocrity of his human life

It is only when Wood kicks the shit out of him that Spike finally comes to terms with his mommy issues and his own nature as a vampire. He alleviates his guilt by abandoning it entirely, denying any responsibility for killing Wood’s mother. Although it’s a little crude to call the whole slayer-vampire dynamic a “game,” there’s a valid rational observation here. As a soulless vampire, Spike was compelled to violence via the demon within. Whereas Angel sought to atone for these compulsions, Spike forfeits his guilt along with his responsibility. What’s more relevant here, though, is that Spike’s understanding of culpability, or more precisely his lack thereof, reminds him that a vampire is not the same thing as the person it infects; it is a desouled version of that individual, whose evil and destructive impulses are no longer checked by a conscience. Spike’s mother was a kind and wonderful woman who loved her son very much. Upon becoming a vampire, however, she negates her own humanity by rejecting the authentic love she had for her son. While love is one of the most profoundly rewarding experiences we have, it’s also the one that entails the most vulnerability. In letting others in, we need to open ourselves up. Deprived of her conscience, Spike’s mother moves to close that opening. What follows is merely a lie from a mother to her son.

Love’s imperfections extend well beyond its need for vulnerability, however. Perhaps its greatest flaw (or is it ours?) is the mirage of invincibility and eternality we bestow upon it, which leads us directly into the second relationship of the episode: between Principal Wood and his mother, Nikki. Their bond provides some crucial insight into the nature of the Slayer. Regardless of the number of allies she has, the Slayer is the final and only arbiter of demon law. In accepting her destiny, she not only commits to fighting the forces of evil, but to doing so alone. School, boys, and friends (a.k.a. a normal life) are always secondary to that mission. Since Wood sees his mother’s death as unfair happenstance fixed within a “game” of destiny, he’s unable to give up on the lie that his mother would have chosen him instead. Sure, destiny befalls the Slayer. But, in the end, she chooses destiny. And if we look back to “Fool for Love” [5×07], it’s clear that the odds to this game are fixed. The Slayer doesn’t choose to play because there’s something to win. Her loss is all but certain, her death not a question of if, but when. That the Slayer chooses a duty whose invariable conclusion is death over a life defined by loving relationships is a testament not only to the tragedy of her condition, but to the heroism of her choice.

For six seasons, viewers have been misled into believing that Buffy is an exception to this rule. In the earlier seasons, she always managed to balance prom night werewolves with homework and graveyard shifts with boyfriends. And in season five, she sacrificed her own life as a testament to her love for her sister and friends. But by the final season of the series, we’re made more aware than ever of the personal sacrifices Buffy makes everyday. These sacrifices and the isolation they entail are the topic of the conversation between Buffy and Giles in this episode, which incidentally is our final parent-child dynamic. Yay for us!

While not technically her father, Giles has always been Buffy’s guardian, and the paternal overtones are certainly there. Most of the juicy dialogue between them this episode comes from the often overlooked and misunderstood cemetery scene, which in my opinion is actually the most important conversation of the season and one of the series’ best. We have Buffy being dragged out to the cemetery by Giles, someone she still regards as a mentor. He continuously gnaws at her judgement concerning Spike, claiming that she needs to learn how to make hard decisions. And while I am inclined to side with Buffy overall, I feel the need to give credence to Giles’ arguments here. Buffy’s telling him that she understands the neutrality her role requires. And she acknowledges that “any one of us is expendable.” Yet she remains stubbornly resolute in her defence of Spike, a powerful vampire who at any moment may be triggered by the First into mass murder. It is not difficult to understand why Giles remains unconvinced, especially in light of Buffy and Spike’s tumultuous past.

But the meat of this conversation comes when Buffy brings up her refusal to consider letting Dawn die in “The Gift” [5×22]. Giles immediately asks: “But things are different now, aren’t they? After what you’ve been through, faced with the same choice now, you’d let her die.” Buffy’s response is nothing short of shocking to most fans: “If I had to. To save the world. Yes.” Unfortunately, most viewers criticize this comment as having “gone too far,” and in doing so, completely miss the point. Buffy is not saying she would have sacrificed Dawn instead of herself. What she’s addressing is Giles’ suggestion earlier in “The Gift” [5×22] that they let Dawn die should they fail to stop Glory. She’s essentially admitting that Giles was right; if Glory had opened the portal and Buffy herself could not close it (remember, nobody knew she could do that until the end), letting Dawn die would be the only way to save the world. Fighting Glory “till the death” sounds good on paper, but being sucked into a crappy CGI portal doesn’t.

What Buffy has come to realize is that being the Slayer means making rational choices that transcend conventional morality. Training girls for war despite knowing many if not all will die is neither right nor wrong. Letting Dawn die for the sake of the world sacrifices one innocent for another, but the necessity of making a choice underscores the nonmoral essence of the selection. This concept is more complicated than a simple “the ends justify the means” mentality, being bound as it is to the notion of the mission. Despite her passions and her relationships and her humanity, the Slayer’s responsibility to the world requires that she step outside of herself. This is precisely why the Watchers have enforced an almost ascetic lifestyle on slayers for thousands of years.

Before completing that thought, I must draw attention to a very short scene right after Buffy’s “mission” speech where she stops by Dawn’s bedside. The execution of this scene is so subtle one might be tempted to call it filler. Yet it’s a perfect reminder of Buffy’s humanity amid an episode dedicated to proving her realism. Stroking the hair of a girl you said could die if necessary an hour ago might seem a bit odd, but it’s an important reminder of why Buffy continues to fight. Her responsibilities necessarily isolate her even from those whom she loves most, but she is still very much the same woman she has always been. She may have abandoned the childish idealism that would compromise her chances of success, but she has not lost the capacity to love. Being able to separate your emotional inclinations from what must be done does not mean that you feel any less acutely. Dawn is the most important person in Buffy’s life, and it is clear that there is nothing more Buffy wants than to prove it. That Drew Goddard manages to slip this scene in so subtly is one of the episode’s greatest accomplishments, as it captures in one sweet moment both the hope and tragedy of Buffy’s life.

Returning to the point at hand, it seems clear, both from her admission to Giles and warning to Wood, that Buffy understands the tough choices ahead. Giles argues tirelessly for several episodes to the contrary, but his frustration with Buffy has as much to do with her inability to make hard decisions as it does with his own unwillingness to accept one. Buffy has made a controversial choice to keep Spike alive. While she is admittedly a little too unconcerned about the risks of Spike’s trigger, she refuses to kill a re-ensouled being with a real shot at redemption and great fighting potential in the coming battle. She has in essence drawn a moral line: Yes, it is important to focus on the big picture, but one must not lose sight of the details. Being a leader does not give her the right to decide who lives and who dies unless necessity forces a choice. Sure, personal feelings are likely playing at least a small role in Spike’s reprieve, but for the most part Giles is mistaking rational conviction for emotional weakness.

To Buffy, this means that Giles’ betrayal isn’t a final lesson on leadership, but a blatant attempt to undermine the very authority he would have her assume. Understanding this, when he resumes lecturing her at the end of the episode, she calmly shuts the door in his face, asserting: “I think you’ve taught me all I need to know.” The third and final lie of the episode, then, is that Buffy has anything left to learn from Giles. His wisdom and knowledge will always be of value to the group, but Buffy has the necessary skills to lead without him (I mean, isn’t that why he almost, sort-of, not really left Sunnydale?).

I can think of no better example of this point than Buffy’s confrontation with Wood, which is why I’m addressing it after the final scene (no, I’m not a hater of linear progression). Buffy coldly tells Wood that his mother’s death cannot be avenged. In a perfect world, someone would and should pay for Nikki Wood’s murder. But in real life justice is often elusive. Spike can’t be reduced to a monstrous “non-thing” in order to indulge a broken man’s need for closure. Spike may be a vampire, but his soul renders irrelevant any dissociation from humanity that designation implies.

Buffy doesn’t kill vampires because they’re vampires. She kills them because their inability to differentiate right from wrong (since vampires don’t have souls) endangers human lives. Killing Spike not only violates that principle, but jeopardizes Buffy’s chances of defeating the First. If Wood forces a choice between Spike and himself, Buffy will and should choose Spike: “If you try anything again, he’ll kill you. More importantly, I’ll let him. I have a mission. To win this war. To save the world. I don’t have time for vendettas. The mission is what matters.” This is easily one of the most chilling lines of the series. Besides consolidating her power with the threat of force, Buffy has made the crucial decision to not distinguish between humans and demons when it comes to winning. Those who work against her mission to the save the world risk death. And that’s how it should be; to argue that the Slayer cannot kill humans because the designation “human” means something in and of itself undermines the very reasons we as a people deserve saving. The moral line in the Buffyverse has never been marked by sharp teeth or extra limbs. Characters are not defined by their physiology, but by the choices they make.

If I had to conclude with a singular plaudit for this episode, it would be that it so cleverly undermines the series’ established themes and morality: Vampires with souls must wallow in self-pity, slayers can’t kill humans, the right choice always exists… justice exists. As I mentioned, BtVS had always been a sort of tongue-in-cheek feminist statement. Sure, Buffy could slay vampires in a halter! Why not?

Season 7 is so disconcerting because it hints that the Slayer’s life can never be normal. In deciding who lives and who dies and in baring sole responsibility for the survival of her species, the Slayer always stands alone. And I think that reality has always emerged in the defining moments of the series. In “Becoming Pt. 1” [2×21], Whistler reminds Buffy that “in the end you’re all you’ve got.” In “Restless” [4×22], Buffy searches tirelessly for her friends, but ends up alone in a vast, empty desert. And in “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07], Buffy articulates for the first time the acuity of that loneliness. Whether or not she deserves it, whether or not she chose it, the strength of the Slayer is hers and hers alone. That no one else can feel what she feels or do what she must do is the basis of her feelings of superiority. And as Holden wisely responds: “it all adds up to you feeling alone. But everyone feels alone, Buffy. Everyone is. Until you die.”

I suppose that’s what this episode is all about. Despite what our parents tell us or what love makes us feel, our lives are ultimately independent journeys. We share certain moments and encounters, many of which we deem crucial to what we are, but only the individual herself can create the purpose and live the responsibilities of “life.” Nikki Wood loved her son as much as Buffy loves Dawn, but each is called to a mission that supersedes love. That’s not to say that the duty of the Slayer makes the experience of love any less profound. It merely means that to be chosen is to be called to something beyond yourself.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Wood telling Buffy she sometimes reminds him of his mother. This carries on more meaning than a simple compliment.
+ Giles storming into the Principal’s Office complaining about the travesty of the new library. There’s too many computers! Haha! Classic Giles.
+ Xander’s offhand reference about not having the chains up last week. It’s these type of little comments every episode that really bring the universe alive.
+ The funny awkwardness of William’s mom showing up while he and Drusilla are having fun on the couch. She asks “are you drunk?” William responds, “little bit.”
+ Wood’s awesome “sanctuary” filled with crosses covering every wall. Spike’s reaction is perfect: “What the bloody hell is this?”
+ The music during the fight between Spike and Wood — simply exhilarating!


[Score]

EXCEPTIONAL

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208 thoughts on “Buffy 7×17: Lies My Parents Told Me”

  1. [Note: Shinosai posted this comment on June 5, 2009.]

    Awesome reviews, guys, and forgive my rather long comment. This, too, is one of my favorite episodes. It really conflicts with previous seasons in that it establishes different rules. I’d like to do some compare and contrast of my own. In season 5, Buffy refuses to kill Dawn because she’s an innocent and her sister… and likewise she can’t kill Ben, because again, he’s a human. Let’s bring up a quote here:

    BUFFY: Being a slayer doesn’t give me a license to kill. Warren’s human.
    DAWN: So?
    BUFFY: So the human world has its own rules for dealing with people like him-
    XANDER: Yeah, we all know how well those rules work.
    BUFFY: Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. We can’t control the universe. If we were supposed to, then the magic wouldn’t change Willow the way it does. And we’d be able to bring Tara back…
    DAWN: And mom.
    BUFFY: There are limits to what we can do. There should be.

