“Fool for Love”
Written by Doug Petrie
Directed by Nick Marck
Buffy is fighting a vampire who looks like he just finished playing lead guitar at a heavy metal concert. We can typically measure Buffy’s confidence level by how rapid-fire her puns are, and they’re pretty continuous right now. But the vampire manages to grab her hand as she’s winding up to stake him, and he stabs her in the gut with her own stake. She punches the vampire and pulls the stake out (baaaad idea), then tries to run away. He catches up and is about to finish her off when Riley tackles him. He chases the vamp off, and Buffy passes out in his arms.
At Buffy’s house, Riley is now patching her up. Riley and I agree that she should go to a hospital for this, but Buffy is confident her Slayer healing and Riley’s medic training will be enough. Riley is shocked to learn that the opponent who nearly killed her was just a run-of-the-mill cold-open vamp. Dawn busts in to warn them of approaching Joyce, in case they were making out. Riley puts away the first aid equipment. Joyce wants to talk to Buffy about ordinary stuff, and Dawn covers for Buffy about the disinfectant smell. Joyce leaves and Dawn is very proud of herself for her cover story. Buffy’s initial lack of appreciation hurts, but then she shows Dawn her fun stab wound. Dawn will take care of Buffy’s housework and Riley (plus Willow, Xander, and Anya) will take care of patrol until Buffy’s healed up.
Riley’s patrol with Willow and Xander doesn’t go as smoothly as missions with his old squad used to, because they brought snack foods and don’t seem to have any weapons. Guys, what the hell? This isn’t an evening at the cinema, and you’re not backing up the Slayer, you’re backing up her normal human boyfriend! Riley probably shouldn’t have expected them to know tactical hand signals, but they could at least attempt to be stealthy and alert. He gets them to put away the chips—sort of. Willow keeps a handful.
Giles and Buffy are researching Slayer deaths. Buffy is disappointed with the lack of detail. She wants to learn from their mistakes (and her own). Every Slayer who’s ever been called has died in battle, and she wants to know what made them lose their last fights so that her last fight won’t be for a long time. Giles thinks the absence of detail might be because the dead Slayers’ Watchers were grieving too hard to want to keep a thorough record. It may be the first time Buffy’s caught a glimpse of how important she is to Giles—at least in terms of how badly he’d take it if she died. Something else Giles says reminds Buffy that there is still someone around who remembers a Slayer’s final battle. Two Slayers’ final battles, in fact. Seeing as how he won them both. (Though actually, wouldn’t there be any Watchers still around who’ve outlived their Slayers? I know Faith’s was killed by Kakistos and Kendra’s was in Jamaica when Drusilla killed her, but what about the Watchers of the Slayers before Buffy?)
Cut to Buffy slamming Spike up against the wall of his crypt. Oh how different her approach would be if she knew the contents of his fantasies lately. She wants him to tell her how he managed to kill those two Slayers, and she’ll pay him for it. They relocate to the Bronze. Spike claims it isn’t about the Slayers screwing up their fighting moves. Also, he wants Buffy to order him some buffalo wings. She’s very annoyed about it, but she does, and he notices her wince and clutch her wound. She wants to know if he’s always been this annoying, and he claims he’s always been bad.
Cut to the truth, which is that the Spike of 1880 was rather dainty Victorian gentleman named William Pratt who spent most of his time writing dreadful poetry. When some people at the party ask for his opinion on a rash of disappearances in London, he doesn’t offer one because he prefers not to think about such unpleasant things as murder—that’s what police are for. Unsurprisingly, 1880 William has no friends, and Cecily, the girl he likes, thinks he’s a weirdo. They make sport of him, snatching his unfinished poem from his hand and reading it aloud. He grabs it and follows Cecily away from the group while they continue to mock him. The nickname “William the Bloody” is actually about his “bloody awful” poetry. And the nickname “Spike” is actually about how it would be preferable to have a railroad spike driven through one’s head than listen to more of it. Cecily doesn’t want William’s company. She’s not happy that the poem is about his feelings for her. He wants a chance, but she stands up, tells him he’s beneath her, and walks off.
The next we see of him, William, distraught and angry, is tearing up his poems as he stumbles through the streets. He bonks into someone and keeps going. That moment is more important than it seems when the story is from Spike’s perspective. William finds solitude in a stable somewhere, which is where Drusilla finds him. He doesn’t want her there, at least, not until she describes him exactly the way he wishes to be seen—as a man of vision and passion surrounded by fools. He thinks she might be a pickpocket, but she keeps after him, being her insane-yet-lyrical self, and he’s very intrigued in spite of himself. Particularly when she snatches the word “effulgent” out of the air—the word that earned him the most mockery at the party. He decides he wants whatever she’s offering, and he doesn’t scream or run when she looks up at him in vamp face. It hurts a lot more than he expected when she bites him. Then it seems to get better... Ew.
