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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Seeing Red

Spike: "Why do I feel this way?"
Clem: "Love's a funny thing."

So much happened. Too much. It was like three heavy episodes crammed into one.

Let's start with Tara. If she really is dead, and I mean unresurrectably dead, then Joss Whedon, Marti Noxon, et al. were completely and totally evil to do what they did to us. Tara and Willow doing all the love scenes we haven't been getting in the past two years, all in one episode, so that her death would have more of an impact? Finally putting Amber Benson in the opening credits to throw us off? Bastards. No vampire was ever that diabolical. Did you catch the red? In the first scene, we had red sheets, red hair, red sunlight on naked skin, precursor to the blood in the last scene. Some transparent hit-us-over-the-head symbolism.

Issue two: Spike and Buffy. Was it really attempted rape? Let's make a list here, with the pro-Spike stuff first:

1. He didn't go to her house intending to attack her. He went because Dawn told him Buffy was hurt about the Anya thing and he wanted to apologize.

2. Buffy is physically stronger than Spike and he knows she can stop him at any time. They had an extremely physical and violent sexual relationship, in which she often said "stop" and didn't mean it. She even beat the crap out of him in "Dead Things," and he let her. Up until this point, one can argue that Spike has been the victim, not Buffy.

3. He kept saying stuff about making her acknowledge her feelings. I think he was expecting her to give up and reciprocate.

4. Wouldn't he have vamped out if he had really intended to hurt her?

On the con-Spike side, though:

1. Coming into her home uninvited and following her into the bathroom? That's squicky.

2. He noticed right off that Buffy was in pain, and he continued anyway.

3. Afterward, in his crypt, he was flashing back to Buffy screaming "stop" and he said, "What have I done? Why didn't I do it? What has she done to me?" Notice he said, "Why didn't," not why did. I turned on the close captioning to check.

Spike is not a rapist. We've known him a long time, and I just don't believe it's in his nature. I think he was just feeling desperate and things went too far, and now he feels horrible about it, evidenced by those flashbacks he was experiencing in his crypt afterward. To Clem, Spike said, "Everything always used to be so clear. Slayer. Vampire. Vampire kills Slayer, sucks her dry, picks his teeth with her bones. It's always been that way. It's the chip. Steel and wires and silicon. It won't let me be a monster, and I can't be a man. I'm nothing." Spike said a mouthful there. This situation must end; he needs to be either a monster or a man, because he isn't either one. But which does he want to be? He wants the chip out, but why? So that he can kill Buffy, or so that he can finally prove to her that she can trust him?

Interesting developments on the Nerd front. Jonathan finally had to choose sides. Good for him, although we all knew which way he would go. Andrew "I can't wait to get my hands on his orbs" loves Warren? Yeccchh. (I don't mean that in a homophobic sense; I just don't think Warren is lovable in any way whatsoever.) Andrew's exit attempt at the theme park was a hoot, though. And Warren ... well, Warren deserves to go down in a big, big way. Can't they find a spot for him in that hell dimension Angel was in? Couldn't they give him to Skip the demon? Die, Warren, die.

It was way past time (probably too late), but Xander finally acted like an adult about the Spike/Anya thing, and so did Buffy. The two of them had, what, two or three serious conversations, and covered some major points. Like: Buffy: "You fought side by side with him when I was gone. You let him take care of Dawn." Xander: "But I never forgot what he really is." Hey, Xander, what about what Anya really is? Speaking of which, Anya is still not doing that good a job as a vengeance demon: talking right over that woman who was trying really hard to make a wish? Do you get the impression that Anya's heart just isn't in it any more?

Are the Buffy Powers That Be rethinking their previous poor characterization of Dawn? Her glee over Willow and Tara getting back together was adorable ("I'll go watch TV, downstairs, really loud in the basement where I can't hear anything ... omigod! I love you guys!"); and it was great having her go talk with Spike, giving us just a faint echo of their former closeness. And finally, her perfect hair was actually a mess in the first scene. Human at last?

This was an awesome episode. It was tight, exciting, well written and well acted, and damn it, I don't want Tara to be dead and I want Buffy and Spike together, damn it, damn it, damn it. But it was still really, really good.

