Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Pangs

Summary

Buffy is slaying a vampire. After, she seems to sense something, but can't decide exactly what. We see Angel skulking in the distance, watching her.

Buffy, Willow, and Anya are watching the ground breaking for the new cultural centre by Professor Gerhardt. Willow speaks out against Thanksgiving as a celebration of the eradication of the indigenous peoples. Xander is one of the construction workers. When he starts digging, he breaks into an underground building which turns out to be the old mission, long thought lost.

Angel is lurking outside the dorm. Buffy and Willow are talking and Buffy seems to sense something outside. Buffy's mom is out of town and so she decides to host a Thanksgiving dinner herself. Willow is convinced to go for the comfort food. They will invite Giles and Xander (who always avoids his family gatherings). Willow doesn't want to invite Anya, but Buffy says they have to for Xander. She says Thanksgiving is about everyone having a place to go.

We cut to a hungry and weak Spike wandering aimlessly about. Riley and his friends are still hunting for him. But they will be leaving for Thanksgiving. Anya shows up at Xander's, wondering why he is late for work. He's obviously sick and she stops him from getting up. He says she's a strange girlfriend and she's thrilled that he thinks of her that way, even if he does claim he's delirious.

In the mission, a green mist rises from the ground. Professor Gerhardt is in the cultural centre. The mist transforms into an Indian and slits her throat with a ceremonial knife. The next day, Buffy and Willow go to the centre to snoop around. Gerhardt's ear was cut off and they think her killing may have been ritualistic. They discover that the Chumash knife is missing.

Buffy is telling Giles about the chaos at the grocery store and the trouble she had getting the supplies for Thanksgiving. She also tells him about the Chumash knife. He begins to wonder if having him host the party isn't a ruse to stick him with the cleanup. Buffy quickly changes the topic. She seems to sense something, then leaves. After she is gone, Angel appears. He has confided in Giles, but doesn't want Buffy to know he is there. He feels it would be unfair to her. He tells Giles to contact Father Gabriel whose family dates back to the early settlement and who may know about the Chumash and the mission.

Spike looks in the window of a building where there are a group of vampires are feeding. Willow and Buffy are looking for whipped cream, real whipped cream. Riley runs up to talk to Buffy. Willow leaves them alone, going into a coffee shop. Angel is there and explains things to Willow. Buffy invites Riley to her party, but he tells her he's going home to Iowa. He and Buffy agree that home is where when you go there they have to take you in. Spike goes to his old place, only to be thrown out by a newly self actualized Harmony. She won't even give him someone to eat.

Buffy goes to see father Gabriel only to find him being murdered by the Indian spirit who calls himself Hus. He says he is the spirit of vengeance. He accuses Buffy of slaughtering his people and now killing their spirit. This accusation makes her pause and he escapes by transforming into a flock of birds.

Buffy tells Giles what happened while they are preparing dinner and it is clear she is unsure of what to do. She has some sympathy for the Chumash. Willow arrives with peas and a stack of books. Buffy is upset because the peas are frozen not fresh. She says they will be mushy. Giles says he likes mushy peas and Buffy says he's the reason they had pilgrims in the first place. Willow tells them about the atrocities inflicted upon the Chumash. It becomes clear Hus is recreating the attacks upon his people, only reversing the tables. Willow thinks they should do something to help him and right the wrongs done the Chumash. Giles believes he must be slain. Outside a dog, likely Hus in animal form, is watching. Buffy goes to baste and Giles tells Willow he believes Buffy might be in danger. She tells him about meeting Angel. There's a knock on the door and it's a sick Xander with Anya.

Hus breaks into the display cases and steals some Chumash weapons. Willow realizes Xander is suffering from the diseases the Chumash in the mission had. Like smallpox and syphilis. He's upset to learn they haven't decided to kill Hus. Giles and Willow argue some more. Anya gets upset when Xander says you have to kill a vengeance demon. Giles tells Buffy that vengeance is a cycle that won't stop. That Hus will just continue killing. There's a knock on the door and it's Spike, pleading for help. He tells them he can no longer bite or hit people. He also says he has information about the commandos.