Back in the present, Riley spots heavy metal vamp, and the gang follows him. They’re being much stealthier now, which is a relief. There’s a whole nest of vampires in a mausoleum. Riley says there are too many, and they should come back in the morning when they’ve got sunlight for backup.
So...did Spike actually tell Buffy about how he was a sucky social reject poet, or did he give her a highly edited version that made him seem more impressive? Is he like other vampires, disdainful enough of his human past that he wouldn’t mind talking down about it? Was what we saw in that flashback the objective truth, or is it Spike’s subjective interpretation of what happened, in which he woobified himself because he felt unfairly victimized? In any case, Buffy is bored because she’s here to learn how two Slayers lost to Spike, not to hear his whole life story or how he felt more alive as a vampire than he ever did when he had a pulse. He carries on with the story, about how once he turned, he was done with society’s rules, so he needed a gang. Pfft. The Fanged Four were definitely not Spike’s gang. They were Angelus’s.
Which the next flashback proves. We’re in a mine shaft in Yorkshire, still in 1880, and Angelus wants William—he goes by Spike now, thanks—to convince him not to stake him. Spike nearly got them all killed in London with all the attention he drew. Also his accent has gone from being all posh to being the Cockney one we’re used to. Angelus would appreciate a little more finesse, but Spike got his fill of finesse when he was human. It’s like watching an argument between a cold-blooded serial killer and a hot-blooded, murderous brawler. They fight, and Angelus is on the point of staking Spike, when Spike laughs. He thinks he’s convinced Angelus of the merits of fighting with passion rather than logic, but Angelus warns him he’ll learn his lesson from an angry mob someday, or perhaps from the Slayer. Well those words will certainly prove prophetic, won’t they? The mob in Prague that resulted in Spike and Dru coming to Sunnydale, and the two Slayers Spike’s killed and the one he’s never been able to beat.
Back in the present, Spike tells Buffy that his Slayer obsession began there. Most vampires avoid the Slayer, but he went looking for her. His first lesson for Buffy is that Slayers are at a disadvantage since they don’t have their weapons built in the way vampires do.
New flashback: China, 1900. Spike is fighting a Chinese Slayer who may literally be a ninja. She slashes at him with her sword, cutting open his left eyebrow. So that’s how he got that scar. Outside the Buddhist temple where they’re fighting, it’s pandemonium. The middle of the Boxer Rebellion. Inside, Spike manages to get her sword away from her, but she regains the upper hand. She’s about to stake him when an ill-timed explosion knocks her down. She never regains the offensive after that, and Spike bites her and drains her to the point of nearly passing out. In Chinese, she says, “Tell my mother I’m sorry” but maybe that’s not what she said at all, because Spike doesn’t speak Chinese, so how the heck would he know? He violently tosses her down.
Drusilla finds him in there. She’s never found him more attractive than now, when he’s standing over the body of a Slayer he just killed. In a ludicrously suggestive scene, he gives her a taste of the Slayer’s blood by letting her suck it off his finger. Then they start making out (and more, but that’s offscreen). Later, they find Darla and Angelus (actually Angel—he’s had his soul for two years now), and Drusilla delightedly tells them who Spike just killed. Spike feels particularly jaunty and defiant thanks to his new trophy kill. He and Dru are wrapped up in their enjoyment of the night, and it seems like Angelus is so miffed about Spike stealing the spotlight that he wants the whole party to be over. The four of them stride away from the riot, Spike at the center, at his most triumphant.
In the present, we return to Spike telling Buffy his story. The night he killed the Chinese Slayer was the best night of his life. Buffy is revolted by how much Spike enjoyed it, and Spike turns it around on her. Doesn’t she enjoy slaying? He brings up the main problem. The Slayer dying in battle is inevitable because even if she defeats a hundred thousand vampires, the odds will eventually come up in her opponent’s favor. He gets up in Buffy’s face when he says it, and she shoves him away. He thinks her problem is overconfidence. She disagrees, so he pokes her in her stab wound. Many patrons of the Bronze stare at them while he yells about his head pain and she gasps about her gut pain.
Riley returns to the mausoleum and strides right in. Heavy Metal vamp attacks, and Riley stakes him. Then he drops a grenade runs back outside. The grenade blows before the vampires can make it out.