Bits and pieces:

-- Spike looked gorgeous in that black sweater, so spare and pale, and again, very human looking. And was that a real bloody Mary he was drinking, with actual blood?

-- The bar scenes in the Bronze and the drinking reminded me that they're really not in high school any more. And just as I was thinking that, Warren conveniently said, "This ain't high school."

Quotes:

Willow: "When did morning happen?"
Tara: "After the moon went down."

Anya: "It isn't always about looks, or a beating heart. Sometimes intimate, sweaty relations with the wrong person just seems like a good idea at the time."

Andrew: "Warren's the boss. He's Picard, you're Deanna Troi. Get used to the feeling, Betazoid."

Clem: "She's a sweet girl, Spike, but hey. Issues?"

Buffy: "Giant buzz saw. It was a thing."

Warren: "Hey hey hey. We need him fresh, not smokehouse."

Warren: "Say goodnight, bitch."
Buffy: "Goodnight, bitch."

Xander: "Time for the spring poking already?"
Buffy: "Just making sure there are no more evil trio cameras. Or evil uno."
Xander: "The sinister yet addictive card game?"

Xander: "How did we get here?"
Buffy: "Scenic route. Long drive."

I have to give this one a four out of four stakes, almost against my will. Wow.

Billie
---
Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.

12 comments:

Tom L said...

Spoilers follow...

Billie, there are no "pro-Spike" stuff, really. I know that you love Spike, but there's no way to make the character look better on that situation.

Let me make a list about your list:

"He didn't go to her house intending to attack her;"

True, but that doesn't change what happened latter. It wasn't a premeditated attempted rape, but it still was an attempted rape.

"Buffy is physically stronger than Spike and he knows she can stop him at any time."

Again, true, but would Spike be thinking about that while being so out of his mind? Also, Buffy has defeated enemies stronger than her. Why couldn't a not-as-strong fighter beat her down?

"They had an extremely physical and violent sexual relationship, in which she often said "stop" and didn't mean it. She even beat the crap out of him in "Dead Things," and he let her. Up until this point, one can argue that Spike has been the victim, not Buffy."

I strongly disagree with this point of view. Both did bad things to each other. Buffy used Spike to "feel" and Spike took advantage of Buffy's lack of self-control. They are both guilt of the terrible relationship they had, and they were both victims of it. And even if Spike had been the only victim up to this point, it doesn't compare to how he victimizes Buffy here.

"He kept saying stuff about making her acknowledge her feelings. I think he was expecting her to give up and reciprocate."

Well, yes. And that's exactly what made him go crazy.

"Wouldn't he have vamped out if he had really intended to hurt her?"

We've seen not vamped out vamps on fights before, so, I guess the answer to that question is not necessarily.

“Spike is not a rapist. I just don't believe it's in his nature.”

I agree, but there are things in his nature that, under extreme emotional circumstances, would drive him there, as much as there are things on Willow’s personality that, even though she is not a murderer, will back up her actions on the following episodes.

I get where Spike was coming from, but there are no excuses for what he did. I do believe, however, that he truly repented and Buffy truly forgave him, as he deserved. I know that might not be a politically correct way of thinking, but I do believe in the great healing power of forgiveness (sorry if that sounds too cheesy).

---

I don't know why, but I've been thinking a lot about "Seeing Red" lately. I'm on season 6 rewatch and it was hard, with "Seeing Red" in mind, watching Spike restraining Buffy on "Wrecked" and Buffy submitting herself to it.

Oh, well, "Seeing Red" is a terrific episode of BtVS, one of the best ones to think of and to debate, for sure. And while I feel for the actors having to go throught such a painful and unpleasant scene as the attempted rape, I'm glad they did it anyway (not that they had a choice there). It's a integral part of an excellent episode.

Tom L said...

*later (sorry for that mistake, English is not my first language)

Ok, I must say my opinion changed a bit after watching "Seeing Red", then going back to "Dead Things" and then watching SR again. Mostly because it became much clearer how Buffy messed up with Spike’s mind. Not that that gives him an excuse, but it does make you understand what went wrong in the bathroom.

It’s funny how season six twists our heads. It’s a season that gets better every time I rewatch it.

It was harder to accept Tara's death this time around, thought. It hurt so much more. I think the show never overcame her loss, and considering how Willow’s development is so erratic on season 7, I wished the writers hadn’t killed Tara.