    Contrast those situations from seasons 5 and 6 to season 7, where Buffy has clearly changed her mind about things. Now she is willing to do what she wasn’t before… the Warren situation is similar to the Spike one. Warren killed Tara, but Warren’s human… so he goes to jail. But if Wood tries to kill Spike, she’ll let Spike kill him. But Wood is human, too, so see the contradiction? This is where I disagree with Ryan’s opinion, although I must say he does make a good case for it.

    “Buffy doesn’t kill vampires because they’re vampires. She kills them because their inability to differentiate right from wrong (since vampires don’t have souls) endangers human lives.”

    This doesn’t entirely fit because of Anya. Anya can differentiate from right and wrong (vengeance demons have souls). But the fact of the matter is, even if Anya doesn’t want to do vengeance, she still has to, because it’s her job. That is why Buffy has to kill Anya. And that’s why she kills vampires. Because those demons lack the necessary ability to CHOOSE otherwise. Being ensouled, Spike has made his choice to fight for the righteous side. She saw him make that choice, and that’s why she defended him. When Spike gets triggered, that’s not his fault – she could no more kill him for it than any of her other friends that were being brain washed. Anyways, especially after watching the theme of Storyteller with Andrew admitting that he chose to kill Jonathan… I believe this episode has a strong existential theme.

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  2. [Note: Adam posted this comment on June 5, 2009.]

    Wow, amazing reviews! I am not a fan of this episode, but you guys make me want to rewatch it right now and analyze it. I’m a little shocked you gave this a 100, but I’m not totally suprised (like I was for After Life) since you seem to love season 7.

    I would comment more but I think you guys nailed it all. Thanks, once again, for your highly insightful thoughts.

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  3. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 5, 2009.]

    Shinosai,

    Nice nuanced points. I’ll just mention that I had acutally mentioned how Buffy’s actions here were in contrast to her opinion on Warren in season 6. I ended up cutting the line because it didn’t fit where I wanted it to. But ya, totally agree.

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  4. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 5, 2009.]

    Adam,

    I’d like to point out that after I review a season, I usually do another pass on the scores I handed out. Usually some episodes come down a notch, and I think you’ll find that the same will happen with S7. With that said, despite its very apparent flaws, I think S7 is a quality season of television and completely worthy to be considered an overall strong part of the Buffy story, especially in relation to many of the characters. I firmly believe it doesn’t deserve the crap it gets thrown at it (well, maybe a little bit of it ;)). It’s certainly not one of my very favorite seasons (which, for reference, are 2, 5, and 6), but I certainly do love it. Then again, I love every Buffy season except 1 (which I just ‘like’) and parts of 4.

    I’m surprised you’re enjoying these reviews so much considering your stated dislike or hatred of just about every episode of the season. Hopefully these reviews are giving you a better understanding and appreciation of the season though, even if you still have issues with it. πŸ™‚

    Like

  5. [Note: Paula posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Great work, guys! I love this episode too. A few points I’d like to make:

    * Wood knows it’s the First that’s prodding him toward killing Spike, and he no doubt realizes on some level that it must have a good reason for this which can’t ultimately bode well for his side, but he’s so fixed on avenging his mother’s death that he doesn’t care. Talk about questionable judgment. I wonder how Giles would have reacted if he had come to know of this.

    * Buffy has been letting Spike roam relatively free for the last few weeks, but she’s generally present and ready to deal with him herself, and even here she expresses doubt over leaving someone else to watch him as she and Giles train at the graveyard.

    * I rather think that Giles thinks Buffy’s attachment to Spike makes her blind to the danger he poses (much as all of the Scoobies have feared from time to time re: Angel), and since she seems not to be able to do the necessary thing and rid them all of this particular danger, he must step in one more time. I also don’t think he truly regains his confidence in Buffy’s judgment before “End of Days” (until which they also have a pretty strained relationship), and this goes some way toward explaining why he will shift his support to Faith soon.

    * I don’t think Spike actually bit Wood (least of all drank a drop). He made him think he was going to for a moment though, no doubt to drive home the seriousness of his threat to kill Wood.

    * For some reason, somewhat chilling as it is, the way Spike just tells Buffy that he’s going to kill Wood if he tries anything any more is… satisfying. Ensouled Spike finally gets his act together and takes charge of his existence for real.

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

    Mike & Rick both make great cases for this episode, and although I expressed my issues with it on the forum, it’s an episode that I’ve always found immensely enjoyable and well-crafted and yes… one of the best episodes of the season (and definitely worthy of consideration for Top 25). Mike, you & I haven’t always seen eye-to-eye on certain things, but S7 is my 3rd favorite season (after 2 & 5), and I’m thrilled at all the (much deserved) love you’re giving it. So at this point, I’m simply going to STFU and stay the hell out of your way on your race to the finish line. πŸ™‚

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  7. [Note: Adam posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Thanks Mike for the information about scores. And, yeah, I am really starting to have a better understanding for season 7. It will never be my favorite season by any means (mine are 2, 3, and 5) but I think it’s more rewatchable now. I used to think it was the worst season in the Whedonverse but I think I just needed to give it another try and, if you will, explore it a bit more…

    I’m going to rewatch season 7 soon and start fresh. Right now the only episodes I like are Beaneath You, Selfless, Him, CWDP, and Sleeper, but we’ll see if that changes.

    Like

  8. [Note: Nerdherd posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Contrary to your opinion mike, i could never understand why people like this episode so much. Sure it is generally well made and could be a classic but i really don’t like it cause of one thing: The way the Vampire-Mythology is treated. Throughout the entire show it’s made clear that a vampire personality is a blending of the demon and the “hosts” personality (Holden Webster, Vamp-Willow, even Angel and Spike himself) and Spike should be well aware of that. To say that it was ONLY the demon talking and that there was NO TRUTH AT ALL behind it is in my opinion lying to himself. And that is very out of character for spike. For this major inconsistency in one of my favourite characters i dislike this episode quite strongly.
    BTW, great reviews as always guys. (More Angel reviews please!)

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  9. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Amazing reviews for one of my favorite episodes! I’m a huge fan of season 7, and it’s always difficult to defend it because of its ambition. I mean, sometimes it fails to this ambition, but not as much as everyone seem to say. And some parts are so easily diverted like the graveyard conversation and are so easily judged as off, silly etc… and it’s so hard to defend them because you have to replace the whole context, almost like season 7 requires a puzzle, it puts things together but in an not so obvious way.
    And i think it’s hard to put those elements together, so it can be done only in a serious, complete and long review and it requires an amazing reviewer, so BRAVO!

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

    It seems like there may be some confusion about who Rick is. Rick is NOT Ryan, the guy who reviews Angel episodes on the other site. Rick is someone both Ryan and I know, but we are all three different people. πŸ™‚

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  11. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Thankfully. I mean, Mike and I do not care to be associated with Ryan in any way. We’re much better looking.

    RE: Nerdhead:

    I would say it’s very unfair to characterize the vampire as half-demon, half-person, as this would mean placing half the blame on the person for the vampire’s crimes. I mean, the people who become vampires would never act the way they do if they were still human (think Jesse, Spike’s mother etc.). So why should Spike be held responsible for what he did as a vampire if we would not hold others to similar account. The point is, whether the vampire is indeed a demon fusion or just a desouled version of the person at hand, it directs that once ensouled being to commit terrible crimes he or she would not otherwise commit.

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  12. [Note: Darth Bunny posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Great review. Also important to note that Wood never informed Giles how he knew Spike killed his mother. Don’t have time to join the debate though. Instead, I’ll give another ‘what if?’ idea:

    Wood: Yeah, a while back, it slipped up. It told Andrew it wasn’t time yet for Spike. So, whatever the First’s ultimate plan is, it’s obvious that Spike must play an integral part in that. Something needs to be done.

    I think it would have been interesting if Wood was the one the First was interested in, not Spike. That is, if the original plan was to have Wood kill Spike and than Wood would join the First. Spike’s ‘integral part’ than, would have been to be a sacrificial lamb. Kinda like Star Wars and the way Palaptine let Anakin kill Count Dooku.

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  13. [Note: Ross posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    A good read, or skim-read in my case. It’ll be interesting to see how – if at all – scores are adjusted once you’ve reviewed the season as a whole, because I’m of the belief that S7 deserves every single iota of crap hurled at it – probably even more. Thusly, despite this being a great (& Spike-centric ep), it’s value is diminished simply by the fact it’s unfortunately found itself in a dreadful Season. Also, it’s practically a remake of Fool For Love, which symbolises one of S7’s (of which there are many myriads of) problems – a dearth of fresh ideas. πŸ™‚

    Cracking site though, it’s always fabulous to come across impassioned & detailed opinions on possibly the greatest TV show of our age (if not ever :)).

    Like

  14. [Note: Zillex posted this comment on June 6, 2009.]

    Interesting review! Though I disagree, I personally didn’t love this episode. For some reason I really don’t like mommy issues.

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  15. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    I hardly think Wood was a big part of The First plan, I mean, he’s strong and all but what is his value? Mike made an interesting point about the value of Spike as a great warrior for Buffy because he’s extremely strong and in a conceptalluy idea but I can’t see what would make a big stake of Wood…

    About the lack of fresh ideas, I like to see season 7 as a satirized way to pay tribute to the earlier days! ^^ Everyone sees it like he wants! lol It wouldn’t work if season 7 wasn’t the last, but it is, so I’m glad with all th references! And LMPTM a remake of fool for love? oh yeah, in the way that it’s about Spike past and it’s so important about Buffy. How dared they? ^^ kiddin’!

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  16. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    I always thought that this episode is the most overrated episode of the entire series and this review just proves it.

    @DarthMarion: This episode feels like remake of FFL because they focus on the exact same timeline as FFL did(Spike being a mama’s boy, Nikki the slayer) and especially because of the whole “The mission is what matters” -thing. It’s an exact ripoff of the “You’re beneath me” -thing in FFL. In both cases the phrase is said in a flashback conserning Spike and then repeated in the current time for thematic purposes (very lazy and a little too heavy-handed).

    Before the show was very good in character deveploment but in this episode they develop characters in expense of other characters. Giles gets treated like traitor and a fool so that Buffy would become more independent of him: “I think you’ve taught me everything I need to know”. The show is not intrested in developing any other characters except Buffy and Spike anymore. Everyone else gets shoved to the side or thrown overboard.

    Also this episode was quite boring. Usually flashback episodes in Buffy are jam packed with information about the character’s backround but this episode wasn’t. Like Ross said this season they are running out of ideas. When Spike’s mother started singing that lullaby I almost fell asleep.

    Overall this episode isn’t a total wreck; it’s better that most episodes in the latter of this season. But then again this being season 7 that’s not saying much.

    Now let’s see in how many pieces my post gets ripped apart by the numerous Spike fans in this place.(“Somebody dares to claim that an episode focused on Spike is anything other that pure masterpiece? Sacrilege!”) πŸ™‚

    Like

  17. [Note: Ursus posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    I agree with Nerdherd. While thematically this episode is pretty decent, the inconsistent treatment of pre-vamp/post-vamp personality cannot be ignored. I might have overlooked this flaw were it not so central to the plot.

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  18. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    @jarppu: So basically we said the same thing: Spike’s past and slayer. But i personnally think those two things are large enough to avoid a stupid repeat. Maybe less about the first (I agree with the fact that it’s again about the “beneath me” complex of Spike) but for me FFL and LMPTM explore different things about slayers, I don’t really see much about “it’s all about the mission” in FFL.
    And, yes, It’s still about Spike’s issues. And here it comes almost full circle with the character. That’s a very good character developpment and I understand the jalousy when you’re not a Spike fan because few characters, even in the Buffyverse have such a wonderfull developpment and in a way that’s not fair(however for record, I’m not a huge Spike fan). In the end, I can not be a Spike fan and still admire the work from the writers!

    And yeah, I’m quite lost myself about the postvamp/prevamp/postsouledvamp thing. However I charged that on the too much manicheism of the first seasons rather than of the couragous choice to grey it on the last seasons.

