Does Buffy love Spike? That's the question I sought to answer in
reviewing the current season thus far since Afterlife. I admit to
a certain pro bias which will colour my conclusions, and no doubt
another poster could come up with an equally valid argument in the
negative, using the same source material. I'm not only looking for
evidence of love (whatever that may mean), but also sexual attraction
to and trust of Spike.
Unfortunately, there are a few gaps in my tape collection, specifically
Flooded and All the Way, which I cannot fully investigate here beyond
memory, but hope to garnish sometime in the summer rerun schedule.
In studying these episodes, I also came to the conclusion that
a study of the instances where the characters lie, both to each
other and to themselves, would also be enlightening. Perhaps another
In Afterlife, Buffy has just returned from the dead, literally.
She is in shock, detached from her environment. We later learn that
this is caused, not only by her physical resurrection, but by the
sensation of being torn from a place of peace (which she assumes
may be heaven) and the harshness of life on earth, which she compares
to hell. This resurrection sets up her journey for the remainder
of the season, in which she faces depression, resentment, alienation
from her friends and uncharacteristic behaviour, typified by her
affair with Spike.
When Buffy comes down the stairs towards Spike, she makes eye contact
in a way she hasn't been able to with her sister. At first she is
embarrassed, doing up her buttons (consciousness of her sexuality)
and hiding her hands. But in these hands she finds a common bond
with Spike - they have both experienced crawling from their graves.
He can share an connection with her that none of her friends can.
When he takes her hands in his, she doesn't flinch. She looks him
in the eyes. It is only when her friends, the ones responsible for
her situation return, that she attempts to hide them again.
When she visits Spike in his crypt, he is holding a large knife,
and mentions it in the context of watching one's enemy. She ignores
this, only noticing that his hand is hurt. Not only is this another
representation of their connection, it shows rare compassion on
her part. Later, she sees him in back of the Magic Box. She says
that she can be alone with him there, which he takes as an insult.
It could mean that he doesn't register on her radar, which would
tie in with his "Rest In Peace" song in the musical - "Whisper in
a dead man's ear, doesn't make it real" - or could mean that she
has become so comfortable in his presence that she is at peace with
him. In any case, she tells him her darkest secret, and only after
she states it realizes that she has said too much. She doesn't know
if she can trust him to keep it, and states that her friends can't
know. This is an example of her unconscious trust of him (earlier
evidenced by leaving her mother and Dawn in his care), verses her
conscious distrust of him (believing erroneously that he would tell
Glory the secret of Dawn).
As I said, I am missing Flooded and All the Way. I do recall that
they fight well together as a team, and that in one of the episodes
(I believe Flooded) she watches him leave. As John Travolta says
in 'Face/Off', "I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave."
There is also a scene in one of these in the basement of the Magic
Box in which Buffy's sexual attraction to Spike is becoming evident,
but the details escape me.
By the time of Life Serial, she is comfortable being with Spike.
They seemed to have formed a type of friendship. She trusts him
enough to become very inebriated with him. She has come to count
on him, in much the same way she does Giles, as a protector and
saviour. "You were gonna help me. You were gonna bust heads and
fix my life." When his actions fall short of her expectations, she
says, "The only person I can stand to be around is a neutered vampire
that cheats at kitten poker." I would maintain that one of the barriers
in their relationship is not so much that she thinks he is evil,
but that she doesn't respect him. This will become very evident
in As You Were.
In Once More With Feeling, the relationship is defined. Spike wants
love and sex, the whole shebang. Buffy wants the status quo, or
so she would maintain - Spike as confidant and information source.
However, she is becoming sexually attracted to him, "What else would
I want to pump you for - I really just said that, didn't I?" and
he realizes it. "You just like to play the thought that you might
misbehave." She fights her feelings, steeling herself to his entreaties,
breaking eye contact, crossing her arms. Yet, in the grave at the
end of 'Rest in Peace' she lies on top of him, staring into his
eyes, making a tiny move towards his lips, before she jumps off
and runs. Her resolve is weakening.
In the Magic Box, she makes it clear she hasn't really heard what
his song was saying. What she did hear, hurt. "I thought you wanted
me to stay away from you. Isn't that what you sang?" Later, she
tells Sweet, "Give me something to sing about." The only one that
appears to make her sing is Spike. During the song 'Where do we
Go From Here?', she makes eye contact after he saves her life, then
breaks it. But when he leaves, she hurries after him, initiating
what appears to be a very heartfelt kiss, however she may protest
that "this isn't real." Her actions belie her words.