Anonymous said...

I know this is years late, but I'm doing a Buffy rewatch and have been following your reviews. I have to say that I agree with Tom. As much as I love Spike as a character and like the Buffy/Spike relationship in this season, I think it is clear that what happened in that bathroom was attempted rape. While Spike definitely didn't go there intending for that happen, things got out of control. Their relationship is pretty dysfunctional, but a line was crossed in that bathroom and Spike clearly realized it with that look on his face after Buffy fought him off. I think that is an indication of how far Spike has come as a character. I would argue that rape definitely WAS part of his nature for most of the show (in previous seasons), but after getting the chip something fundamental changed in him. In the crypt afterward, he asks himself why he didn't do it because old Spike would have had no compunction about rape or killing. He was evil, after all. But I don't think he is anymore, and as the season ends we really see that even more.

Marianna said...

I may as well chime into this discussion also. =) Interesting points Bahia although I believe that Spike's reason for being disgusted with himself for hurting Buffy are emotionally driven as opposed to morally/ethically driven. Most of what Spike does throughout the series is emotionally driven in contrast to Angelus who was driven by amorality and therefore fits better with what people consider evil. To get back to the question at hand, I think the fact that Spike stopped himself does not make him not evil because he stopped himself because of his own emotions. He loves Buffy and therefore feels he shouldn't hurt her. Because his motivation is not due to any sense of morals, I believe he is still evil. Of course this all depends on what you consider to be evil.

Billie Doux said...

I was just asked the following question on our Tumblr:

Have you changed the opinions you expressed in your Seeing Red from BTVS review? About spike "not [being] a rapist" and how buffy "often said "stop" and didn't mean it" affecting your ability to call this an attempted rape?

Here is my response.

When the episode originally aired, I was deeply into it and very angry at the way they assassinated Spike's character and killed off Tara, another character I loved. I thought it was a string of writing mistakes then, and I still do now, so I tried to make what happened fit into my Buffy world view. I may feel differently about it now, but I'm not going to change the text of a review I wrote the night the episode aired in 2002.

Anonymous said...

From my perspective, rape is an act of violence. It is NOT a sexual one. Sex doesn't come into it, it's just a violation, since sex is only sex when it's consensual.

Here's where I've been thinking; Spike has a chip that prevents him from harming living things, we know he can't harm Buffy in the conventional sense with intent because of the flashback episode in series five - wouldn't that mean that if he had had the intention of going against her will, it would have set the chip off? I don't mean to excuse Spike or blame Buffy and I do find the show's handling of consent to be problematic. It's just that it's a thought that I can't shake off and have no one to discuss it with.

etty said...

Spike could hurt Buffy, that was revealed in 'Smashed' - she was resurrected with a 'deep, cellular tan'. I think it only dawned on Spike that what he was doing to Buffy could be, in the human world, be construed as rape when she forced him into the wall. He even says, 'My god, Buffy, I didn't mean...'
Spike is a soulless vampire with the
amorality, unconscious thought of a vampire! I do think we should remember this when evaluating this episode. Rape is a power thing. Spike was trying to make Buffy admit that she loved him and his vampire mind reasoned that she seemed to feel that when she was 'inside him'. I don't think Spike ever wanted to weild any type of power over Buffy, he wanted her to acknowledge her love for him. The fact that he doesn't equate trust with a loving, healthy relationship says everything about how he, as a Vampire, has a distorted view of love, sex, and morality. His sin here, in my mind, is that he knew she was hurt and upset but he put his own feelings before hers. But then, he is a vampire!!

Anonymous said...

A belated support to you BIllie. Don't let anyone tell you to change an old review that reflects what you thought at the time. I don't believe he meant it either. Rape is a terrible thing but these are not real people, this is a vampire and a slayer ffs. I think they wrote this to shame fans of Spike and Buffy.

etty said...