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  19. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    Rick said:

    That the Slayer chooses a duty whose invariable conclusion is death over a life defined by loving relationships is a testament not only to the tragedy of her condition, but to the heroism of her choice.

    Er, no. It’s a tragedy, if you like, but it’s not a heroic choice, because the Slayer has no choice, except for the ‘choice’ to die earlier rather than later. As Buffy points out in s4, this isn’t a job; she can’t quit it no matter how much she might want to.

    Buffy doesn’t kill vampires because they’re vampires. She kills them because their inability to differentiate right from wrong (since vampires don’t have souls) endangers human lives.

    Also because they feed on people’s blood and haven’t heard of farming (not that farming people for their blood and not drinking-unto-death would be very much better: Pratchett’s vampires tried it in _Carpe Jugulum_ and I don’t think it was exactly morally brilliant either).

    Regarding the vampire-personality thing, the season isn’t actually inconsistent here. What we see is disinhibition, every time (all the dark impulses let out to play), but personalities can shift as well. There’s a perfect get-out clause for the apparent inconsistency: that the demons that inhabit the bodies of the vamped are different from each other. Perhaps the one inhabiting Spike’s mother was strong enough to be able to ignore her personality and only use her memories. Perhaps something else is at work. Plainly Spike retains a lot of pre-vamp personality, as did Willow when we saw her (Angel very nearly let that slip: note how very similar she is as a vampire in _Doppelgangland_ and as a powered-up human in _Two To Go_).

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  20. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    @Nix: about the slayer’s choice: wasn’t it the point of the episode, especially the part about Nikki, to show that ultimately there’s a choice? They’re chosen, but what prevents them to quit? Nikki could quit for her son, but she did’nt. Spike says to Woood something like “she loved you, but not enough to quit huh?” Nikki chose her mission above her motherhood. Buffy could quit in season one, but she did’nt. I know it’s not that simple, because of their links to the demonworld, because of their slayer dreams and instincts, so that’s it’s difficult for them to escape their responsibility. However I truly think there’s a choice, and in the Potential Mix, there’s this ability to make the hard one.
    The realization that’s this choice exists is part of what brings Buffy to transcend the notion of Slayer. The rules weren’t dictated to her anymore, she made them because she can choose, and it’s an incredible power that’s breaks her free from for example the tyranny of the council and tradition.

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  21. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 7, 2009.]

    Couple of points:

    1. Regarding the criticism that Buffy could not have chosen otherwise. To me that argument doesn’t make sense. The whole point of this episode is that the slayer embraces her duty, thereby choosing it. There is nothing to prevent a slayer from quitting, which Buffy herself had threatened to do. We need only look at Faith’s partying with the Mayor days to see that the slayer doesn’t have to choose anything. She’s given strength and she’s given a tragic duty. If she chooses the latter, that’s a remarkable and respectable choice.

    2. Regarding the soul issue. I don’t think it matters how you look at the nature of the vampire…the point still stands: They aren’t the same thing as the person they were when alive, otherwise Buffy wouldn’t kill them. That’s what Spike realized…that his mother didn’t hate him. I’m not sure why we need a hardcore, concrete mythos explanation here to get the point.

    3. Regarding “Fool for Love,” I think it’s a really baseless criticism to say that this is a copycat episode. The themes are entirely different (see this review vs Fool for Love review), though the focus is very much on the slayer. In this episode, we look at the costs of leadership and the loneliness/choices involved, whereas in FFL we look at the death wish and the inevitability of death. The flashbacks regarding Spike are entirely different, thematically, as well. Where FFL focused on Spike’s role in killing slayers as well as his self-contradictions (sappy human plus nasty vampire), LMPTM explores why exactly these self-contradictions exist. This is an episode, at least for Spike, that’s designed to explain much of his past, not reiterate it.

    4. Regarding Giles, I think it’s wrong to say this episode creates a traitor of him in a bad way. His arguments are very convincing in this episode, and his decision is entirely in character. Indeed, almost his entire message (making tough decisions) characterizes the theme of the episode. Buffy agrees entirely when it comes to Wood. Her difference regarding Spike is not philosophical, but practical.

    5. Some tone issues. There seems to be a little hostility in the comments section for this episode. It’s fine if you don’t like Spike, but it’s rude to suggest that the only reason people think this episode is good because it focuses on Spike. A Spike-centric episode might be good because it’s well-written, and fans and non-fans of the character alike can agree on that. As the critic, it is your responsibility to attack the arguments, not the people giving them. It is okay to find this episode boring or a rip-off, but to merely state those points without much substantive evidence comes off as needlessly hostile (the only evidence given was a simple analogy between a mere two lines, “you’re beneath me” and “The mission is what matters”), especially when succeeded by a claim that anyone who disagrees merely does so because they are under the illusion that a Spike-centric episode must, by virtue of its Spike-centredness, be good.

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  22. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    “The show is not intrested in developing any other characters except Buffy and Spike anymore. Everyone else gets shoved to the side or thrown overboard.”

    As much as it pains me to say it, I agree. And it’s so obvious in the few next episodes. I wish the staff had writers who are interested in the other characters as well, to get a more balanced season.

    I was on Giles’ side in this episode. Spike needed to be chained or something until they figured out how to fix the trigger, Buffy was obviously putting her feelings for Spike ahead of what needed to be done. The First had stated that it was going to use Spike at some point, and Buffy was risking her troops’ lives.

    However, I don’t like Giles going behind Buffy’s back like that, nor I think that killing Spike is the only/right option.

    I also don’t like that we’ll never see Buffy and Giles making up. Thanks for ruining one of the best relationships between a man and a woman in the show, writers. (Thank God for S8. Hopefully, Buffy and Giles will work things out.)

    Like

  23. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    “Wood knows it’s the First that’s prodding him toward killing Spike, and he no doubt realizes on some level that it must have a good reason for this which can’t ultimately bode well for his side, but he’s so fixed on avenging his mother’s death that he doesn’t care. Talk about questionable judgment. I wonder how Giles would have reacted if he had come to know of this.”

    I doubt that Giles would have cared. He strikes me as the type would do “anything necessary” to achieve the greater good – which in his opinion was getting rid of a controlled Spike, whether through getting rid of the First Evil’s influence or killing the vampire.

    By the way, despite Buffy’s claim that should would sacrifice Dawn, if necessary . . . she was either lying or trying to prove that she can be the ruthless decision maker that Giles wanted her to be.

    Like

  24. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    I also don’t like that we’ll never see Buffy and Giles making up. Thanks for ruining one of the best relationships between a man and a woman in the show, writers.

    It wasn’t that great, considering that this was the second or third time that Giles had betrayed Buffy. But that is not surprising, considering someone of his Watcher mentality. And Buffy needed to outgrow him.

    Like

  25. [Note: suga mama posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    im a forty something year old from essex, and i Must say IIII LOOVVEEE THISS EPI i mean its so shockingly amazing , i sat with my cat paddy and it was the most touching thing i have ever seen on tv, paddy thaught so too as he got so hyper. my one complaint is that my sugadadda giles is just such a B.I.C.T.H i mean does any one agree with really , i mean poor spikey
    xoxox
    mary-sue

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  26. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    “By the way, despite Buffy’s claim that should would sacrifice Dawn, if necessary . . . she was either lying or trying to prove that she can be the ruthless decision maker that Giles wanted her to be.”

    —-I’m not sure why you think Buffy was lying, since she has absolutely no reason to do so. First, if she’s willing to slam the door in Giles’ face regarding Spike, then she’s obviously not that concerned with what he thinks. Second, her speech to Wood about “the mission” suggests she’s certainly not playing around here. Third, the general theme of the episode suggests that Buffy has become this tough leader, and it goes further in saying that the slayer inevitably assumes this role. Finally, her argument makes perfect sense. Letting Dawn die, if it’s necessary to save the world, is the only logical choice.

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  27. [Note: Sam posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    @Jarrpu: I think you’re being unfair to Spike fangirls & fanboys. Although they sometimes twist themselves into pretzels rationalizing the devious acts he commits post-chip that are still in character (“As You Were”, “Seeing Red” et al.), I have yet to see any of them react with hostility toward another individual who did not care for a Spike-centered episode. They’re consistently nice towards others who disagree with them, which is more than I can say for myself.

    @Rick: The more I watch LMPTM, the more I believe that Buffy really would sacrifice Dawn to save the world. However, like Rosie, I originally thought she was lying when she said that–not to Giles, but to herself. I wasn’t entirely convinced that she had it in her at this point, even after everything she’d experienced. I think by saying that, she was trying to will herself into being able to do it if she had to–the “fake it until you make it” approach.

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  28. [Note: Nix posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    about the slayer’s choice: wasn’t it the point of the episode, especially the part about Nikki, to show that ultimately there’s a choice? They’re chosen, but what prevents them to quit?

    Buffy tried to quit more than once. She couldn’t: the demons kept gunning for her, and as she learned in _Helpless_, if she actually lost her power she’d last about five minutes (the demons wouldn’t stop gunning for her, after all).

    (It does seem to be the primary goal of any demon in the Buffyverse to off the Slayer. Why this is remains mysterious: it amounts to throwing yourself into an industrial shredding machine for most of them. One Good Day or not, most of them just have one very painful five minutes.)

    Worse yet is the moral problem (not perhaps active for Buffy post-S1 or Slayers post-S7, but active for all ‘normal’ tip-of-the-line if-we-die-the-next-is-called Slayers). You’re the *only one*: by your very nature the safety of the world depends on you (it’s damn convenient that the world-ending threats always turn up just where this particular Slayer happens to be! perhaps this is part of the spell, a bit of precognition in the selection of the next Slayer.)

    So, you’re the only one… now if you decide to retire, and if you somehow managed to disguise yourself so that the demon stopped gunning for you… the threats aren’t going to go away. By retiring you’ve just killed a whole bunch of people: possibly everyone when the next apocalyptic threat comes along. Slayers by their nature have a pretty strong innate sense of justice (cf Amanda’s early appearances): how many of them could live with themselves if they did that?

    This really doesn’t look like a job you can quit to me. “It’s not a job: it’s who you are.”

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  29. [Note: Sam posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    @Jarrpu: I also understand your frustration over Buffy & Spike’s development at the expense of literally everyone else, but I have to disagree. Although I have some misgivings over the way they handled Spike this season, the fact that he has a soul now is a GOOD thing, and they should be developing this side of him. It’s very important. Also, this episode gets bonus points for getting rid of the Gilesbot and bringing the real Giles back.

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  30. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on June 8, 2009.]

    @Nix: The whole purpose of her living on the Hellmouth is to make there be a reason for demons swarming to her, but even if she didn’t live there, I’m pretty sure she would be a demon magnet, anyway. That’s probably just one of the great “perks” of the job–she constantly attracts mystical demony things. Even if they weren’t attracted to her mystically, a bunch of them straight out hunt her, so regardless, she’d be having them at her door every damned day.

    And I agree that her morality has played a great part in her inability to “quit.” Also, people forget…yes, Kendra was called, but then she died. Then they ended up with rogue Slayer Faith, so Buffy was, for all intents and purposes, the only Slayer again.

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  31. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    “It wasn’t that great, considering that this was the second or third time that Giles had betrayed Buffy. But that is not surprising, considering someone of his Watcher mentality. And Buffy needed to outgrow him.”

    I disagree. It was one hell of a relationship, one of the best. But that’s my opinion.

    Sure, Buffy and Giles had betrayed each other a few times -no one is perfect and in most of those times, their reasons were understandable- but what about the times they were there for each other? Those outnumber the very few mistakes they’d made.

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  32. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    Wow, amazing reviews, guys! You nailed the episode perfectly and I completely agree with the both of you, and the score is just right! I know that I am saying this alot especially to you, mike (our tastes are somewhat similar) but this review is just spot-on in my feelings and love for the ep. I love how this portrays all the major players, especially Buffy and Spike.
    Excellent work, both of you! I know that I could never do something like that, so congrats.