Buffy wants Spike to quit messing around and tell her about the second Slayer already. He has a pool cue from the Bronze and sort of attacks her with it. None of his blows hit and she pins him to the fence. His second lesson is that Slayers getting killed isn’t about how their enemies won but why the Slayers lost. He tosses a few punches at her, which she dodges. Seems his chip only goes off if he actually believes he’s about to harm a human, but he knew Buffy would dodge, so it didn’t. He lunges again in vamp face, and the chip slams him. She punches him a few times and asks again how he killed the Slayers. He’s really enjoying making a big drawn-out ordeal of this, isn’t he? She’s at the point of threatening him with a stake, and he’s all “You’re not ready to know.” *eye roll*
Cut from their not-quite-fight to a graffiti-covered subway car in New York City in 1977. Spike’s fighting a black Slayer who has an awesome afro and is wearing a lot of black leather—including Spike’s signature coat. Spike, on the other hand...okay, I usually don’t find Spike attractive, but holy crap.
This Slayer’s style is a lot more brutal and passionate than the Chinese Slayer’s. Their fight is intercut with Buffy and Spike sparring, including a few shots of Punk ‘70s Spike saying the lines he’s actually saying in the present. He considers the long rivalry between himself and Buffy to be like a dance. The Slayer is always dancing, and part of her longs to stop—meaning, to die. Not just from being tired of the fighting, but because death fascinates her. Her whole life is about bringing death; eventually, she wants it for herself. In the flashback, Spike goes from being pinned by the Slayer to pinning her, and then he breaks her neck and steals her coat while still talking to Buffy. In the present, he’s kneeling in front of Buffy. Buffy doesn’t like being told that she and all other Slayers have a death wish, and that she’s still alive because of the people who love her. That won’t keep her alive forever, though. He’s waiting for the moment it stops keeping her alive.
Buffy wants Spike gone now. Spike wants something else. He wants her to hit him, but we all know how he interprets violence from Buffy. He tries to go in for a kiss, and Buffy is super disturbed and confused. He’s convinced she wants it as much as him. She shoves him to the ground and tells him it won’t be him—both for granting that alleged death wish and for sex. (It would be so much easier to get my fill of anti-Spike schadenfreude from this scene if I didn’t know what would happen exactly one season from now. Instead, I just cringe on Buffy’s behalf.) She tosses the money at him, tells him he’s beneath her, and leaves. He gathers up the bills, crying. Then he swallows the hurt and turns it into rage.
At his crypt, Spike pulls out a rifle and loads it. Harmony doesn’t think this is a good idea and that Spike will just get his butt kicked again and a massive headache from the chip. Spike thinks it’s worth the risk, and he storms out. Right into another flashback, in South America in 1998, between when Spike and Dru left Sunnydale in “Becoming” and when he turned up completely plastered in “Lovers Walk.” Spike thinks Dru won’t let the whole Slayer thing go, but she accuses him of being the one who won’t let it go. Also, Dru has been cheating on Spike with a Chaos Demon and possibly other creatures. The Chaos Demon didn’t realize Dru was in a relationship, so he awkwardly leaves, blowing Dru a kiss. Bahahahaha. Dru feels justified because Spike has been cheating on her emotionally. Or maybe because he will eventually cheat on her emotionally. That foresight and madness combo pack is kind of the pits sometimes.
At the Summers house, Buffy comes into Joyce’s room, where Joyce is packing for the hospital. Joyce didn’t want to talk to her about it yet, but she kind of has to now. She’s going to be getting a CAT scan and staying at the hospital for observation. The doctors are optimistic, but the news that something serious might be wrong with her mom hits Buffy very hard. She heads out to the back porch, curls up on the steps, and cries into her hands.
Which is when Spike shows up with his rifle. Buffy looks up at him and asks what he wants. He asks what’s wrong. She doesn’t want to talk about it. He’d like to help if he can. She says nothing. He sits down next to her and hesitantly pats her on the shoulder. She doesn’t know how to react, so she mostly doesn’t. The camera slowly pans around them, and the episode ends.
I’m sure I don’t enjoy “Fool for Love” nearly as much as Spike fans do, but I’m a sucker for period flashbacks, so even though it’s essentially a Spike POV episode, I still like it. I love the idea that a cold-open vampire, the run-of-the-mill kind of vampire neither Buffy nor we the audience have ever had to take seriously, becomes the catalyst for an entire episode. It’s a fantastic reminder that under all the puns and cheesy karate moves, every fight Buffy’s in is a fight to the death. I read a pretty fantastic, if extremely long, review of “Fool for Love” a few months ago. Before that, I’d never really considered that Spike’s flashbacks might be subjective, but it makes sense. He’s the one telling the story, so his ideas of the way things happened will be presented as fact, even if they’re not 100% accurate. Considering the episode as having an unreliable narrator makes it both better and more difficult to analyze. Fortunately, there’s also “Darla,” the counterpart Angel episode that aired the same night and includes several flashbacks that link with Spike’s, except that they’re from Darla’s perspective. The resultant binocular vision provides much clearer illumination about those events and the characters involved in them, so more on that in this section of the “Darla” review. As to the rest of this episode, I love Buffy’s scenes with everyone besides Spike, but I’m still pretty shocked by how terrible the Scoobies are at patrolling, even though Willow and Xander at least have been doing this for four full years now. Bah. Another thing that disappoints me about “Fool for Love” is that at no point did anyone mention that Buffy has already died once. You’d think that would be relevant to the topic of the episode.
