If life's a journey, then most of us are at some point stranded
without a map. But TV isn't real life, and we look to the lives
of TV characters for a structure, an arc, we don't necessarily have
in our own lives. We may fiddle around, going nowhere fast, but
in drama we look for progress, achievement, an all-wrapped-up-in-a-big-red-bow
ending. And in the particular case of Spike, we're looking for red-ribboned
redemption as his--and our--reward. Will he get there? Do the smiling
sadists (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) at Mutant Enemy
have happiness in store? I believe yes, but in their own special
Start with Angel, the vampire with a soul, the darling of the Powers
That Be, with his destiny, his epiphany and his shanshu. Angel was
the first BtVS vampire to set foot on the road to redemption, and
his is a mystical, fated journey. Because of that, he has only a
limited amount of free will. When he's in danger of straying too
far from his pre-ordained path, of opting out of life and the struggle,
the Powers intervene and set him right or save him (magical snow,
anyone?), as the situation demands. Interestingly--and somewhat
off the main argument--one of the biggest problems Buffy will (or
would, anyway, if I ran the circus) face in her acceptance of Spike
is the fact that if he can do good without a soul, why couldn't
Angelus? I venture to say that that, too, was as a result of Angel's
destiny. He had to be evil so that his transformation back
to the Good would have the necessary meaning. His path is a narrow
one, and he has very little chance to stray from it, whether for
good or bad. Unlike some, I actually find him an interesting character
and his potential struggle--against himself, against the Powers
that have taken away his ability to choose--a fascinating one. How
far ME will go with that remains to be seen, but I'm still enjoying
the ride. But that's Angel's road, and only Angel's road. If we
all had Important Roles For The Fate Of The World to play, then
his wouldn't be special or interesting, and there would be no point
in telling his story.
Then there's Spike. Clearly Angel's road isn't open to him. He's
a regular guy, in vampire terms, and what he gets, he has to figure
out and fight for himself. For the fundies, that means redemption
is out of the question, because Angel's road is the road
to redemption, and since it's closed to Spike, so is the possibility
of reaching redemption. That's, imho, patently ridiculous, and I
once more return to the metaphor of life as a journey for my explanation.
Suppose you want to drive from NYC to LA, west, where the sun sets,
toward the traditional literary site of heaven (ie: redemption)?
You would be unlikely to just get in your car, head west and hope
to get there. You'd pull out a road map and plot a course. And that
road map would show you dozens of possible routes, not just one.
So you'd choose, and probably for at least the first half day you'd
even follow the course you'd laid out. But then you stop for lunch
at a diner and get talking to the guy next to you at the counter.
You find out that the world's biggest ball of string is just 30
minutes north, and of course you have to see that. (Yes, I actually
would detour to see such a thing. So sue me.) After a fun time at
the String Museum, you could opt to drive 30 minutes back the way
you'd come and rejoin your original route. Or you could look at
your map, discover a different westward highway 15 minutes to the
north and decide to go that way. And your trip would go on in that
vein, still heading west, but detouring, maybe even occasionally
backtracking because you took a wrong turn, or discovered your planned
road was closed for construction, or a bridge was out. Eventually,
though, you'd get to LA, the City of Angels, heaven.
I think of the road to redemption as being much like that cross-country
trip. For the fundies, there's Highway 1 and no other. But for most
of the world that map is just a mass of possibilities crying out
to be explored. Even if you take the stand that redemption is a
religious concept and can therefore only be achieved by following
a spiritually designated path, there are many possibilities. And
most of the people in the world consider themselves religious in
one way or another, so they choose one of those paths. The religious
route (essentially Angels route) is the well-traveled road,
and it's the easier road, as well. After all, God and/or the Powers
That Be have laid out the steps, so all we have to do is follow
to the best of our ability and we can get there. Even a sincere
deathbed confession can get us in with the In-Heaven crowd, despite
a lifetime of sinning. In other words, very little free will is
necessary, and therefore the effort we have to expend is limited.
Decisions are made for us. We may need to carry them out, but we
don't have to figure them out.
Fundies are fundies precisely because their argument, based as
it is on the religious concept of a soul, is a fundamentally religious
one. That means it's based in belief, not logic, and nothing I say
next is going to sway them. Frankly, I don't care, because I don't
have a lot of interest in the thoughts of anyone who's uninterested
in original thought, in interpreting the world around them, in the
value of free will, and--most of all--in weighing the value of actions,
of reality. I have to believe that an atheist who does good simply
because it's the right thing to do is a better person than the criminal
who recants and finds God on his deathbed. If the fundies want to
consign the first to hell while rewarding the second with heaven,
that's their prerogative, but it's mine to disagree with them.