In the cemetery at the beginning of Tabula Rasa, Buffy tries to
avoid talking to Spike. She denies that their kiss meant anything.
She will never touch him again. Though, when his 'life' is in danger,
she instinctively throws herself on top of him to protect him. Again,
she is betrayed by her subconscious. She also pushes him out of
the way of his antagonist after this, again a protective move. "If
I would just stop saving his life, it would simple things up so
much." But nothing in their relationship is destined to be simple.
When he enters the Magic Box, she looks away from him and crosses
her arms. This parallels the same posture she has towards Giles,
upset that he is leaving. This is hurt, denial Buffy. After the
amnesia spell takes hold, she is instinctively protective of Spike.
"Hey, stay away from Randy!" When they leave to find the source
of their attack, she evidences the two sides of their relationship.
She is afraid for Randy when he is in danger, and afraid of him
when she discovers that he is a vampire.
Instinctively, she is comfortable with him. She knows he is a vampire,
but she doesn't try to stake him, even though she knows nothing
about him. She unconsciously straddles him, a position which could
be construed as sexual in nature, yet appears innocent in context.
In this scene there is evidence of another barrier in their relationship
- like Spike, Randy doesn't know when to shut up.
When her memory returns, she is devastated. She is hit with all
the pain and complication in one blow. Again, it is in Spike that
she seeks refuge. She has obviously sought him out, since he had
walked away. Their kiss is frenzied and public. One isolated incident
she might pass off as the result of a spell, but this is becoming
And then we come to Smashed, where their uneasy friendship literally
falls through the floor.
She tries to find excuses for kissing Spike - it was a spell, she
was grieving Giles' departure, but Spike doesn't believe this, and
we wonder if she does. When Spike calls her at the Magic Box, she
already has sexual seduction on her mind. She balks at the phrase
'grunt work' because she has been thinking of him that way.
When he confronts her in front of the old house, and she realizes
that his chip isn't working, she has a look of grieved terror on
her face. This is a reaction solely to the thought that he is dangerous
again - she doesn't know that it is only ineffective with him. I
believe it strikes her that she may be forced to kill him, and lose
him. It is only after she learns that the chip still works on other
people that she is horrified by the thought that she is 'wrong'.
But when they fight, they fight as equals. As odious as the thought
of hitting someone you care about may seem to us, physical combat
is a part of both their lives. They are stimulated by it. And when
they kiss, again it is Buffy that initiates it, as she initiates
the intercourse, changing the very nature of their relationship.
When they join, they stare into each other's eyes. Whatever her
denial may be later, for that moment she sees him. She doesn't back
But the morning after is another story. Unconsciously, she trusts
him. She has slept the night beside him, vulnerable and naked. In
the light of day, she is shocked by her actions. Indeed, there must
be something seriously wrong with her to behave in such a way, or
so she thinks. He is her mortal enemy, and she has experienced a
night of sexual abandon unlike anything she has dealt with before.
Yet, with all her reservations, she is drawn down to him again,
kissing him, until he puts his characteristic foot in his mouth
and destroys the moment. (Spike's bravado and lack of self esteem
are an essay topic in themselves).
Is sexual attraction love? No, but I would say there is a correlation.
The desire is obvious, "A bloody revelation" Spike calls it, yet
she denies it. She tells him, "One vampire got me hot, and it wasn't
you." She's spent the night proving this to be a lie. When she spits
out the words, "You were ... convenient" she seems to carefully
pick out the worst word she can think of. It is another lie. There
is nothing convenient about Spike. When Dawn is in trouble, she
goes to him. Again, she trusts him without consideration. Apparently,
she is afraid to touch his naked body, throwing a candle at him
to wake him up. She looks away from his nudity, though she has become
familiar with his body; less embarrassment than the avoidance of
Though she may deny it, he knows he has touched her emotionally.
"You felt something last night." "Not love." "Not yet." When Dawn
screams, they are a team. The look they exchange is instinctual.
And while she may not trust herself with Spike, she trusts him with
her sister. They communicate on a non verbal level when he suggests
she go to Willow. When she stops thinking about the implications
of her feelings, they work as one.
When she does think, she is terrified. She strews her room with
garlic, clutching a cross, not to keep him out, but to keep herself
locked up inside.
