Thursday, January 28, 2010

We All Scream for Spike (and Angel)

I wasn't going to miss Spike's "first" appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer on MTV today in "Lover's Walk", like how I accidentally missed Faith's "debut" last week. And was I ever pleased with what I saw, since he was definitely that same drunken, brawling, dangerous, comic, incredibly wise, romantic poet sort of vampire I fell in love with on Angel.

I don't know too much about Spike's previous history on Buffy, except that: he made a lot of appearances in Season 2, he could never quite get around to killing anyone in the Scooby Gang, and he seemed to have a certain sweet spot for Joyce Summers. From what I can gather, Spike and Dru certainly were memorable in Season 2! Was a relatively Spikeless Season 3 somewhat of a letdown for fans?

Sometimes I think it's a mistake for producers to develop strong characters for only limited runs, then kill them off or otherwise drive them away from the set. I don't know the history involved, but the best scenario I can come up with is that the Buffy creators were blown away by fan reaction to Spike in Season 2, either couldn't quite snare James Marsters or weren't quite ready for him for Season 3, then brought him back to the series as soon as they could for Season 4.

What was nice about "Lover's Walk" today was that David Boreanaz finally got something to do as Angel. A few days ago, my husband caught sight of him on TV and said, "I liked him better when he was on his own show", and pantomimed a muscle-bound Angel striding down the alleyway. I know he must have made stronger appearances in earlier seasons, but for the early part of Season 3, Angel appeared mostly as how a dream lover would appear to a prepubescent schoolgirl. The only thing missing were rainbows and unicorns. (Though Buffy putting a shirtless, muscular beast/Angel in irons and chains was a nice touch. My, my, my - suitable for taming?) It must have killed David Boreanaz to not be able to release any testosterone for several weeks.

Some of my favorite moments in this episode include, Spike asking Joyce, "You got any of those little marshmallows?"; Spike mugging behind Joyce when Angel was trying to warn her about the terrible dangers that she faced, while Buffy snuck in from behind and threatened to stake Spike right then and there; Spike taking Buffy and Angel to task for the two of them claiming they were "just friends"; and that lovely, lovely fight where Buffy, Angel and Spike teamed up to take on those dozens of vampires at the magic shop (where Spike, unfortunately, murdered the shop owner a little bit earlier). I always love the theme of uneasy alliances among enemies, and this episode featured one of the best examples.

I've been mildly interested in the Willow/Oz, Xander/Cordelia and Willow/Xander pairings, but I know I'd understand these scenes a lot better if I had seen more of Willow and Xander's past friendship. Despite the fact that I love Cordelia, I don't much care if Xander cheats on her. However, Oz seemed really sweet and I hated to see him get hurt. Having said that, I don't feel any animosity towards Willow for her behavior, since she was obviously feeling so miserable over everything that was happening.

What is it with Buffy being a haven for bland British actors? Yesterday's "Revelations" had a lot of potential, but Serena Scott Thomas' Gwendolyn Post was so boring! Wouldn't someone like Olivia Williams have been terrific in that role? I never know if it's fair to blame the actors or the directors, but note to Tony Head and Serena Scott Thomas: it wouldn't have hurt to go over the top a bit in your performances. I absolutely adore Giles, but what I'm adoring is the potential for his character (as in fanfic fodder), not so much the actual character. I'll be curious to see if Head picked up the pace a bit more later on. I'm also beginning to realize that Alexis Denisof must have provided much-needed energy and comic relief in the school library when he joined the cast later in the season as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce.

While I'm at it, why did Giles act so cowardly when Gwendolyn Post appeared on the scene? Was the Watcher's Council so scary it seemed safer to accept just anyone who came along and claimed to be a new Watcher, rather than put in a phone call to London (did Giles have email?) and find out if the new person was legit?


Anonymous said...

Giles was much more the retiring librarian until Buffy's 18th b-day ep in Season 3. The Council wanted their Watchers a certain way, and he finally chooses between Buffy and The Council.

Giles has a history of being shy,'ll see that until he chafes against Wesley, when Giles becomes the cool Watcher. When he tossed away the Ripper past, he assumed the role for the Council, trying to make up for past mistakes of youth. I believe that guilt made him much less confident in himself as a more mature adult. Also, Buffy not being the typical Council-guided Slayer and barely recognizing Giles' authority always put him off balance.

Spike was originally supposed to be a 3-ep character. The fans immediately responded to him and the show loved James to work with, so they kept writing. "Lover's Walk" was the test to see if Spike could be integrated into the show full time, as they knew David and Charisma were leaving for AtS after season 3 ended. The test worked and he was brought on as a regular for season 4.

Even though I'd say "Angel" was the better show overall, BTVS has a lot of merit and should be checked out from the beginning at least once.


Miriam said...

Thanks, Kim. You're a real treasure trove of information!

I'm loving Buffy right now. It's amazing to step into a series in the middle of its run, look at everything out of context and then try to fill in the blanks. I'm not sure what MTV's ultimate plans are, but I hope they finish up through the last season, then loop back around to Season 1 and Season 2.

BTW, I noticed that Angel was back in chains again today in "The Wish".

Anonymous said...

You're very welcome. I started with both shows in 1999, so I've had a lot of time to learn (10 years, wow). Been a member of forums, written fanfic, and now even have a JM site, though I keep up with pretty much all Whedonverse alum. Through different channels that carried them, I can't tell you how many times I've seen BTVS reruns not counting watching my own series set.

I think you can watch all of BTVS on checking into.


Miriam said...

Hulu is indeed a worthwhile invention. Alas, my internet connection, Hulu, and most other streaming sites just do not get along.