Though I'm personally not religious, my approach to life and morality
is informed by religion, specifically Judaism. One of the key differences
between Christianity (and the fundies are clearly aligned with Christianity)
and Judaism is that the bulk of the Judaic laws and the main thrust
of the religion deal with man's treatment of his fellow man, quite
a comfortable fit with my own atheism. Another is that there are
no concepts of heaven and hell in the Christian sense, though there
is a concept of reward. And I would argue that Mutant Enemy's approach
to Spike's redemption is essentially either an atheistic or a Jewish
one (not that I think that was anything like a conscious decision,
just that that's where it nets out at the end of the day), because
it's based not on divine intervention and posession of a soul but
on actions, realities. And that's just as valid an approach--to
anyone but a religious fundamentalist (and you already know what
I think of them)--as any other.
No soul for Spike, so he can't take that popular religious road.
But he can still take his own road. It may be a tougher one, a lonelier
one, because he's got to find his own way, but he can still get
there at the end of the day. He's going to find more detours along
the way--in other words, he's going to backslide--and his trip will
be made more difficult by the fact that until recently he didn't
even realize he was on a journey. I think "Tabula Rasa"
was a turning point for him, though. Suddenly he had to consciously
define himself, and the way he wanted to define himself--as a man
who happened to be a good fighter when faced with evil--ended up
demonstrably at odds with the reality of who he is: a vampire (and
not one with a soul). Back to that damn road trip metaphor. He took
out the map. He looked at where he is and where he wants to be,
and the next step is to figure out that he can plot out a course
for getting from one to the other, or at least for (ditching the
metaphor for this one) merging the two into a whole that he can
live with. He recognizes redemption as a concept, now he has to
plan out the rest of the trip to get there.
As has been said a million times, for Spike the road to redemption
began with two things: the chip, altering his behavior, and love,
altering his mind and heart. What the chip gave him was breathing
room. It forced him to think about what he was doing, what he wanted
to do, because he could no longer work off his vampiric instincts.
At first he simply tried to find other ways to do the things he'd
always done: fight and kill, even kill the Slayer. What love gave
him was a new context for his behavior and, eventually, a desire
to think about what he was doing and how it affected others. This
is already too long, so I'm not going to go into all the specific
evidence indicating that he can be redeemed; I'll just generalize.
For the most part he's still at the stage of considering the effects
only on Buffy and her circle. (Let's say hes made it to Missouri,
shall we?) But there's nothing wrong with that, because the journey--ie:
the series--is still ongoing. Now that he knows he's traveling,
he can choose his road. For perhaps the first time in both his life
and his un-life, he's in control. He's always had free will, but
now he's got a more focussed world view that allows him to actually
take advantage of that free will. Does he realize that yet? I don't
know, and in order for his redemption to be valid, I think he does
have to develop an awareness of what he's done in the past, as well
as an acceptable way (and there are several that would satisfy me)
of moving forward from there in a way that benefits both himself
and his world, and a desire to choose that way in lieu of any others.
His way almost by definition has to be action-based, both because
he doesn't have a soul (which doesn't mean he can't have morals
or human/humane impulses and emotions, which can and must be part
of his guiding star) and because over the last 100+ years he's become
an act-first kind of guy.
But what a road he's got to choose. The popular path is out, so
all that's left is the lonely one. And he really does have to do
all the work himself, at least for a while. Right now his love for
Buffy isn't returned--or not in the way any sane person would want
it returned, anyway. And when she does return it? In some ways that
could be a hindrance to redemption, since it would be tempting for
him to get stuck at the stage (Reformed!Spike) of continuing to
do good only for her. I think by that point he'll have the self-awareness
to know he needs--wants--to move beyond that simplistic motivation
in order to achieve not just Buffy!Love but redemption, but that
only means his path will continue to be a solo one in many ways.
Because he has no soul and the easy option is closed to him, he's
going to have to work, and work hard, for what he wants. But what
we work for, we treasure. We hold it dear because it cost us dearly.
Spike has caused hell, now he may have to go through it. But once
he does? He gets it all. He gets the girl--and not just any girl
but a superhero girl--and he gets redemption. Not only that, I think
we can reasonably believe that his journey will be not just as valid
as the religious path but in fact a better one, in terms of what
it's already shown--and will continue to show--about him, his mettle,
and all that makes him--and us--human. As Robert Frost said:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I --
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
It will make the difference in Spike, too.