I'm not sure if your comment is in reply to mine but I think you may have misread what I've written.
I agree with Billie's initial review 20 years ago and I still do. Spike did not attempt to rape Buffy. He loved Buffy - truly, madly, deeply. There is nothing about rape that includes any type of love, distorted or otherwise. Spike could never have raped Buffy. He loved Buffy even without a soul.
He thought Buffy reciprocated that love by having sex with him and hoped she would love him again if she had sex with him again. His mistake but, he is a vampire with the limitation of feelings and understanding that comes with being a soulless 'man'. Like I said, his mistake was to act on his feelings when she was hurt and upset but, to quote Spike - Hello, vampire.
I hate the fact that this episode was written to progress Spikes journey. It did assassinate his character and I do think the writers got it wrong, big time, with this episode.
For the record - Spuffy was and still is the best love story ever! Thanku douxreviews for enhancing my lockdown umpteenth rewatches of the best escapist show ever :)

Billie Doux said...

etty, thanks so much for both of your comments. And Anonymous, thanks for yours. I think Anonymous was responding to the earlier comments that were raking me over the coals a bit, but I could be wrong.

It's been so many years since I wrote this review, and I still feel like what they did to Spike was character assassination. But Spike is a complicated fictional vampire with a desperate need for love. It's hard to relate that to any sort of human scale of right and wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anon here, was responding to BIllie and not you. Just supporting her right to keep her review as is. And maybe venting a little as Spuffy fan.

Onigirli said...

"Was it really attempted rape? Let's make a list here, with the pro-Spike stuff first"
So this... is the power... of Spuffy coping

OK well for me, the only pro-Spike stuff I can come up with is blaming Joss and his growing resentment of Spike's popularity finally coming to a head here. My thought wasn't "Spike finally tried it" but "What do the writers think they're doing?" Has this show ever really touched on rape before this season? I'm struggling to recall any instance besides this season's blatant calling-out from Warren's ex before she's murdered. Angel definitely incorporates the use of the word more often, if not the act itself (thank fuck). I didn't like Buffy going there even though I think Spuffy fans deserve to have cold water splashed on their face. But once it seemed clear that Spike didn't mutilate his victims the same way Angelus did (the Slayer murders was shown as a straight-forward killing) I never really thought he was capable of it (and there's the fact he was a poet.. which I guess shouldn't really count for anything but uh it's a detail). Anyway it almost works for me as kind of a cautionary tale of using someone you know is in love with you for sex. I'm not going to pretend to understand the nature of rape, I feel like it's not as black-and-white as thinking all acts of rape are acts of hatred. I just wish they never went there. Eurgh. Well I suppose I did overlook Angel's instance of using that case where that woman with explosive telekinesis gets intentionally triggered by W&H with the appearance of her father who molested her as a kid. That's a little discomforting. At least with Buffy they were more direct and involved main characters so I can respect them being in your face and oh god am I seriously starting to rationalize this too? Oh no no no no

Well, guns are bad... I guess that's an important lesson. And rape is pretty bad too, I know that now. So many important themes to explore this season. What a show!

@Anonymous: "From my perspective, rape is an act of violence. It is NOT a sexual one. Sex doesn't come into it, it's just a violation, since sex is only sex when it's consensual."
I've heard others express this, and I know you prefaced it as just being your perspective, but I've never understood the distinction and why those people are so keen on taking the sex out of a literal sex act. Sexual violence is still.. sexual. It's still an intrinsic part of it. I don't understand. No, Sex is only sex when sexual release is involved, which it would've been here. Consent has never been necessary. Are definitions changing?

@etty: "I don't think Spike ever wanted to weild any type of power over Buffy, he wanted her to acknowledge her love for him."
That's still basically power for Spike, lol, even though reciprocity sounds reasonable. I don't know what to say besides beware of solipsism, I guess. We don't know and Buffy doesn't know what the meaning of her feelings are for him. It's frustrating from a curiosity perspective but the lack of understanding on her part is understandable. She made a choice, blindly or not, and he did not respect it. SIMPLE. AS.

The cruelest thing about this episode was still the change to the opening credits. And I don't mean that in a 'mirin' "Hahaha the balls on these people!" kind of way, I actually felt a little upset about it. What a (slightly more) meaningful shock it could've been had they introduced it after the break-up to let us know Tara's still sticking around for the long term.

Andrew still pisses me off more than Warren ever could. Warren just warrens, but Andrew's there getting hard over it. As despicable as he is though I like the actor they used for Warren, there's something about the way he expresses himself that I like.

I can't believe Buffy got r--shot, I hope she's gonna be OK!