In Smashed, Buffy and Spike physically smash each other and their
surroundings; metatextually, the episode smashes their illusions
about their individual identities as vampire and slayer and their
joint identity as a couple. The episode culminates in their sexual
union amidst the physical and psychic rubble. In Wrecked, we start
to see hints of what will survive and rise like a phoenix out of
the rubble and wreckage. The importance of these two episodes when
evaluating the potential for true internal change and possible redemption
for Spike cant be emphasized enough.
Spike, long established in the Buffyverse as the teller of uncomfortable
truths, keeps reminding us that things have changed. In fact, both
episodes are bookended by this notion. Early in Smashed, Spike
tells Buffy, A man can change. After he finds out that
his chip is still functional, he then comments, Its
about the rules having changed. Everything is different now.
Early in Wrecked, after Buffy tells him their night together was
a mistake, Spike tells her, It was a bloody revelation.
Close to the end of the episode, he comments again that since their
night together, Things have changed.
So what exactly has changed? Spike has started to make noticeable
progress towards putting together his new identity. We saw the
problem in Smashed: hes neither a vampire nor a human. Hes
not good nor is he evil. Hes supposed to slay the Slayer,
not love the Slayer. Whatever peace of mind Spike showed in Tough
Love when he commented to Dawn Well, Im not good, and
Im okay seems to have evaporated to some extent. If
hes not those things, who is he?
In Tabula Rasa, Randy showed us that Spikes basic instincts
lean more towards good than evil. When Randy discovers he has no
apparent desire to bite Joan, he decides, I must be a noble
vampire. A good guy. On a mission of redemption. I help the helpless.
Im a vampire with a soul.
The small problem here is that Spike is not Randy. Spike has life
experiences that does not mesh with what Randy thinks is his identity.
In fact, what Randy believes is his identity is actually Angels
identity. When Spikes life experiences return to him, he
cant realistically assume that identity as his own. Angels
path of redemption leads him to altruistic expressions of love for
humanity. He wants to help the stranger on the street to balance
the incredible crimes against humanity that Angelus perpetrated.
But Spike has always been something different. Hes a fool
for love. Spikes love is personal, passionate, and specific.
Instead of taking the obvious definition of a fool as someone who
is full of hot air or easily deceived, lets focus on a different
definition. In the Tarot, The Fool in the Major Arcana is the risk-taker.
The Fool is an innocent, totally at ease with the physical world
and ready to start a journey of enlightenment.
Interestingly enough, the Fool corresponds to the Joker in the
contemporary pack of playing cards. Ive read several interesting
analyses discussing how Spike (and Buffy) function as jokers in
the Buffyverse. They are totally off the radar screen of TPtB.
It seems their prophecies, while full of Angel, are remarkably silent
on Spike. Buffy dropped off their radar screen after she fulfilled
her function as Prophecy Girl. But both Spike and Buffy have had
profound effects on the course of events in the Buffyverse; in some
cases, extremely unpredictable effects.
But I digress. Lets get back to our Fool. In FFL, William
starts that journey for enlightenment one night in an alley with
Dru as he gropes for something effulgent.
Drusilla is looking for a lover. She wants a partner in the way
Darla has Angel as her partner. They suggest she sire someone.
She says, I could pick the wisest and bravest knight in all
the land and make him mine forever with a kiss. In
some ways, thats exactly what Dru did. William was a bloody
awful 19th century poet. He was probably steeped in
Arthurian lore and the chivalric tradition of courtly love as reinterpreted
by Victorian poets like Tennyson. He idealized Cecily through that
lens, offering her his poems like a knight offers his lady his service
In that alley, Spike was born. In order to assume his identity
within the gang and win his dark lady Dru from her father
(Angelus), he begins an unlifelong quest: the hunt for Slayers.
He is the darkly twisted chivalric knight, searching out the Holy
Grail of vampires. He validates himself in his own eyes and his
lovers through this quest.
In China during the Boxer Rebellion, he kills his first Slayer,
offering her blood to Dru. The Holy Grail contained the blood of
Christ. The Slayer contains the Buffyverse equivalent. Spike drinks
of it and then offers it to his lady as a token of love. They even
make love afterwards.
Later, in New York, he kills a second Slayer, this time keeping
her leather duster as a trophy of battle. Its interesting
that he doesnt drink from this Slayer (at least not that we
see). The quest is now more about the battle than the object.
Its the journey, not the destination hes craving. He
also picks a token that is purely for himself, not something he
shares with his lady.
But this journey begun in that alley has another effect on Spike.
Eventually, it turns him into loves bitch: someone under
anothers control who loves pain as an end, not a means. Exposure
to Dru over a 100+ years warps him. We never really get to see
Spike and Drus relationship at any healthy point. In Season
2, we first see Dru control Spike through her illness and weakness.
Once the situations are reversed and Angelus arrives, we discover
that for Dru, its really all about Daddy. Spike has loved
Dru, but she has never really loved him back: hes been her
toy to occupy her when the real man she wanted was unavailable.
In some respects, Spike has been Buffys bitch since he realized
he loved her in Out of My Mind. The temptation for Spike after
Smashed is to revert to that identity and duplicate the destructive
patterns of his relationship with Dru in his new relationship with
Buffy. In Smashed, Buffy even taunts Spike that he doesnt
love her, he loves the pain she provides.
But in Wrecked, when Buffy starts doling out the pain, Spike tells
Buffy clearly, I wont be your whipping boy. He
rejects the pain. He wants the pleasure. Thats what his
love is about. He reinforces this at the end of the episode when
he tells her that if she continues to play the bitch, he will bite
back. He refuses to continue their patterns. He will not attack
her, but he will defend himself. He sets boundaries and he lets
her know where they are, while at the same time reinforcing that
he loves her.