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  33. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    @Nix: you make a really good point. But I’m still convinced there’s a choice. Yeah demons are always gunning after the Slayer, but it’s more a plot easiness than anything, after all they let Faith alone. And I agree, the slayer seems to be like thrown in the middle of demony things, it seems to be a force (maybe the powers that be?) that drives her here (for example Buffy coming to Sunnydale, what a coincidence!) but if she decides she can run away from that. In Anne, she was really aside, and if she decided not to help Lilly, who knows how long she would stay aside from demony activities? After all, she could decide not to help Lilly, and she wouldn’t even know that demons were involved.

    It’s not because the choice seems obvious though that it doesn’t exist. Of course, Buffy being Buffy, she will decide to help people and not run away from her responsibility, but the beauty of her developpement is that she finally chose to take this responsibility.

    Also, in the Gift, doesn’t she make the other choice? she choose Dawn over the world. When she comes to Glory, it’s to save Dawn, not the World, and finally she finds a solution that saves both of them. But in the Magic Box scene, she choose Dawn rather than her mission. And I truly think she would quit if Dawn had died (sorry for my use of past tenses! ^^)

    Maybe I just don’t like to see no choice, because I think it would diminish the impact of for example Prophecy Girl, the Gift and Chosen.

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  34. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    “I’m not sure why you think Buffy was lying, since she has absolutely no reason to do so. First, if she’s willing to slam the door in Giles’ face regarding Spike, then she’s obviously not that concerned with what he thinks. Second, her speech to Wood about “the mission” suggests she’s certainly not playing around here. Third, the general theme of the episode suggests that Buffy has become this tough leader, and it goes further in saying that the slayer inevitably assumes this role. Finally, her argument makes perfect sense. Letting Dawn die, if it’s necessary to save the world, is the only logical choice.”

    I believe that Buffy was pretending to be the kind of leader that Giles wanted her to be. He wants her to be like him – willing to sacrifice anyone or her own values for “the greater good”. If Buffy was willing to sacrifice Dawn, she would have been willing to kill Spike, as Giles wanted. Buffy IS NOT Giles. And I thank my lucky stars that she is not.

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  35. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    Sure, Buffy and Giles had betrayed each other a few times -no one is perfect and in most of those times, their reasons were understandable- but what about the times they were there for each other? Those outnumber the very few mistakes they’d made.

    I find it amazing that for a show that was supposed to be about female empowerment and the development of a certain female character – namely Buffy, many fans seemed to want Buffy to remain in the same relationship she had with Giles when she was a teenager. It was time for Buffy to grow up. She cannot always depend upon him. And quite frankly, Giles cannot always be depended upon. Even the show’s early seasons have proven this. I still recall Giles’ dream from “Restless”. He seemed to want the kind of relationship in which she ALWAYS depended upon him – some kind paternalistic relationship on his part. Keeping Buffy in that same relationship would have stunted her growth, in the end . . . and go against what this show was supposed to be about.

    Everyone wants things to stay the same. Very few people seem incapable of accepting change. Buffy had to learn this lesson, the hard way, in Seasons 4-6. I’m beginning to suspect that many fans have yet to learn this lesson, as well.

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  36. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    Buffy doesn’t kill vampires because they’re vampires. She kills them because their inability to differentiate right from wrong (since vampires don’t have souls) endangers human lives.

    Vampires kill not because of any inability to differentiate right from wrong. If that was the case, Spike would have never felt remorse for his actions in “Seeing Red” – before he got his soul. Vampires kill for the same reasons as humans with souls – food or emotional reasons. Humans and vampires are not really that different from an emotional and moral point of view. At least I don’t think so.

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  37. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    “I find it amazing that for a show that was supposed to be about female empowerment and the development of a certain female character – namely Buffy, many fans seemed to want Buffy to remain in the same relationship she had with Giles when she was a teenager. It was time for Buffy to grow up. ”

    The problem isn’t the fact that the writers are trying to make Buffy more independent of Giles and make her grow up, but do they have to do it by making Giles the bad guy?
    The show was used to be able to do character development for all of the characters. Now they are sacrificing all the others characters for the sake of Buffy and Spike.

    About the vampire-ensoulment-thing: It not unsusual that the mythology of the show isn’t always that well thought out and consistent. It never bothered me before because I never saw it as that important. It was always the characters that was more important and interesting. However in this case they are mixing the characters and the vampire-mythology so it’s a bit of a mess compared to what was before. It’s interesting to compare what’s happening here in Buffy season7 to what’s happening on Angel season 4 at the same time. On Angel they clearly make the distinction between Angel and Angelus (they even fight each other in a ‘dream’). So it’s no wonder that this has fans debating about what’s going on. It’s a mess. People see different things in a mess.

    Oh and here is an interesting article about Spike in season 7:
    http://dir.salon.com/ent/feature/2003/05/13/spike_buffy/
    Some of you may have read it already. I would be interested to know what you think of it, as it closely relates to what we’ve been discussing here and on the forums.

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  38. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    @jarppu – I think the forum is probably a better place to discuss things like that Salon article, and other more complex issues that go beyond comments on a particular episode. I actually started a thread over there in response to a comment you made for the episode Crush about Spike’s (lack of a) contribution to the show. I and I’m sure others would be happy to respond to the article and your other concerns in the forum, but I’m not going to get into it in this comment section.

    For the folks dissing on this episode because of the portrayal of Giles – I never interpreted this episode as an attempt to make Giles the “bad guy”. His assessment of the Spike situation is in serious disagreement with Buffy’s, but the fact that he proves to be very wrong in this case in no way makes him a bad guy, just misinformed and misreading the situation. Scroll up and read Rick’s interpretation of their relationship- it’s time for Buffy to step up and become the general of this little army in more than name, and maybe the best way for her to realize this herself is to have to recognize that her mentor doesn’t have all the answers. Can you think of a better way for her to make a break from Giles?

    Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but you guys seem to want the Scoobies, or the “core four”, to have spent the entire run of the show as tight as they were in the first couple seasons, to never have any deep conflicts or rifts, to be best friends watching movies together on the couch after defeating the bad guys, and for Giles to always be Buffy’s kindly paternalistic Watcher. I prefer what we got in the last couple seasons, but if the above is your conception of what the characters should be, I suppose your dislike of these later episodes has some pretty deep roots. I’d still argue for giving it another shot after reading these reviews.

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  39. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    “Vampires kill not because of any inability to differentiate right from wrong. If that was the case, Spike would have never felt remorse for his actions in “Seeing Red” – before he got his soul. Vampires kill for the same reasons as humans with souls – food or emotional reasons. Humans and vampires are not really that different from an emotional and moral point of view. At least I don’t think so.”

    @Rosie, I think you may be interpreting the statement about their inability to differentiate right from wrong differently from what Mike intended. Vampires don’t kill because they can’t distinguish between right and wrong, but because they can’t, killing doesn’t cause them the same remorse or guilt that it would a human. So, as you said, humans and vampires are motivated to kill for the same reasons, but humans have the ability to recognize that the act of murder is wrong, while vampires do not. Buffy has to kill them not because they commit evil acts, but because they don’t have the ability to ever care about those acts. There is no right or wrong for them, they can never repent or atone for their actions, and thus, they must be killed. However, I think Buffy comes to the realization in these later episodes that some humans are no better than vampires in this respect – see, Warren. I believe she would kill Warren at this point in her development. Also, I don’t think Spike felt remorse for his actions before he got his soul – he recognized that what he did was wrong, but I don’t think he really FELT it, if you see what I’m saying.

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  40. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    “Maybe I’m misinterpreting, but you guys seem to want the Scoobies, or the “core four”, to have spent the entire run of the show as tight as they were in the first couple seasons, to never have any deep conflicts or rifts, to be best friends watching movies together on the couch after defeating the bad guys, and for Giles to always be Buffy’s kindly paternalistic Watcher.”

    I don’t know who you are referring to as ‘you guys’ as these post here don’t really complain about the core four being not as tight as before. The problem simply is that they get almost no screentime nor development on their own. Yes, there are those people who have complained about the Scooby gang dynamics since season 4. But the difference is, in season 4 the gang is almost non-existent but still all the scoobies get enough material on their own. Espcially Giles, who definitely isn’t the “kindly paternalistic Watcher”, gets a lot character-stuff(mid-life crisis, feeling useless over being unemployed, Olivia, drinking with Ethan, singing songs, etc..).

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  41. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    You’re right, most of the comments don’t refer to those issues, so I apologize for the mini-rant =). I’ve heard that complaint about the group dynamics often enough that I just tend to associate it with people who don’t like the later seasons. I get a bit frustrated with the attitude towards S5-7, since it seems like some people aren’t really open to hearing anything good or positive about those seasons. I don’t really understand how people can say they enjoy the show, but dislike/hate/loathe S5-7, which comprise almost half of the whole series (and half of the full seasons)! However, I’m going to assume your complaint about character development/screentime refers only to S7 because I don’t recall a lack of screentime for the Scoobies in S5 or S6, nor a lack of development for Willow, who was by far the most interesting of the Willow/Xander/Giles trio anyway. I guess the change in focus just didn’t bother me as much as it did other people.

    Also, I was referring to Giles’ relationship with Buffy (not Giles himself), which was always kindly and paternalistic despite the issues he may have been facing in his own life. His interaction with Buffy when he returns at the end of S6 is pretty strong evidence for this type of relationship still existing.

    Ok, no more hijacking the episode comments, let’s take it to the forums if you want to continue the discussion.

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  42. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 9, 2009.]

    Also, sorry, that was Rick who pointed out that vampires can’t distinguish between right and wrong, not Mike.

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  43. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    “I find it amazing that for a show that was supposed to be about female empowerment and the development of a certain female character – namely Buffy, many fans seemed to want Buffy to remain in the same relationship she had with Giles when she was a teenager.”

    That’s not what I said. I said that they ruined one of the best relationships by making Giles the bad guy and having Buffy distrusting him until the end, after everything they’ve been through.

    I’m all for change. I love change. Heck I’m a huge S8 fan. That’s how much I love change. I just don’t like it when the writers ruin strong relationships in the very last season and not mending them properly. That’s my complaint, not that Buffy needs to be independent, I’m all for that, but that doesn’t need to happen by resenting Giles.

    Women don’t need to hate their parents in order to be independent.

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  44. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    The problem isn’t the fact that the writers are trying to make Buffy more independent of Giles and make her grow up, but do they have to do it by making Giles the bad guy?

    Is this the first time Giles has done something behind Buffy’s back or committed some questionable act, because he thought it was either for her own good, or for the “greater good”? Because this is what he had done in S7. Buffy quickly forgave Giles (a little too quickly, in my opinion) for what he had done to her in “Helpless” (S3). She even hinted to Spike that he should kill anyone who threatened Dawn’s life in “The Gift”. And considering her knowledge of Giles’ insistence that Dawn should be sacrificed, it makes me wonder if she wanted Giles dead, if he threatened to kill Dawn. Buffy never found out that Giles had killed Ben, despite her refusal to do so. His actions in “Lies My Parents Told Me” were simply another example of Giles either going behind her back or being willing to kill someone she cared about. This is the first time, Buffy saw Giles’ imperfections with “ADULT” eyes. She can no longer pretend that he is all-wise or all-dependable.

    Granted, Giles had expressed remorse for his actions in “Helpless”. She never found out that he had killed Ben, and she had sacrificed herself in “The Gift”, before Giles could attempt to sacrifice Dawn. But he failed to do express remorse in this episode. In fact, he never did apologize. In Buffy’s eyes, Giles had went too far. Sometimes, relationships (like everything else in life) change . . . and you just have to deal with it.

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  45. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    Good point Rosie! And it’s not exactly like the relationship was completely destroyed, it has just changed. After LMPTM, they are some beautiful little moments between them, they search a new balance in their relationship.

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  46. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    Firstly, thanks a million to both Mike and Rick! Great job you guys!

