Nekkid cute (dysfunctional) lesbians! Whee! (Thought Tara had a few flat moments, oddly. "Oh, there was plenty of magic" was just a clinker of a line, though, so I forgive Amber.)
Slashy cute (criminal) geeks! Whee! (Andrew is so being fucked by Warren. Or wanting to be fucked by Warren. And possibly by Spike.) Er, Andrew is cute. Warren is not. Warren needs to be in a plexiglass cell.
Okay, that over with,
The Scene. I liked it. I was disturbed by it. The acting was exceptional, the direction was skilled, the cinematography was... did I say disturbing? But good.
I think -- think -- I'm not up for defending Spike in this instance. Not defending in the "Were his actions defensible/is there ever a situation in which they could have been right?" sense. No. They weren't. There isn't.
But -- do I think his actions at any time in this episode were evil? No. Which is why I think the evilistas who are jumping up and down and shouting nyah nyah will find their joy shortlived. His actions weren't evil -- they were sick. And not incurably sick -- because he recognized that they were wrong, after he was brought up short. It doesn't matter in this sense whether that was before or after the fact. In fact, the fact that he only recognized it was wrong after the fact makes an even better case for him *not* being either evil or sociopathic in his act.
Evil would have gone in with the intent to hurt. Sociopathic would have realized at some point that he was hurting her, scaring the hell out of her, and not cared. In my viewing of the scene, I saw darkness and desperation and a determination to make her love him -- but his reaction after Buffy kicked him off, the shock, suggests that he truly didn't realize he'd done something so awful, until she took that step. He wasn't disregarding wrongness in order to get what he wanted -- he was insanely unaware of wrongness -- but when he *was* made aware of it, he felt remorse, and self-disgust.
Someone -- many someones probably -- will want to jump in and say that remorse after the fact doesn't excuse his action, and this is true. I'm not defending his action. (I still stand by my assertion that his action was the culmination of a psychological situation that Buffy contributed to just as much as he had, but that doesn't make it not wrong, or make the specific action Buffy's fault.)
Remorse after the fact -- when it's brought to his attention that there's something to feel remorse about -- shows me, though, that he isn't completely evil, and the sort of human insanity that he may parallel is *not* sociopathy. Sociopaths do not feel remorse. They don't get confused by what their place is in the world, and wish that they didn't feel remorse, and make big shivery dark statements about big changes coming soon, oh yeah. (*) What Spike showed was a form of insanity that might or might not be "curable" by the application of time, or forgiveness, or understanding, or, yes, a soul. Yes -- his actions were sick. The relationship was sick, and his actions were at least twice as sick, and I'm not suggesting they weren't.
Do we kill sick people? Do we say that they *deserve* to be executed? Or do we try to treat them? If they're a continuing danger to humanity, we lock them away. If they can't be treated -- and imho, no one has ever tried to "treat" Spike in any conclusive way -- we do the same. Lock them away. But we don't kill them. Is it okay to kill him because Spike's a vampire and Buffy has license to kill vampires to protect the world? Hmm. Did he rip Buffy's throat out? Or did he commit a purely human crime/act of insanity?
Granted, as an anti-death-penalty person, I'm not the most unbiased in this area. I don't think anyone has the moral right to kill. As revenge, as punishment, as any damn thing except defense. I don't believe anyone has the moral right to kill Warren for murdering Tara (though, sickly, I'm going to enjoy watching Willow do it) or the moral right to kill Spike for almost raping Buffy. Of the two, though? Warren gets my stake in his heart first. Because he went in meaning to hurt -- Buffy -- and didn't care that he killed -- Tara. That makes him evil in a way that Spike wasn't in this ep, and sociopathic in a way that Spike also wasn't.
But -- back to why I think my friends and fellow writers who are fans of shivery evil Spike won't be singing the neener song for long: is Spike going to come back the sinister scary Big Bad? Spoilers don't point that way, and neither do my instincts. Hey -- if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. It won't be the first time. But what I see happening is Spike getting a monkey's paw, when he wanders off to darkest Afrique to get whatever it is he's supposed to be seeking.
I see human Spike coming out of this. Because the soul is Angel's gig, and while souled Spike is cool for fanfic, I don't see it happening in the extended canonverse. But human? Angel's been promised this at a time that's conceivably some distant post-series future. Another vampire character getting it in the present doesn't take away from Angel's specialness.
This is plot stuff -- just that. Just me saying I *don't* think this ep marks the return of School Hard Spike, or even Becoming Spike. I think the big changes are going towards something else.
And this is opinion stuff -- if Spike comes to a concrete understanding that what he did in Seeing Red was wrong, and makes some sort of apology that Buffy accepts, I don't believe it will be selling her character short. Making misogynistic (and I fear the way that word gets tossed around fandom, but that's another issue) statements about a once feminist icon. Because in the case of any individual human, it's her choice to forgive an act of harm done to her. And if Buffy is ever going to resonate for me as a character, it has to be because she's human. *Not* because she's a small blonde girl in stylish yet affordable boots who kicks ass in a world where small blonde girls in stylish yet affordable boots don't usually kick ass. I'm not a small blonde girl in stylish yet affordable boots. Never have been, never will be. I am, however, a human.
(*) Footnote: Which, bravado much? Spike *wants* to be only evil again, because that's easier. It doesn't hurt. Love hurts. Rejection hurts. And yes, remorse hurts, and he doesn't want to hurt. Oh, yes. He doesn't want to take responsibility for having done something wrong -- he argues against it, to himself. He rides off, growling about change, and looking sinister. S'crap. It's no more and no less than Xander's need to tell pointless jokes that cover up what an insecure little boy he is. (**)
Footnotenote: Which, er, go Anya, except, at the heart of it, why is it *wrong* that Xander's a scared insecure little boy? He's 21. He's been put down all his life. He's always felt useless and marginalized. And he hides this behind pointless jokes? How terrible of him. Considering the number of needlessly hateful ways that *most* scared insecure little boys try to hide.
I want to hug them both. Then smack them both. Then hug them again and point them at anyone but each other, because yes, they *are* wrong, so wrong. But still. Ow. And how much do I love Xander, when he *finally* comes to Buffy, and they talk? There is no such thing as too little too late. Needs to be such a scene with Anya, even if it's about them having blown it for good.
Oh yeah -- and Tara died. There were no tears. I will cry next week, or possibly tomorrow when I watch it again. I'm... I *love* Tara. But like Jess, I think it will take next episode to get my tears flowing.