Hus is in the mission using the weapons he took to raise other spirits to help him in his battle. Giles realizes Hus has been attacking authority figures and fears the dean may be next. Willow still opposes killing Hus. Spike says that the settlers did what any conquerors would do - they massacred the locals and took their land. He points out that Hus' race was exterminated. There is nothing they can say to him that will make him feel better about that. It's kill or be killed. Xander agrees and Giles points out he made those arguments but nobody listened. Willow says she will go warn the dean. Anya and Xander go with her.

Spike is whining about being fed. He tells them that vampires that starve are liking walking skeletons. Buffy says he can have gravy later - that has blood in it. The Indians attack. They are stationed at each window and are firing arrows at Buffy and Giles. The dean does not believe the warning Willow gives him. But his wife does give Anya pie. Angel appears. He realizes Hus has formed a raiding party to attack Buffy. He breaks some bicycle chains so Willow, Anya, and Xander can get back fast. He calls Giles, but the siege is already underway. Buffy gets hit in the arm by an arrow. Spike is stuck full of arrows.

The others arrive, but the Indian spirits don't die. They seem on the verge of being overwhelmed when Buffy realizes Hus' own knife can kill him. He turns into a bear. Xander distracts him and Buffy stabs him in the heart. The bear turns back into the green mist which vanishes. All the others vanish as well. Angel leaves. Buffy looks out the window as if sensing something.

They decide it wasn't a bad Thanksgiving. They were all together like old times. Xander lets slip that Angel was there.

Analysis

You've got to hand it to Spike, he's a survivor. And a realist. Unable to feed, thrown out by Harmony (and can it get worse than that), he goes to the one person you'd think he'd never go to - Buffy. And she does help him. Ultimately, this is why Spike will survive - he can take the big chances when he needs to. I'm reminded of Shakespeare's Richard III, who proposes to the wife of the man he killed at the funeral. Spike, like Richard, knows when he has to lay it on the line. He takes the big gamble and when it pays off, he's a big winner.

I like the way Spike speaks his mind, no matter what. His retort to Willow's guilt over the treatment of Indians is very appropriate. Wars are fought and the victors take the spoils. It was true of Caesar and Napoleon and Alexander. Willow is bemoaning their victims, why so much concern for the Indians? Her sympathy is really just the result of a closeness in time and space, not in any special value in their position as victims. And as Giles and Xander also point out, killing people to avenge killing really isn't a good thing. Hus, through his actions, demonstrates that he is no better than the people whose evil he seeks revenge for. And Buffy and her friends are no more responsible for the massacre of Indians than modern day Romans are responsible for the conquest of Gaul.

Spike seems to be in the same position now that Angel was when he first met Whistler. He's incapable of feeding normally and has become a homeless wanderer. Angel was saved when Whistler showed him Buffy and gave him purpose in life. Spike may be saved by Buffy as well.

I also like the growing relationship between Anya and Xander. Her physical obsession with him is great, given the more romantic and generally platonic romances we've seen to date. And I loved the debate that was going on in the background when Xander said revenge demons had to be killed, not talked with.

I'm beginning to see a theme which I think may be the dominant idea of this season. Professor Walsh has lectured on id, ego, and super ego. In Beer Bad, we saw Buffy and others reduced to id creatures, living through impulse with limited thought and no real intellectual control. Walsh clearly sees demons as id creatures and the implant she gave Spike functions as a technological super ego controlling his actions. In my comments on The Initiative, I saw some similarity between her work and the conditioning that occurs in the movie and book A Clockwork Orange.

Only the central concept of this show is that demons are real and are soulless creatures. Walsh is working on the premise that they are psychologically disabled and she is creating an artificial mechanism to replace that missing part of their psyche, the way we would use a prosthetic limb to replace a missing arm. But the demons aren't suffering from a damaged psyche, but from a missing soul. She is giving them a control mechanism, and a crude one at that, while what they really lack is moral judgement.