Lets step back to FFL for a minute for some clues about what
might be going on in Wrecked. In the scene where the Fabulous Four
are hiding in the sewers, Angelus and Spike begin a verbal and physical
fight. Its a fight over two things: the identity of the
gang and Drusilla. Angelus wants to maintain a low profile, minimizing
risk and maximizing success. Spike wants risk; he wants to fight
the fights they dont know they can win. Its also a
fight over Drusilla. Even though she owns Spike because she sired
him, Angelus still owns Dru: she is one of his two women.
Drusilla makes a strange comment that day. She says, The
King of Cups expects a picnic. But today is not his birthday.
We know that Dru has the Sight. Earlier in FFL, she sees burning
baby fishes around Williams head, which sounds much like a
prediction about the chip. But what does this prophecy mean?
Who is the King of Cups? In the Tarot, the Minor Arcana has four
suits, each associated with a particular element. Cups (the modern
day equivalent is Hearts) is associated with Water. The element
of Water is associated with moods, dreams, emotions, romance, and
fantasy. Its seasonal correspondence is
Each court card represents a personality type. The King of Cups
is a mature man of wisdom and intuitive insights. He appreciates
beauty. He is often thought to be a good husband and father. His
trademark is his ability to forgive and empathize with others.
When his jealous nature is aroused and his veneer of self-control
is breached, he can be fierce.
Drus reference to a picnic/birthday party could symbolize
a coming of age (growing up) moment that has not yet arrived. It
doesnt seem too much of a stretch to suggest that the King
of Cups could well be an identity that Spike will eventually assume.
This particular confrontation between Angelus and Spike is not the
confrontation about Spikes identity.
Wrecked may be the birthday party or at least its harbinger. Spike
is now experiencing Summer(s). Hes also fighting again for
a woman he loves and his main rival is Angel. This time, hes
fighting Buffys memory of Angel, her illusions about Angel,
and the damage resulting from her relationship with Angel. References
to Angel are all over the morning after scene. Spike claims vampires
get Buffy hot and Buffy immediately contrasts the one
vampire against the convenient vampire. Spike takes
Buffys taunt that he thinks he is Gods gift and claims
thats hardy true because it wouldnt be nearly
as interesting. Buffys sexuality was forged in Angels
fire as much as Spikes was in Drus. Angel and Dru are
part of the ghosts they have to lay to rest in the rubble.
Spike is still a Fool on his journey for love. But now the journey
is as much about loving himself as loving others. Lets look
at this new fool for love who is arising from the rubble of Smashed.
He appears to have a certain wisdom and maturity characteristic
of what a redeemed Spike might display. First, hes not bad
enough to find Racks house. Amy can find it. Willow can
sense it once Amy points it out and then is able to find it on her
own. Spikes clueless.
Second, despite the sexual tension and bantering that Spike loves,
once Buffy mentions Rack, Spikes mind is immediately on how
to help Dawn and Willow. Hes about sex play, sure, but hes
not about irresponsibility.
Third, despite their uncomfortable conversation on the street that
leads Buffy to claim she wants Spike out of her life, her work,
and her home, Spike points out that life is more complicated than
that. Shes already invited him in. Hes involved.
She just cant wish him away with a few words. Things are
messy. He shares her work with her and the Scoobies, and he shares
the care of Dawn. He also points out how immature it would be for
Buffy to risk harm to Dawn just to spite him. Hes advocating
responsibility both in this particular situation and in others going
Fourth, Spike demonstrates his caring and nurturing side with Dawn.
He strokes her hair, he takes her hand, and he tends to her while
Buffy fights the demon. Simply put, he loves Dawn. Clearly, he
isnt just a fool for sexual love. He is capable of non-romantic,
But we really already knew that about Spike. Whats new in
Wrecked is that Spike is clearly now able to empathize with humans
outside the Summers family. It is Spike who stops, moved by Willows
tears, much as Buffys tears in FFL moved him. He has every
reason to be as angry on Dawns behalf as both Dawn and Buffy
are. But he keeps his head. He doesnt say a word. Its
his compassionate heart that causes Buffy to stop, rethink her anger,
and go to her friend. Spike manages to do this despite the fact
that hes never really had anyone extend an empathetic hand
to him in quite the same way.
Fifth, this is all combined with the Spike weve already seen,
who has tremendous and profound insight into others. He knows Buffy
felt something. He knows it was a bloody revelation. He senses
hes breached some walls.
Not everything is rosy in Wrecked. Spike does problematically
say to Buffy, If Im dirt, then youre the one who
loves rolling in it. Its unclear whether he believes
that about himself or if hes just trying to use Buffys
own comments against her. Its been clear since The Gift that
Spike does not believe Buffy can ever love him. But in Wrecked,
part of his revelation is that Buffy does feel something for him
and when Buffy challenges him that its not love, he replies
enigmatically, Not yet. Its unclear whether Spike
now feels himself worthy of Buffys love because he is aspiring
to her level of goodness or if its because Buffy has now descended
to his level.
Where will he go from here? Well see when we return from
rerun hell in January. But the first half of Season Six has been
a bright one for Spikes redemption.
owe some debts of gratitude to various people whose thought-provoking
conversation contributed greatly to this essay. First, thanks to
all those great posters at Tabula Rasa. Their astute insights into
Smashed and Wrecked really helped coalesce my thinking. Also, I
have benefited generously from their discussions (particularly Clairels)
about Spike and Buffys roles as jokers in the pack
operating outside the purview of TPtB. Second, thanks to Vicki,
Lisa, and AZ. While I was off ruminating about the Fool in the
Tarot and how that related to Spike, their keen eyes caught the
reference in FFL to the King of Cups and how it relates to the person
that Spike can be. Last (but certainly not least) thanks to my
Sisters. You inspire me daily!