    One thing that I’ve never fully understood about this episode is the nature of Spike’s mother’s transformation into a vampire. Although I agree that this whole set up is very important to Spike’s development and his overall psyche, from a technical standpoint its left kind of vague. Why would Spike, once turned into a vampire, retain so much of his humanity while his mother, once vamped changed completely? Ive heard some people say that in her vampire state his mother spoke the truths about how she had previously felt (re his poetry, her possible incestuous attraction him etc.) but I remain unconvinced. Maybe I’m just missing something but it seemed to me that this was never really explained or even considered by the show’s writers. What did you guys make of this?

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  47. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    I realize that Spike’s point of view regarding this subject is given in this episode (when he ‘realizes’ that the demon was not in any way his real mother) but I didnt think it was necessairly the truth. It seemed like it was more a way for Spike to convince himself of his mother’s love and move on.

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  48. [Note: jarppu posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    @DartMarion

    “After LMPTM, they are some beautiful little moments between them, they search a new balance in their relationship. ”

    In ‘Dirty Girls’, Buffy and Giles argue over Buffy’s bad plan to attack the vinyard with Buffy ending the argument with “Giles, we don’t have time. And you’re not going into battle. I need you to stay behind with the others. Help the girls who still need a teacher.”

    In ‘Empty Places’ Buffy and Giles argue over Giles sending Spike out on mission. Buffy accuses him of again going behind her back and trying to get Spike killed again. Also later Buffy accuses Giles of ambushing her in the big fight which ends with Buffy getting kicked out of her own house.

    In ‘Touched’ Buffy and Giles don’t interact at all.

    In ‘End of Days’ and ‘Chosen’ Buffy and Giles don’t speak to each other directly but only in a group and mostly about how to defeat the First.

    I wonder, which of these moments did you find “beatiful” in which “they search for a new balance in their relationship”?

    Okay, I’m done commenting on this episode.

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  49. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    BTW, DarthMarion, I live in France too! Where do you live? Maybe we could get together sometime? πŸ™‚

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  50. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 10, 2009.]

    I have to say I really don’t get all this talk about Giles being portrayed as the “bad guy” here. Giles had his own agenda just as we’ve seen many times before in the series. His actions in “Helpless” were far more disturbing and questionable than here. I think Rosie (#45) nailed it.

    Farah, I don’t get why you keep saying that Buffy somehow hates and distrusts Giles to the end of the series. Yes, there’s some nervousness in the next few episodes surrounding his opinions on how they should lead (and, yes, maybe a little too much bad blood there), but Giles didn’t do what he did here in “Lies” for no reason or to specifically break Buffy’s trust in him. He had a somewhat justifiable motive. Yes, he was mostly wrong, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be trusted anymore. Buffy will get over the sting of seeing Spike almost killed (after all the faith she’s put into him) in “Chosen:”

    GILES: It’s a lot more than that. Buffy, what you said? It flies in the face of everything we’ve ever- of what every generation has done in the fight against evil. I think it’s bloody brilliant.
    BUFFY: You mean that?
    GILES: If you want my opinion.
    BUFFY: Really do.

    I think that sums up that they’re still on good terms with each other by the end of the series, which is really what counts (imo). Giles isn’t the all-knowing wise wizard Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings, he’s a human being with his own flaws, faults, and opinions. And yes, he’s still a knowledgeable guy with a valuable opinion, and Buffy wants that opinion. He’s just not the idealistic “know-it-all” Buffy looked up to early in the series. I think this very much parallels how when we grow up we see our parents more as flawed human beings rather than all-knowing gods. Personally, I couldn’t be happier with the development of their relationship.

    I also find it amazing that you bring up the silly S8 comics, Farah. I read so much OOC behavior and ignorance of continuity in those pages that it made me sick. The only arc that felt remotely like a BtVS episode was “No Future for You” where, what do you know, Faith and Giles find they have a lot in common and end up partnering up. Buffy’s relationship with Giles appears far more strained in that arc than in S7! While I don’t want to get into a S8 debate here, I don’t think using S8 as a positive example of much of anything is going to help your case much here.

    As a final point, can we all be sure to remember Anthony Head wasn’t in a lot of S7 episodes (due to his own choice, if I’m not mistaken). Being that he could only appear in select episodes, I think they used him pretty well in a season that’s about leadership and power (among other things)… well, aside from that mid-season slump of leading us on that he was the First for so long. πŸ™‚

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  51. [Note: DarthMarion posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Mike, you quoted the specifically the moment I was thinking of, thank you!

    Ilinnae, I live in Angers! and you?

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  52. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Mike and Rosie, I didn’t say that Buffy’s relationship with Giles was perfect, I said it was one of the best relationships in the show. The best relationships include many as well, and they’re not perfect either.

    And I sure didn’t say that Giles is a know-it-all person. I hate those characters -and appearently Buffy and Spike turned into them in those last episodes.

    My argument was why ruin one of the greatest relationships in the very last season –if we’re not including S8- and not mend it appropriately? Look at how S6 left the Buffy/Spike relationship for example, S7 made a great job treating their issues and making their relationship blossom and grow into something so beautiful. Sadly, we can’t say that about Buffy and Giles. The writers wrecked that relationship so late and didn’t try to even give them one scene to talk their issues out. My problem is that Giles, Willow, Xander, Dawn and Anya became background characters. They showed them as villains without making us understand why they acted that way, didn’t write them as sympathetic, and it’s the last season. I wouldn’t have mind it if they kept the characters likable, but they made them “Sad, ungrateful traitors.” Those characters who had been there from the beginning don’t deserve that at all.

    Mike, you may not like S8, but at least that’s an ensample season. Everybody has a story. It’s also dealing with relationship issues –such as Willow/Buffy, Buffy/Dawn, and Buffy/Giles. Something S7 neglected. And I’m glad that Buffy and Giles’ relationship is still strained, because I’m still hoping for a proper fix. Those two lines in Chosen aren’t enough. (Imagine the issues between Buffy and Spike were fixed in two lines like that. And take all the devemopment between them in the whole season. Would that be enough?)

    I’m more okay with S7 now that I have S8, Buffy and Xander’s relationship is so tight –and in your reviews of the next few episode you’ll discover that he’s the only Scoobie Buffy seems close to right now, which shows that S8 does continuity- Buffy and Willow are dealing with the issues between them, Buffy and Dawn had just made up, and we’re promised a Buffy/Giles subplot in the future.

    If you read what I said, you’d think I dislike Buffy and Spike, but they’re actually my favorite characters (after Xander) I just hate developing characters and relationships while trashing other characters to get there. Kinda like in The Zeppo, when all the characters started treating Xander differently just to make him a hero in the end. You can make a character shine without hurting the other characters.

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  53. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Thanks for another wonderful review, Mike. I’m so glad I stumbled across your site – you’ve been a godsend in coming to terms with my newly discovered obsession!

    W/r/to Buffy and Giles, I think a lot depends on how much you see the relationship as a parent-child one – in other words, it’s very personal. I always saw him as not just a father figure but pretty much a substitute father for her, despite the betrayals in Helpless etc. As such, it makes sense that there had to be some painful moments between them before Buffy could emerge as an adult – it’s a reflection of the difficult teenage years where teenagers need to reject their parents in order to forge their own identity.

    Obviously Buffy isn’t a teenager any more, and the identity she is forging is that of a general rather than a Slayer, but for me the parallel still stands and so I kind of take it as read that their relationship would survive. It also then works that the focus becomes on her adult relationships, with Spike and the Potentials, since these are the ones that define the grown adult or, I suppose, the general.

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  54. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Sorry – in the last paragraph, that should be: “the identity she is forging is that of a general rather than an ordinary adult

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  55. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Farah,

    First of all, a season doesn’t have to spread the development around to the ensemble equally to be great. In fact, that often dilutes a season when there is that kind of a lack of focus. Just look at the show Dexter as an example of my point. While there’s some supporting characters that are interesting and/or entertaining, the show focuses all of its being on Dexter himself, and does it so well I’m left in awe. Do I wish the secondary characters had a bit more to do? Sure, but I wouldn’t want it at the expense of the time Dexter gets. Buffy handles its secondary characters much better than Dexter though, even in S7. I just don’t see a huge issue here.

    I think we simply have a fundamental disagreement on what we’re seeing. I don’t even remotely see the relationship between Buffy and Giles this season as “ruined” or that Giles’ character was “trashed.” Giles was completely in character and simply got caught this time. I really wish they’d kept the bit in the script about Giles revealing to Buffy he’d killed Ben. That would have more explicitly made the connections I made in the review. Their relationship simply evolved though, and it evolved in a very natural way based on both characters’ motivations and pasts. To me, that exchange in “Chosen” shows that the series ends on a warm note and an understanding between the two of them. They still have a history together, and Buffy still respects Giles as a person along with his opinion. But Buffy’s an adult and a leader now, and will not bite her tounge to Giles when she believes him to be wrong. Buffy’s clearly not always right either, as we’ll soon find out in “Dirty Girls.”

    S7 is foremost about Buffy. The show has always centered around her, and in the final season it makes sense for the writers to focus even more on her than usual. While the season is certainly far from flawless, and I agree that it would have been nice to see a little more attention given to Xander, Anya, and Dawn (three characters that have never had a *ton* of development ever, really), I’m utterly thrilled with the development that we did get. And I think Willow gets developed quite decently in S7. Sure it’s understated and not a primary focus of the season, but it’s certainly there and it doesn’t slip up like the middle of S6 did.

    And since when did a show have to end itself with all the “best relationships” in a state of harmony? What if, after what happens in the story, it doesn’t make sense for characters to be alright with each other? Holding back the development of the characters to satisfy a need for a happy ending, to me, reeks of poor writing and an easy way out of dealing with complex relationships.

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  56. [Note: Shinosai posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Farah – Sure, those characters didn’t get a lot of screen time, but they didn’t come off as villains. I think that’s ONE way to interpret it, but let’s look at the evidence here. I just want to disagree with the notion that any of the characters have become villains. This wouldn’t be the first time Buffy has made a mistake with Spike, and Giles’ has a solid argument here. He’s not a villain for that.

    How quickly we forget that Buffy has let Spike cloud her judgement before when he was the “Doctor” in season 6. When she let her need for comfort destroy her…. Admittedly, that is an episode people often skip (and for good reason….) She forgot who Spike was, didn’t think he was capable of such a thing. Knowing what we do about Buffy’s past, I feel sympathetic to the way Giles acted. But admittedly, I can also be angry with Giles for not listening to Buffy, for not recognizing what it means for Spike to have a soul. It’s not really black and white.

    Anya has always been Anya. She’s not acting any different than she ever has. Most strongly I recall how she tried to force Willow to do magic in s6. Her “betrayal” of Buffy isn’t exactly surprising to me. When Anya sees people screwing up, it’s in her nature to criticize. She’s a very open person, and always says exactly what she thinks. And you know what? Very often she’s right. She says the hard things that no one else will. Buffy ISN’T doing a good job as a leader, although admittedly she’s doing her best, and Anya’s not afraid to point that out.

    Willow throughout this season I think has been more supportive of Buffy than anyone except Spike, up until the breaking point where they kick her out. When Kennedy attacks the things Buffy is doing, Willow is often the one to tell her to chill out.

    Ultimately, this is a season about Buffy and Spike. And because of that, the betrayal can seem to make a lot of the characters seem like villains. Cause Buffy and Spike are the heroes. If you listen to Spike’s speech, it definitely feels that way. But their betrayal is not completely unfounded. Buffy has been so busy being a leader that she hasn’t really connected with the potentials. You say the minor characters are made out to be villains by betraying Buffy, but I think it’s gray area. Buffy herself is made out to be a sort of villain until we find out later that she was right. We can’t just look at the end result though, we have to look at the journey… and in that light I find sympathy for everyone.