It is in Gone that we find the clearest indicator thus far of Buffy's
depth of feeling towards Spike. His lighter is a symbol, not of
sexuality, but of Spike himself. When she hides it in her pocket,
unable to throw it away as she tries, she is keeping Spike close
to her. (She is also showing a tendency towards her sister's kleptomania,
but I digress). Note the look on Buffy's face, caught almost in
the act by a characteristically oblivious Xander, when he says,
"Only a complete loser would hook up with [Spike]." She is offended,
and she is hurt. She is reinforced in her desire to keep the relationship
a secret. When she cuts her hair, it is a conscious desire not to
be Spike's 'Goldilocks', but it fails. Invisible Buffy hurries back
to his arms. She delights in deceiving Xander, playing a dangerous
game of near discovery. No doubt she resents his earlier comments.
But Spike is becoming disenchanted with a Buffy that attempts to
separate love and sex, and he throws her out, to her great consternation.
Buffy's life slips into a nosedive in Doublemeat Palace. She takes
a boring, dead end job which drains her. When Spike arrives in the
restaurant, she steels herself. He tries to convince her to leave,
but she won't listen. "Please don't make this harder." What he says
to her resonates, and his opinion matters. Later, she leaves to
again find solace in their sexual relationship, but not even his
charms can bring her out of her greasy stupor.
And then there is Dead Things, an relationship emotional roller
coaster ride. It starts with a scene of sexual abandon and a happy
conversation. Buffy and Spike are seen communicating on more than
one level. She admits her feelings are more than physical. "Do you
even like me?" "Sometimes." When he asks if she trusts him, she
denies it, "never", yet she wears the handcuffs. Once again, her
actions belie her words.
In the upper balcony of the Bronze, we see Spike initiate sexual
intercourse for the first time. She says "don't", but she doesn't
attempt to stop him. When he tells her to open her eyes, she does.
She is alienated from her friends. She is drawn to him. She is drawn
to him again in the cemetery, touching his crypt door with tender
longing. There connection is now so acute that he knows she is there.
But she walks away. "Don't think about the evil, bloodsucking fiend."
She objectifies him to keep the barrier between them. As the song
playing says, "The barriers are all self-made."
In her dream, Spike is her lover. He comes to her in her own bed,
comforting her. This is making love, not just sex. When he is utterly
defenceless, as she was with him earlier, she does what she trusted
him not to do. She kills him. Her fear is not of who Spike is, but
who she is. She believes she has killed an innocent woman. She is
I think this is key to the alley beating. It is unconscionable
that she attacks her lover mercilessly. However, I do not think
it is Spike that she is beating down. When he says that he has tried
not to love her, "You think I haven't tried not too?" she hits him,
countering his words with, "Try harder." I don't think those words
are really directed at him. I think she is talking to herself. When
she beats him, her words reflect her feelings about herself. "You
are dead inside, you don't feel anything." She is the evil, wrong
thing. When she sees what she has done, she walks away, unable to
face anything but her own guilt and pain. She walks towards the
police station like it is her holy grail. But his words, "you always
hurt the one you love," have penetrated her. She reiterates them
in relation to Warren and Katrina. She asks Tara, "Why do I feel
like this?" She cries, "but the only time I ever feel anything is
when ...", collapsing into tears.
But Spike has forgiven her. Like the biblical scapegoat, he has
placed her sin on himself. So, when Willow mentions Buffy's birthday
party, he comes.
Since Tara is the only one who knows about the relationship, Buffy
shares with her that she isn't "ready to ..." "Come out?" Tara asks.
This implies that Buffy does not rule out sharing the relationship
sometime in the future. She is offered an alternative, 'normal'
relationship with Richard, but shows him nothing more than pleasant
indifference. She teases Spike, "Maybe he's not the jealous one."
She treats him like a secret boyfriend, rather than an evil aberration.
In the morning, they are playing cards together. When they bicker,
it is an homage to Moonlighting. "Fine." "Fine."
Spike does not always play well with others. His jealous chiding
of Richard gives away too many indications of his vampire nature,
another indication that he and Buffy cannot have a 'normal' relationship.
He is not totally comfortable in being included as a scoobie, as
much as he may want it, calling it "an encounter group."
But when the demon attacks, Buffy again shows her unconscious trust
of Spike. "I'm gonna check upstairs. Keep an eye on things down
here." She tells Dawn, "Stay with Spike", again trusting her precious
sister with him. When they fight the demon, they fight as a team.
So the relationship continues, secret, sexual, and ultimately unsatisfying
for both of them, but continuing. Until Riley returns. It is in
As You Were that the strongest argument against Buffy's love for
Spike can be made.