In this episode, there are four demons or spirit creatures representing different levels of psychological or spiritual development. Hus is an exemplar of pure revenge. He can't be reasoned with because he is incapable of any action other than revenge. He isn't an id creature, he's a single concretized emotion. Spike is a demon with an implanted control. He's not capable of harming any living being. He doesn't have any judgement, he just has pain controlling him. Even when he is attacked, as he was by the commandos in The Initiative, he can't fight back effectively. If he's starving, he can't feed. Moral judgement has been replaced by mechanical control.

Anya seems to be a creature between states. She's no longer the demon she was. She has feelings. In The Prom, she talked to Xander about these emotions. And it is clear she has strong feelings for Xander. But rather than stay and fight the mayor at the ascension, she deserted, even though she didn't want Xander to die. On the other hand, she does come to his rescue in Fear, Itself, but her only interest is in saving him, not the others. Anya is not totally heartless or unfeeling, but her sense of morality is limited to herself and those very important to her. She doesn't care for anyone else and can easily leave them to die. But she wouldn't be likely to attack anyone unless they posed an immediate threat to her or Xander. This distinguishes her from the early Spike, who cared for Dru the way Anya does for Xander. Spike was quite happy to kill for pleasure. Anya seems to have gone beyond that point. And she does point out, when Xander makes his comment about having to kill a vengeance demon, that sometimes vengeance is justified. The mere fact that she feels the need for justification speaks well for her.

Angel has a fully evolved psyche/soul. He has concern for those close to him, but also for people he doesn't even know. While Spike won't bite people because of the pain it causes him, Angel won't bite because he thinks it is wrong. In Graduation Part 2, he is ready to die rather than feed from a willing Buffy. His actions are based not on pain or on simple animal feelings, but from a moral sense of right and wrong which he feels transcends his own immediate needs.

The debate over what to do about Hus is key to an understanding of the difference between Buffy and Hus and Buffy and Walsh. Hus never questions his actions. He never wonders whether he should punish the more or less innocent descendents of those who persecuted his people. Walsh is not concerned with having demons act morally or correctly. She merely stops them from acting violently. But there are times when violence is acceptable and even preferred. Buffy is violent a lot. She's violent to save others and herself. Walsh doesn't give Spike the freedom to choose.

It doesn't matter who is right in the debate over whether Hus must be destroyed. What's important is that they bother to engage in debate at all. Buffy has to make moral decisions all the time. Those decisions, as this episode demonstrates, are actually much harder than the actions she has to take to execute them. By considering her actions and their rightness, Buffy (and Angel and the others) demonstrates her moral sense. She may make the wrong decision at times, but at least she is trying to make the right one.

When Willow reads of the evils performed by the early settlers, one story is about their punishment of innocent women and children. This was possible because they perceived all Indians as guilty, simply by nature of what they were. A sentiment echoed by the Nazis in a later period. Walsh treats all demons the same way. She never questions whether Spike is good or evil (and we know of several good demons - Angel, Doyle, Whistler, and Anya). She captures and controls them all. Walsh has deprived Spike of having the ability to make his own moral decisions. In doing so, she has actually made him less human than he was.

A few quick thoughts. Xander was beset by a variety of diseases. Why was he still able to fight? Riley's friend calls him a mama's boy. Is it possible he is Walsh's son? The first time people see Angel, they really do think he's evil. Willow and Xander in this episode and Cordelia when she first meets him in LA in City of. In the Angel episode I Will Remember You, Buffy says she can sense when Angel is around. We certainly could see that this week.

Lines of the week:

"Not at all Village People." - Buffy on Xander's manly garb.

"It's a ritual sacrifice, with pie." - Anya on the true spirit of Thanksgiving.

"I'm not evil again. Why does everyone think that?" - Angel upset at the common reaction to seeing him.

"A bear." - Spike in a rare moment of obviousness.

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