    By the way Mike, you’ve talked about expanding the site in some recent news updates. Ever think about adding a Dexter section? πŸ˜‰ If you need a writer… *raises his hand*

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  57. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Farah,

    In some ways it seems you had a predetermined expectation of how the season would end and are unhappy that the show did not meet the expectation. The bottom line in my opinion is this: Buffy’s actions make sense and are entirely believable. Giles actions make sense and are entirely believable. You have not given me sufficient evidence to question the realism of either character this season, and so I have trouble seeing the problem. If these are natural developments, why do they constitute the “ruining” of a character? People don’t always get along. People don’t always remain the tightest of friends. That’s the way the world works. That the show didn’t definitively end on a happy note doesn’t undermine its quality. It just means that the writers are refusing to indulge our desire as human beings for a happy ending.

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  58. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    I should also note that there seems to be an assumption here among s7 haters that the Scooby Gang (outside of Spike and Buffy) are depicted as a bunch of ungrateful traiters. I think the whole point of Empty Places and Touched were to show that it’s not enough for Buffy to just be a general. She needs to learn how to lead and control her troops without being dictatorial. That the rest of the Scoobies abandon her is certainly a little wobbly in execution (especially the Giles following Faith…haha…ya right!), the point of the episode was not to depict these characters as traitors, but to present a valid counterargument to Buffy’s plans, which to that point had been at times needlessly reckless. And when she returns in End of Days/Chosen, there is explicit credence lent to the idea that Buffy isn’t only a leader. She’s also a peer. Power has to be shared. And while a group must often be led by one voice, there must be implicit consent of the ruled in order to ensure group cohesion. “Chosen,” after all, was about everyone “making a choice.”

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  59. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    What I mean to say with all this is you’re watching this season with the presupposition that the writers are 100% behind Buffy. That’s why Giles and WIllow and Xander are traiters to you. That’s why you see Spike and Buffy as “know-it-alls”. But if you look at the rationality behind Giles’ concern in LMPTM, Buffy’s recklessness in Empty Days, and her softened tone in Chosen, I think you’ll see that the show isn’t as one sided as you originally thought. There are a lot of valid arguments floating around. To presuppose that the rest of the Scoobies are traiters makes the further assumption that Buffy doesn’t deserve to be challenged or overruled when she makes poor decisions. This is a season that studied not only the complexities of becoming a leader, but the difficulties in being one.

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  60. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    My argument was why ruin one of the greatest relationships in the very last season –if we’re not including S8- and not mend it appropriately?

    Because sometimes it happens. Everything DOES NOT ALWAYS stay the same. And by the way, Giles and Buffy never really got over their estrangement with each other, despite the truce shown in the finale. Giles never forgave Buffy for rejecting him as her authority figure. And Buffy never forgave him for backstabbing her in this episode. Especially since he NEVER SAID OR DID anything to show his remorse.

    And personally, I don’t think that their relationship was one of the greatest on the show. When I saw Giles’ dream in “Restless”, I suspected that sooner or later, they would clash once Buffy started to grow up.

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  61. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    I think the whole point of Empty Places and Touched were to show that it’s not enough for Buffy to just be a general. She needs to learn how to lead and control her troops without being dictatorial.

    Which is what she had learned from the Watchers’ Council, by the way. Some claim that Giles was never dictatorial with Buffy. Yes, he has been . . . occasionally. I certainly recall him being just that in a Season 2 episode, in which he tried to forbade her from attending a party so that she would adhere to her Slayer duties. Frankly, that pissed me off. Giles was not her father. Technically, he had no real authority over Buffy. And although Buffy ended up attending the wrong party -some demonic frat bash – the only person who really had the right to forbade her from attending a party was Joyce.

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  62. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Wow, guess I didn’t need to worry about hijacking the comments to discuss the merits of Season 7. Thanks for pinpointing the thing that was bothering me about the comments regarding the lack of (some) characters’ development in S7. Every season shouldn’t be *required* to allot equal amounts of character development to every main character, nor should it matter that it’s the last season. By necessity this season belongs to Buffy and Spike, and Willow to a lesser extent. To force this season to be otherwise simply because it’s the last season would have felt, well, forced. By this point in the show I don’t feel that there was anything else I really needed to learn about Xander, Anya, Giles, or even Dawn beyond what was provided. The completion of Buffy, Spike, and Willow’s respective arcs, on the other hand, was crucial to the end of the show (although people who feel that Spike “ruined” the show are bound to disagree). So, in short, I prefer the change in focus, and don’t feel that shoehorning in more development of characters who didn’t need it for the sake of including them more in the last season would have been beneficial. Plus, Xander was always my least favorite of the “credits” characters, so less of him isn’t necessarily a bad thing for me.

    Oh, and Rick… It’s just so sudden. I don’t know what to say…

    …Of course it’s yes!

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  63. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    Guys, I really wanna believe what you’re saying because it sounds great. Sadly, the writers failed to show Empty Places in that light. I don’t wanna hurt this thread any more than I did with my issues with S7.

    Unlike the earlier seasons, this one left me bitter and unsatisfied -it started amazingly, those first seven or eight episodes were awesome, but then it got too rushed and uneven. Too much ideas and less episodes. As for the Scoobies, I’d rather they’d all disappeared before Empty Places, at least they’d be remembered as heroes and not as traitors.

    Shannon, you may not need to know more about the other Scoobies, but as a Xander fan, I would’ve loved to see how Xander dealt with his Spike issues, and probably a scene with Faith -he had more history with her than Dawn and Spike, but appearently he’s not so important. At least he and Buffy seemed to be on better terms by the end. Much better terms than Buffy/Giles and Buffy/Willow, so yay.

    Sorry for sprouting my issues like that on you, guys. I’d be excited to read your review on Empty Places, Mike, and hopefully I’ll give more insightful comments instead of whining. πŸ™‚

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  64. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on June 11, 2009.]

    @Farah: Xander didn’t have more history with Faith just because of their one night stand…it didn’t mean a damned thing to Faith. He was there, convenient. That’s it.

    Honestly, I’m not a fan of Xander. It’s cool he was starting to get his life together and was no longer completely useless, but he was always kind of a douche…

    That being said, I must admit his scene with Dawn in…(can’t remember the title–the one where she thinks she’s chosen, but isn’t) is so sweet, and it makes me actually like Xander for a bit.

    Also, I can see how you could view the Scoobies & Co.’s actions later on in the season as traitorous, but they’ve never been in a situation where they are almost guaranteed to fail. They didn’t even have this level of fear with Glory, and she was a friggin’ god. They are all more terrified than they’ve ever been, and Buffy’s performance as a leader has been less than reassuring. Their fear drives them to overthrow her, and it’s a very understandable, relatable fear. They don’t have evil or dishonorable intentions. And I think this makes them NOT traitors.

    They still love Buffy–they just don’t trust her to get the job done for once. Not that they entirely trust Faith, either, but for once Faith is seeming to be the rational, cautious one. And she’s pretty much the only alternative.

    All that being said, the execution of the overthrow was less than stellar. I can easily see it happening, but the didn’t quite build up to it or execute it well.

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  65. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    “@Farah: Xander didn’t have more history with Faith just because of their one night stand…it didn’t mean a damned thing to Faith. He was there, convenient. That’s it.”

    What about when she forced him to bed in the next time and almost killed him? I would’ve loved to see them talk about it instead of it getting brushed off. And even if it meant nothing to Faith it was more than the history she had with either Dawn or Spike. I don’t want an episode centered around Xander and Faith, just two lines. It’s funny that all the Scoobies got to talk to Faith except Xander.

    I agree with your thoughts on the Scoobies, but it would have been better if they were in text. Like you said, the scene was badly executed as well as the aftermath.

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  66. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    Maybe we could move this wonderful discussion to the forums! This is exciting! I mean, I never thought S7 would provoke such discussion.

    All I have to say is that I understand both sides and I believe Buffy needeed some thing drastic to make her see she was doing things the wrong way, but also I really dislike what they do to her. It´s a really gray area, for sure.
    As for Giles, it´s completely in-character what he does in LMPTM. He loves Buffy and the Scoobies, but when it comes to the hard talk, he does it and he doesn´t let feelings get in the way. But like I said, very gray areas.

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  67. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    buffyholic, there’s no need to move a discussion like this onto the forums. If the comments start getting gigantic and people are debating on a much more formal level, then yeah, I agree the forums are the best place for that. But I personally don’t have a problem with the disucssion that’s been had here staying in the comments. Comment away! πŸ™‚

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  68. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    Everyone,

    “Empty Places” is another episode that has its own set of issues. Let’s keep the debate focused on “Lies” as much as we can. πŸ™‚

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  69. [Note: Leelu posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    @Farah: The scene where she almost kills Xander is more an example of how they don’t have history. He thought because they had sex once that he could get through to her. She tried to kill him to prove to him that she didn’t give a shit that they had sex, that he meant nothing to her. So basically, what you are wanting was already addressed in this episode, and there would be no point in bringing it up years later.

    Also, if an attempted killing constitutes as history, then she’s got just as much history with Willow as she does Xander.

    On a slightly related sidenote, my only praise for the season eight comics so far (I’m only up to “Wolves at the Gate”) is the Faith arc they had. It was well written and well executed. Both Faith and Giles were completely believable, and in a lot of ways Faith is a bit more of a match for Giles than Buffy. Buffy is more the Slayer for his idealistic side, while Faith is more in tune with his “get it done” side.

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  70. [Note: llinnae posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    ‘As for the Scoobies, I’d rather they’d all disappeared before Empty Places, at least they’d be remembered as heroes and not as traitors.’

    Farah, I think what others were pointing out was that the Scoobies weren’t being portrayed as traitors because Buffy wasn’t necessairly being portrayed as a hero. If you systematically evaluate her decisions up til that point in Empty Places, she is hardly a flawless, heroic leader. I think that’s one of the many great things about the show, its ability to demonstrate that all ‘heores’ are fallable and that, for the most part, ‘villans’ are capable of performing heroic acts (I think souless Spike is the best example). Its true that, as mentioned above, Buffy’s character has changed so much this season and has become somewhat of a dictator. Consequently, if this episode hadn’t been included and Buffy hadn’t been shown making mistakes she wouldn’t be the Buffy we know and she definitely wouldn’t be very likeable.

    DarthMarion, unfortunately I live in Paris… Not too far from Nantes but not too close either 😦

    abd lastly, may I just mention how thrilled I’d be to see some dexter reviews!! IMO, Dexter is one of the only other shows thats (almost) as intelligent as the Whedonverse ones.

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  71. [Note: Shannon posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    @Farah, I’m not sure you actually read my comment. It’s not that I don’t want to see more of the Scoobies (well, with the exception of Xander I guess – thanks Leelu for the apt description), it’s my opinion that it was unnecessary, and would have consisted of forcing in scenes simply for the sake of fans of Xander, or Anya, or Giles. More of their stories than what we have didn’t NEED to be told, while Buffy and Spike’s did. Is it really that important to the arc of the show to see Xander talk to Faith? No. Absolutely not. Is it crucial to explore and complete Spike’s journey of redemption? Yes. I think it would have detracted heavily from the season, which I really enjoy, to be throwing in “developments” just because it’s the last season and I love Anya and I have to see more of Anya, dammit!!! Screw you writers!! Sorry for the sarcasm, but I think it’s a poor argument for disliking this season. I think you should give it another shot without the preconceptions of what it should be – it’s actually quite good.

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  72. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 12, 2009.]

    ‘As for the Scoobies, I’d rather they’d all disappeared before Empty Places, at least they’d be remembered as heroes and not as traitors’

    -There were three commments directly preceding this post that argue to the contrary, so I find it odd you just reiterated your starting position without responding to said arguments. I’d love to hear why exactly you think they are traitors, in spite of of prior response.

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  73. [Note: Ryan-R.B. posted this comment on June 15, 2009.]

    @Shannon

    I could not agree more about telling the most important stories for the most pertinent characters at the right times. The idea that all characters need to be servied with development every episode/every story arc/all the damn time is an orthodoxy many of this show’s fans seem unable to realize as merely one solitary approach (and not a universal standard) to character development.

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  74. [Note: Rick posted this comment on June 16, 2009.]