Early in the episode, Spike meets Buffy outside her house. She
is exhausted and greasy, but once again she falls into a sexual
encounter. It is not unwelcome. As Spike says, "I'm not the only
one thinking it." They make eye contact when he kisses her. But
the sex is not tender, out on the lawn, "He's not getting any gentler."
Still, she sleeps underneath her grass stained coat, which she has
tried to clean. Then Riley shows up at work and unresolved feelings
surface. I don't believe these are feelings of love - he left her
because he didn't think she'd ever loved him. But whatever attracted
her to him is still evident. Their 'embrace' mimics her position
with Spike in Smashed. And he represents the good guy, the white
hat, the hero, the acceptable lover. Yet, he says to her "There's
not many people I'd ask to risk their life for me." How different
from Spike's "You have to go on living." When she finds out Riley
is married, she sees the life they could have had as a team, "Husband
and wife tag team demon wrestling." Their life seems perfect, hers
is anything but. She turns to Spike for comfort, saying the one
thing that could hurt him more deeply than any blow when it is only
for her benefit, "Tell me that you love me." She goes to him for
comfort, but she shows she doesn't trust him when she follows Riley
down the ladder.
And, tragically destructive to the relationship, she doesn't respect
Spike. She won't believe Riley about the eggs, not because she thinks
that Spike has changed, but because he's "incompetent." No wonder
he is brought to tears by her "games." She won't hear him out, she
won't see him for who he really is, and she destroys his home (necessary
as that may be) without a thought.
Lack of respect does not mean lack of emotion, however. When Riley
asks if Buffy wants him to "take him out", she is horrified. "How
could you ask?" She is sleeping with Spike, and this may be her
first conscious realization that he is a person. She didn't have
a chance to tell Riley that she was sorry how things had ended,
but she does have a chance for closure with Spike. She admits that
she wants him, and tells him she "can't" love him. "Can't", not
does not. Finally treating him as a man, she says, "I'm sorry, William,"
But closure is not so easy when your ex doesn't head off to Nepal.
Spike shows up at Xander's wedding with a date, and even though
Buffy knows it's a calculated move to make her jealous, "it hurts."
When Dawn tells her about Spike's friend, Buffy looks sad. In a
scene full of emotion, Spike tells her how hard it is to talk to
her. She is not happy with the thought that he will have sex with
his date, meaningless as it may be, and he says that he won't. But
when he tells her she's glowing, she lights up. She jokes with him
about the dress and they laugh together, in a totally unselfconscious
way. When she reiterates that she is in pain, he thanks her, and
out of his earshot she says, "You're welcome." Her eyes linger on
him as he leaves.
We come to the final episode to date, Normal Again, in which realities
become blurred. Xander is back from his weddingless run, and he
is still in love with Anya. When he says that without her there's
a "painful hole inside," the camera cuts to Buffy, who can obviously
When she runs into Spike in the cemetery, he asks "did you cry?"
He means at the wedding, but she seems to relate the question to
their breakup, and the answer would appear to be yes. They chat
about the wedding, but she shuts down when her friends arrive, pretending
to treat Spike as an evil vampire again. I think that she isn't
fully responsible for anything she says or does at this point, since
the demon poison is affecting her, but it is still significant that
she cannot reconcile her life with Spike and her life with her friends.
I think that when she says to Spike, "You're not a part of my life,"
it is a reaction to the words of the doctor in the asylum. Spike
is a vampire and cannot exist in real life. She will soon extend
that concept to include her friends and sister. But Spike takes
it as another rejection of their relationship, and inadvertently
echoes her 'mother's' words - that she shouldn't be a hero. She
can't deal with the complication their relationship brings to her
life, and she pours out the antidote, rejecting not only Spike,
but everyone else in her life that she should love - her friends
and Dawn. She retreats to the childhood love and care of her parents.
In trying to destroy her 'construct' life, she tries to kill them
all, telling Dawn that this can't be reality. How could she be a
"girl who sleeps with a vampire she hates?" But I ask, if she asks
the question, does she really hate him? She finally decides to face
her problems, which must include her relationship with Spike, when
asylum Joyce tells her, "I know the world seems like a hard place
sometimes, but you've got people who love you." She chooses the
people of Sunnydale.
What would be necessary for their relationship to work? Before
Buffy can truly love anyone, her friends, her sister or Spike, she
needs to learn to love herself. And she needs to respect Spike.
On his part, he needs to accept himself as the less than evil person
he has become, and gain some self-esteem.
So, does Buffy love Spike? I think so, but only time will tell
the tale conclusively. In the meantime, I do not think the ship
has sailed. I think it is in drydock for a refitting.