Buffy spends the entire episode trying to deal with her own mortality only to be faced at the end with something much scarier: her mother’s mortality. And what’s threatening Joyce’s life isn’t something Buffy can fight. I really love how those two things come together like that at the end of the episode. Buffy will do whatever it takes—even spend an evening listening to Spike tell a story, 90% of which is completely not the story she wanted him to tell her—to become a better, stronger Slayer, but even if she can save her own life, she’ll never be able to do anything for her mom.
Doesn’t Xander care that Buffy was wounded so badly? Shouldn’t he want revenge on that vampire just like Riley does? Uggggggh.
Really, Willow, you think that gesture Riley did was him pretending to be a choo-choo train? I hope that was supposed to be sarcasm and the director just misunderstood it, because even if Willow doesn’t know tactical signs, she should be able to come up with a better guess than that. And why doesn't she have any battle magic she can use? She could at least have been talking about something she’s working on, but which is proving tricky. (No, I’m not going to let that chip-eating patrol scene go. It’s stupid and annoys me.)
Riley attacking the nest of vampires on his own is, I think, a combination of wanting to avenge his girlfriend and wanting to get back in the action and prove to himself that he can still handle Plot A. Even though he was successful, he was also extremely reckless. Is he starting to become a danger junkie? Because Buffy doesn’t date danger junkies. That’s why she never went out with Owen again.
Anya seems far too pragmatic to go patrolling with a bag of chips when they’re looking for a vampire that almost succeeded in killing Buffy.
Dawn is pretty endearing in this episode. I’m not one of those Buffy fans who thinks Dawn is the single most irritating fictional character ever created, but she does get on my nerves sometimes. Not this time. She just wants to be a helpful little sister, and I feel bad for her and annoyed at Buffy when Buffy rewards her (initially) with a backhanded compliment.
In “Guise Will Be Guise,” fake T’ish thought Angel might be projecting an affected persona, but if there’s a character who’s really doing that, it’s definitely Spike. Spike’s entire identity seems to be based around this badass ideal he’s created in his head, which is as opposite from his human self as possible. He uses a fake name and a fake accent, he dyes his hair and paints his nails, and he’s crafted a costume out of trophies from his proudest moments: the scar the Chinese Slayer gave him and the coat he stripped off of Nikki Wood’s corpse. At the end, when Spike puts down his gun and tries to comfort Buffy instead of shooting her, I don’t think it has anything to do with his feelings for her starting to turn him into a better person. He’s a soulless vampire; he’s not even a person at all. The thought that Buffy doesn’t even care about him enough to have considered him an option romantically (or worthy of being slayed) stings bitterly, but he might be able to change that. I think that moment on the porch was about him realizing that even though Buffy’s life doesn’t revolve around him like his revolves around her, that only gives him other angles he can use to approach her. Any way she’s vulnerable is an opening. It’s such a deeply creepy thought, especially because that affected persona of his means he can convince himself he’s being her knight in shining armor while he’s actually being a textbook stalker. I think his idea that Slayers are in love with the idea of their own deaths is more an extension of his own desire for Buffy to want him than an accurate assessment of Slayer psyches. If Slayers have a death wish, from what I remember of S5 and beyond, it’s actually more of that battle-weariness idea, which Spike dismissed.
We frequently see proof of how deeply Giles cares about Buffy, but we’ve only seen his terror at the idea of her dying a few times. In this episode, there’s not really an immediate threat of her dying, so we kind of get to see how that concept affects him when there’s no adrenaline affecting things. It sort of highlights how grisly and tragic the Watcher/Slayer bond is. They’re extremely close, much like parent/child bonds, but unlike most parent/child bonds, Watchers have to prepare for the extremely strong possibility that they will outlive their charges, and they’ll be left to torment themselves with the question of whether it was their imperfect training that led to those girls’ defeat. If anyone has a death wish, I would expect it more of the Watchers, who might think to save themselves from the fate of outliving their Slayers by sacrificing their lives to keep their girls alive even a moment longer.
“I think our boys are going to fi-ight!”
“The King of Cups expects a picnic,” [claps and giggles] “but this is not his birthday!”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.