    Ryan, I think Shannon covered all of that. Jeez. If you’re gonna monopolize another reviewer’s comments, the least you could do is offer something original. :p

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  75. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 17, 2009.]

    Guys, I did read your comments, but as Mike said, this episode is not about Dirty Girls or Empty Places. It’s about Lies My Parents Told Me. I’ll answer your comments in the right episode discussion.

    Which means you have to hurry up with the next episode review, Mike. πŸ™‚

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  76. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on June 19, 2009.]

    Can I also add that Spike´s or William´s poetry was really bad? No wonder he had the nickname of “William the Bloody” because his poetry really sucked.

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  77. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 22, 2009.]

    In another forum, I’d mentioned how much I like Spike not being this know-it-all super hero, and how it makes me relate to him more.

    Then I remembered someone in this discussion saying the same thing to me about Giles, which got me thinking that you guys probably misunderstood my argument a little -maybe I didn’t explain it well.

    I haven’t said that Giles going behind Buffy’s back and betraying her was OOC. I think it’s perfectly in character and a bad thing to do on his part. What I disliked was the show ending with Buffy and Giles losing the closeness and connection they had in the past. It wasn’t about Giles’ characterization in this episode, it was perfectly in character, and I don’t think he was ever Pod!Giles in S7 -losing the council probably affected him negatively.

    It was the aftermath that didn’t satisfy me. His actions in this episode are perfectly in character. And no, I hate know-it-all, saint, perfect characters. Xander is my favorite for God’s sake. I like them decent but flawed. πŸ™‚

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  78. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 22, 2009.]

    “It was well written and well executed. Both Faith and Giles were completely believable, and in a lot of ways Faith is a bit more of a match for Giles than Buffy. Buffy is more the Slayer for his idealistic side, while Faith is more in tune with his “get it done” side.”

    How long will it be before Faith realizes that she no longer needs Giles? What will he do? React the same way he did when Buffy finally rejected his authority?

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  79. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 22, 2009.]

    I haven’t said that Giles going behind Buffy’s back and betraying her was OOC. I think it’s perfectly in character and a bad thing to do on his part. What I disliked was the show ending with Buffy and Giles losing the closeness and connection they had in the past. It wasn’t about Giles’ characterization in this episode, it was perfectly in character, and I don’t think he was ever Pod!Giles in S7 -losing the council probably affected him negatively.

    I really would not have expected Buffy to retain her closeness with Giles after this. Not after this. I can understand her forgiving Giles after he had betrayed her the first time in Season 3. But he did it again . . . for the second time. And then he went on to betray her for the third time in “Empty Spaces”. I think it was simply one too many times for Buffy.

    I’m beginning to wonder if fans had expected Season 7 to return to what it used to be in the early years . . . and when it didn’t, became very disappointed. Why is it so important that Buffy and Giles maintain their protegee/mentor relationship for as long as the stories continued? Even after she became an adult? What would have been the point of Buffy’s development as a character or her development from an adolescent to an adult, if she continued to maintain the same relationship with Giles? It does not make any sense to me. There are times when I wonder if fans would have preferred if Buffy had remained the 16-18 year-old through the series’ seven seasons run.

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  80. [Note: leejones posted this comment on June 22, 2009.]

    “Although I agree that this whole set up is very important to Spike’s development and his overall psyche, from a technical standpoint its left kind of vague. Why would Spike, once turned into a vampire, retain so much of his humanity while his mother, once vamped changed completely?”

    Did she really? There are some theories that Spike’s mother became vicious toward him for turning her into a vampire . . . and attempting to keep her close to him. Perhaps this was her way of forcing him to let her go.

    As for Anne’s vicious attitude toward Spike . . . was it an expression of her lack of humanity? I don’t think so. Such behavior is just as much an example of humanity, as any show of compassion or love. I never understood why many fans of science-fiction and fantasy tend to paint humanity as something completely positive.

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  81. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 23, 2009.]

    I’m beginning to wonder if fans had expected Season 7 to return to what it used to be in the early years . . . and when it didn’t, became very disappointed. Why is it so important that Buffy and Giles maintain their protegee/mentor relationship for as long as the stories continued? Even after she became an adult? What would have been the point of Buffy’s development as a character or her development from an adolescent to an adult, if she continued to maintain the same relationship with Giles? It does not make any sense to me. There are times when I wonder if fans would have preferred if Buffy had remained the 16-18 year-old through the series’ seven seasons run.

    I think it depends on our definition of adulthoom, to me Buffy can still be an adult and have a loving father-daughter relationship with Giles. I’m older than Buffy at this point, and I still respect and value my father’s opinion. It doesn’t mean I’m still a kid. And if a daughter doesn’t agree with her father’s opinion, she doesn’t have to take it. But respect and appreciate that he loves her enough to give one.

    I understand Buffy’s anger and resentment toward Giles at this point, but, Rosie, you seem to be saying that Buffy is better off without Giles, is that so? I have to disagree with you here. And perhaps Giles made a few mistakes now and then, but I believe his good deeds and the help he’d given Buffy over the years outnumber his mistakes.

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  82. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on June 25, 2009.]

    “I understand Buffy’s anger and resentment toward Giles at this point, but, Rosie, you seem to be saying that Buffy is better off without Giles, is that so? I have to disagree with you here. And perhaps Giles made a few mistakes now and then, but I believe his good deeds and the help he’d given Buffy over the years outnumber his mistakes.”

    Well, this is one topic in which we can disagree. I was never that enamoured of Giles as a mentor to begin with. The fact that he was a Watcher and participated in what I felt was an exploitive situation that left Watchers in control of vampire slayers, has not warmed me to his character. And as a fan named Shadowkat managed to point out (I’ll post her article on authority figures later), Giles was not always an effective mentor. I can only hope that the vampire slayers that now follow Buffy in post-Season 7 had agreed to engage in that lifestyle via choice . . . and were not coerced, ordered or bullied into accepting the duties of a Slayer.

    Worst of all, he has betrayed her more than once. That is one too many times for me to feel comfortable about Buffy continuing her relationship with him. Perhaps it wasn’t for you, but it was for me.

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  83. [Note: Dingdong posted this comment on June 26, 2009.]

    Wow, Mike, you’ve really expanded out since I last read these. These have to count as at least twice as long as the longest reviews I write, which IMO is saying something! Very much like the score you’ve given this one, though being me I’d have probably been a little less generous – 9.5/10 probably. It’s a great episode, though possibly not as momentous as some of the other greats.

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  84. [Note: wilpy posted this comment on June 27, 2009.]

    Ok, there’s a LOT of comments going on here that I’ll never have time to read, but I’ll just say to Mike that this was easily one of the best reviews you’ve done of the show, up there with ‘The Gift’, ‘Once More’, ‘Restless’, and ‘Becoming Part Two’, and Rick’s supplementary analysis was an excellent read, with which I agree most of it.

    This is a near perfect episode, in my opinion. It is unnerving just how far this show has developed since season 1, and how far Buffy’s character has developed. The same girl who quipped “if the apocalypse comes, beep me” before going on a date is standing here saying to a man who’s just been beaten up to a pulp by her friend that she’ll let him be killed by him if he gets in her way of saving the world. :O LMPTM is such a strange episode of TV as it’s so immersed in the show’s backstory and the discussions of morality, and portrays Buffy and Spike, normally the heroes, almost as the villains of the piece. I can understand why it’s so controversial.

    Regarding Giles, the only thing I felt was out of character for him was to assert himself as Buffy’s mentor at the beginning of the episode. He left the previous year becase he realised she didn’t need him anymore, yet was clinging to him out of habit. WHy would he force himself back into that parent/teacher position when she had come so far on her own?

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  85. [Note: Farah posted this comment on June 28, 2009.]

    I guess, Rosie, we’ll have to agree to disagree. To understand Giles, we need to look at his past. Why did he become that guy in S1? See how much he’d changed and developed over the years. Anyway, I find the Buffy/Giles relationship to be special, and I feel so sad that instead of reconnecting them, they seemed to walk their separate ways, it makes watching the early seasons so painful.

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  86. [Note: Dave C posted this comment on June 28, 2009.]

    Loved this episode and loved this review. I’m not a fan of the next couple of episodes, though (that’s something of an understatement when it comes to “Empty Places”), so I’m sure we’ll have some fun once you get those reviews up!

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  87. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on July 2, 2009.]

    “I guess, Rosie, we’ll have to agree to disagree. To understand Giles, we need to look at his past. Why did he become that guy in S1? See how much he’d changed and developed over the years. Anyway, I find the Buffy/Giles relationship to be special, and I feel so sad that instead of reconnecting them, they seemed to walk their separate ways, it makes watching the early seasons so painful.”

    I understand Giles. And I understand his fears. But I think that Buffy was right to break their relationship . . . especially after he had betrayed her for the second time. As for the eventual separation of their relationship . . . it happens sometimes. Not all protegee/mentor relationships end on a “happily ever after” note. I’m surprised that Giles managed to survive, considering that many protegee/mentor relationships tend to end with the mentor’s death in fiction, to represent the protagonist’s growth into real adulthood. Whedon decided to take another route and end the protegee/mentor relationship in his story in another way.

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  88. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on July 2, 2009.]

    “It is only when Wood kicks the shit out of him that Spike finally comes to terms with his mommy issues and his own nature as a vampire. He alleviates his guilt by abandoning it entirely, denying any responsibility for killing Wood’s mother. Although it’s a little crude to call the whole slayer-vampire dynamic a “game,” there’s a valid rational observation here. As a soulless vampire, Spike was compelled to violence via the demon within.”

    Spike never denied any responsibility for killing Nikki Woods. He admitted it. He just didn’t wallow in grief over it. And frankly, I don’t blame him. Nikki Woods was a vampire slayer who believed it was her duty to kill him and many like him, with extreme prejudice. And she damn near came close to achieving her goal on that subway.

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  89. [Note: Farah posted this comment on July 3, 2009.]

    I think Spike not regretting Nikki’s death can be understandable, she was out there to kill him, and he won. It sucked, but I guess that’s nature. What I didn’t like is the stuff he said to Wood about his mother choosing the mission over him. That was uncalled for.

    And Buffy backing him up annoyed me as well. Giles was right. When it comes to Spike, she’s blinded by her feelings for him.

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  90. [Note: Rick posted this comment on July 3, 2009.]

    @Rosie: I would actually argue that Spike does deny responsibility for it. In saying “that’s the way the game is played,” Spike essentially argues that he as a vampire was playing an inevitable role. He doesn’t “wallow” precisely because he doesn’t see himself as accountable morally for her death.

    @Farah: I can’t help but feel you are continuously overlooking the comments on this page, and at times it seems like you didn’t even read the reviews. The whole point of the episode is that the slayer’s mission by necessity comes first in her life. Nicki did choose her job over her son, otherwise she would have quit. Her situation is played to mirror Buffy’s own responsibility to the world, which means she has to accept the reality “that anyone of us is expendable in this war.” To boot, insulting a man’s mommy issues hardly seems “uncalled for” when that very man just tried to kill you.

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  91. [Note: Farah posted this comment on July 5, 2009.]

    Rick, I am not ignoring the comments and I did read the reviews. Not agreeing with every word said in them doesn’t mean I didn’t read them. Nikki had a calling she couldn’t turn her back on even if she wanted to -we’ve see how Buffy tried to ignore her calling, but always failed. It’s not about choosing slayerhood over her son, it’s about doing the right thing.

    And I’m criticizing Spike’s way of laying it on Wood after he’d killed his mother and turned him into a helpless orphan at a very young age. And I’m criticizing Buffy’s cold behavior to Wood. I’m sure if it was someone she loved like Dawn or Xander or Willow, she would have done her best to kill their killers.

    She was right. Wood’s actions and his timing sucked, but she could have been a little considerate. And that’s the biggest reason to Buffy’s fallout in Empty Places. She became too cold and emotionless and that wasn’t what made her the admirable icon. Her heart and understanding nature, her connection with humanity, those were the reasons Buffy made it this far, the reasons she still had faithful followers. She’s losing the love and loyalty of her troop because of her behavior and stubbornness. The only one she’s showing that warm “Buffy” side to is Spike. No wonder he never gave up on her.

    In this episode I think all characters’ actions are understandable and in character. But not all their actions were right, yes, even Buffy and Spike. That’s my opinion.

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  92. [Note: Tara posted this comment on July 25, 2009.]

    The thing that bothers me so much with Giles’s actions in this episode is the underhand nature of it all. I know that Buffy would have tried to stop him, but remember in The Gift where Giles openly says that he will kill Dawn to ‘protect this sorry world’, even when he knows Buffy will probably kill him for trying? At least then he respected Buffy enough to be unflinchingly upfront about his actions. He didn’t expect her to adhere or even agree but at least he was honest in his intentions and didn’t lie or go behind her back. That scene between them in the training room showed a remarkable maturity, and, as Mike put it, had them at ‘a curious peace’ with each other. In ‘Lies…’, having Giles go behind Buffy’s back seems to show a complete lack of respect and disregard for both this development and her status as a grown adult capable of making her own choices, especially considering the very reason he left in the first place was to let her stand on her own two feet.

    ‘Lies…’ is a fantastic episode (certainly deserving of its P score) but it still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth after watching it. But maybe that was the point.

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  93. [Note: MissKittyFantastico posted this comment on August 2, 2009.]

    I’m extremely late to the party, but here goes (sorry if I say too many things that were said earlier—I tried to read through everything so as not to be too repetitive).

    I enjoy parts of this episode quite a bit, but there are also several things that bug me enough that I don’t see it as deserving of a perfect score. Firstly, as has been addressed by several comments, vamp versions of people ARE related to the people themselves (established in Doppelgangland). I don’t understand why VampSpike has mommy issues that carry over from HumanSpike, but VampMom is supposed to be taken as a completely different person.

    “There’s a perfect get-out clause for the apparent inconsistency: that the demons that inhabit the bodies of the vamped are different from each other. Perhaps the one inhabiting Spike’s mother was strong enough to be able to ignore her personality and only use her memories.â€� [Rick]

    Even if this is the case, how does Spike know VampMom isn’t just voicing RealMom’s opinions? Yeah, maybe the demon was strong enough to reject his mom’s personality, or maybe it wasn’t. But then there’s no way of knowing which is the case. I’d also argue that every vamp we’ve spent a lot of time with on the show retained more than just the memories of the original person, and I don’t see why VampMom should be the exception.

    There’s an argument that the mythos isn’t actually inconsistent in this episode: vampires want to get rid of their humanity by rejecting any love they used to have (I mean, that’s what Angelus does in Season Two) and turning on people. This could account for VampMom having a completely different personality—she’s twisting her old self, and in a why therefore still related to the person she was. But in my mind that would mean VampSpike would also reject his love for his mother in an extreme way, rather than wanting to be with her forever. I can see why VampSpike would have sappy feelings, but then I don’t see why VampMom would be repulsed by him. I can see why VampMom would not be attached to VampSpike, but then I don’t see why VampSpike would be attached to VampMom.

    In response to some of Rick’s comments about a concrete mythos not really being the point in this episode, jarrpu replied: “…the mythology of the show isn’t always that well thought out and consistent…. However in this case they are mixing the characters and the vampire mythology so it’s a bit of a mess compared to what was before.â€� [jarrpu]

    I agree with jarrpu’s response here. Yes, I’ve never needed a guidebook of concrete mythos for BtVS to work. But SOME consistency would be really nice. Here, the mythos is being changed to fit different characters interacting in the same scenes—isn’t that going a bit too far?

    I would have found it more interesting and consistent if Spike’s real mother had made a casual comment that was exaggerated in some way by VampMom, which then caused Spike to have issues.

    (And were the hints of incest really necessary for this episode? A bit overly Freudian, IMO.)

    Buffy says that if, to save the world, she had to kill Dawn, she would. I think this is believable, and brilliantly done, and I don’t think this compromises Buffy’s relationship with Dawn at all. In fact, it’s one of my favorite statements in the show about what a slayer sometimes has to do. But there is nothing saying that if Spike lives, he’ll end the world—to compare Spike’s trigger potential with Dawn undoubtedly being the Key to unleashing all hell dimensions on earth (or with anyone who would without a doubt wreak havoc or cause the end of the world) just doesn’t seem completely reasonable.

    Seven years into his experiences with Buffy, Giles knows and acknowledges things aren’t as simple as they seem sometimes. So why does he accept Wood’s plan when he knows that Wood is being irrational and cruel? Isn’t that a sign that something’s wrong with the plan? SoulSpike may be dangerous, but Giles is joining with someone who actively wants to murder Spike, when Giles knows SoulSpike isn’t even the same vamp that killed Nikki. I definitely buy Wood trying to kill Spike, but Giles actively helping him? I just don’t think that Giles spent sufficient time thinking about the implications his decisions with regard to Spike could have. I can understand why someone would, objectively speaking, want to kill Spike. But I also think Giles would have searched for other options that didn’t involve leading Spike blind into a torture and murder session and going behind Buffy’s back.

    Lastly, I really don’t see Buffy as dependent on Giles at all by this point in the show. I have difficulty believing that Giles even gets her to the graveyard with him, let alone that he is able to keep her talking for so long. He skipped town at a time when Buffy was severely depressed and it was wrong to leave her—I think that in itself changed their relationship completely if other things hadn’t before. When I first saw Buffy and Giles sever ties this dramatically in LMPTM, I was surprised that Giles (who really hadn’t been Buffy’s mentor in a while) was trying to be a mentor again. He had basically been written out of the show by this point, and then he was suddenly brought back in to be a source of conflict. It just made me wonder what the writers had done with the real Giles.

    I like the idea of an episode towards the end of the seventh season that has Buffy and Giles talking about sacrifice and the implications of various actions (including the Ben confession that Mike said was originally in the script), and I think the Wood-Spike dynamic works well, but LMPTM has in other elements that don’t work for me.

    As always, thanks for these reviews! I eagerly await the next installment… :):):)

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  94. [Note: Gideon posted this comment on August 4, 2009.]

    I’m also pretty late to the party, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get it started back up! πŸ˜‰

    Personally, I paradoxically loved and hated this episode. The story, script, and characterizations were stunningly brilliant; the highlight of season seven. There’s also much to be said about the character of Holden Webster who, under other circumstances, could have been made into a recurring foe for Buffy: he was a pretty capable fighter and possessed an insight not seen since Angelus (minus the blatant sadism).

    The problem I had was, to echo Farah, how this situation handled the relationship between Giles and Buffy. I understand Rosie’s perspective that Buffy would, sooner or later, have to shed the protective shadow of Giles and evolve into a true leader. But the fact of the matter is that I completely sympathize with Giles on this one; I feel that Buffy was far too nonchalant about the danger Spike posed. She was a hypocrite par excellence given that she said that Giles had a right to kill Angelus in “Passions” — and this was once the man she deeply loved and would come to love again! — and yet when the tables turn and Spike is the threat, he must be protected. The situations are similar; Buffy was eventually willing to kill Angelus despite the fact that it would also condemn Angel to death, too. And she knew full well that Angel was not responsible for his actions. Spike is in a situation where he is being controlled by the First, much like how Angel was controlled by his demon. Where is the distinction?

    Buffy’s argument seemed more or less “Spike has a soul!” And I think Giles was right; logically, he had the upper hand. I feel wholeheartedly that Buffy’s judgment was clouded. Both of them could argue that their solution was more practical: a First-free Spike would be an invaluable asset; but there was no guarantee that the First would relinquish control over Spike, so I’m still inclined to side with Giles.

    I’m not saying that I, as a member of the audience and someone who truly loves the character of Spike, would want Spike to die. I’m saying that from the perspective of a leader, I think Giles was absolutely right and that I would have respected Buffy a whole lot more if she just admitted she didn’t have an argument and simply didn’t want to kill him because she cared for him.

    Or at least tell Giles that if Spike kills again, she’d put him down.

    Alas, Buffy was not honest with herself in this episode. Or with anyone else. Trust issues indeed.

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  95. [Note: Rosie posted this comment on September 21, 2009.]

    But the fact of the matter is that I completely sympathize with Giles on this one; I feel that Buffy was far too nonchalant about the danger Spike posed. She was a hypocrite par excellence given that she said that Giles had a right to kill Angelus in “Passions” — and this was once the man she deeply loved and would come to love again! — and yet when the tables turn and Spike is the threat, he must be protected. The situations are similar; Buffy was eventually willing to kill Angelus despite the fact that it would also condemn Angel to death, too. And she knew full well that Angel was not responsible for his actions. Spike is in a situation where he is being controlled by the First, much like how Angel was controlled by his demon. Where is the distinction?

    Then Giles failed to take into account that as dangerous as Spike was, he was staying at a house with an experienced vampire slayer, a powerful witch and God knows how many Potentials. Giles was wrong. He may have had a right to be wary about Spike, but he never took into account Wood’s own reasons for wanting Spike dead. And how can Giles scream about Spike being dangerous, when there was a powerful witch who had recently threatened to destroy the world also in the house. Willow still had not got her act together, as her reaction to conducting that spell in “Get It Done” proved.

    No one in that house was safe. Not even Spike. And just about everyone was dangerous in his or her own way. Giles never considered this, because he was driven by his own fears following the Watcher Council’s destruction and his dislike of Spike.

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  96. [Note: Sunburn posted this comment on November 29, 2009.]

    I really don’t see how the vampire mythology as regards personality can be described as “inconsistent”. The entire series focuses (at different times) on two vampires above all others, Angel and Spike. We are clearly shown, and told by many different people, that Angel’s vampire alter-ego is utterly inhuman and devoid of love. His vampire personality is the polar opposite of his human personality. Spike, on the other hand, retains significant aspects of his human personality, including his capacity and compulsion for love. As such, can anyone realistically claim that there is an immutable, consistent mythology about how much of their original personality vampires retain?

    Further examples: Drusilla was a pious, devout woman; Angel drove her mad; then she became a sexually voracious headcase. Holden Caulfield retained not just his knowledge but his ‘couch-side’ manner, ability to draw people out and his interest in doing so.

    In any case, I think it would hurt the show to have a set-in-stone rule either way, because Buffy is a show about characters, and the vampire characters can be just as interesting in their variations as the human ones, when given the right attention. The idea of all vampires following some identikit process, ALL losing every scrap of their humanity and personality, would make for very tedious villains. It would also be odd and unnecessary, since humanity comprises a huge amount of bad as well as good. The briefest glance at the world and its history suggests that not all the bad in a vampire nature would necessarily come from a demon.

    Going back to specifics, Spike’s mother seems to have followed the Angel mould and become a vicious bundle of spite. And the best thing is, it doesn’t actually matter all that much whether this is actually the case or not, because what was important for the episode and the programme was what Spike believed. Once again, Buffy’s strength is not in rigid definitions or unrealistic omniscience of the characters, but in grey areas and flawed personalities and actions driven by incomplete knowledge of the true facts, just like in real life.

    Nessy pa? (apols to the French types here, j’aime le silly spelling. πŸ˜‰ )

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  97. [Note: Nathan.Taurus posted this comment on January 6, 2010.]

    It’s great to see Spike threatening to kill humans again after only having his soul back for less than a year. It took Angel 100 years before he could even do anything near humans after getting his soul returned…..so does that mean Spike is stronger than Angel or more evil?

    Anyway, fantastic episode and great review as usual. I never get tired of learning about a characters past events and we have Drusilla again, yay!

    It’s funny how Robin wanted to kill Spike, (who should have a name to differentiate when he is evil like ‘Angelus’)and yet his actions actually stopped the trigger and saved Spike’s life as he would of had to of been killed if the trigger still worked. Perhaps. Fantastic fight sequence between them.

    It’s a similar situation with Giles as his actions actually make Buffy step up and take charge which is one of the outcomes he wanted.

    Mike: You should have the line about Spike’s brain not taking up that much room.

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