In 1977, Spike and Nikki Wood (Wood's mother) are fighting while the child Robin looks on. Spike doesn't intend to end it here. It's just a preliminary bout for him. He leaves telling Nikki he loves the coat. She goes to Robin. She says it's not safe to go home and she'll leave him at Crowley's house. She says she loves him, but the mission is what matters. They walk off, but he runs back to get the stake she tried to use on Spike. Cut to the present day and Wood, Buffy, and Spike fighting a trio of vampires. Spike slays his opponent. Buffy calls to him and he sees Wood is having trouble. He goes to his aid and slays the vampire. He tells Wood not to be afraid to use his stake. As Spike leaves, Wood says to himself that he's waiting for him moment. He grips his stake so tightly he bleeds.
The next day at school, things seem pretty calm. Wood thinks by closing the seal Buffy may have defeated FE, but she says it's never that easy. He says she reminds him of his mother. She takes it as a compliment. She thinks maybe he's right and everything is fine. Giles comes in and says everything is terrible. He's upset the library is full of computers and not books. He's introduced to Wood and he says the seers in the coven say FE is still active and they need all the allies they can get. They then have a somewhat confusing conversation which brings Wood up to speed on things. Giles complains about the library, says Spike is still a threat, talks about the chip, the soul, and the trigger. He says he has something which can determine what the trigger is. Buffy can't remember the song, although she heard it. She says it was boring and old and British like 'you' which she quickly changes to 'Yul Brynner' in a vain attempt not to insult Giles.
At the house, they chain Spike again. Giles says he's been brainwashed by FE. Giles has a stone which they will magically put in Spike's brain. It will find the root of the trigger. When Spike understands the trigger, he can defeat it. But it's up to him. Willow does some magic and the stone turns into a sort of worm. Giles puts it on Spike's face and it goes into his eye and via the optic nerve to his brain. He screams and Buffy runs to him. Then he has a sort of waking dream. He's seeing himself as William reading one of his poems to his mother. His mother is clearly very ill. William is obviously devoted to her and says that he'll always stay by her. As he sits with her, she sings the song. Spike goes vampire face and attacks. Dawn is hurt in the attack. The stone comes out and Spike goes back to normal.
Spike is asking to have his chains removed. Giles asks about the song and Spike says it's called Early One Morning. Wood asks what it means. Spike says it's just a song his mother sang to him as a baby. He tries to shift the conversation to Dawn, who is upstairs getting treated. But Buffy says she's alright. Cut to Dawn going ow as Willow cleans her wound. The slayerettes are concerned about living with Spike. Anya says he has a get out of jail free card from Buffy. That he could slaughter a hundred frat boys. Willow and Xander stare at her and she says 'forgiveness makes us human'. Andrew answers the phone and tells Willow it's an effeminate guy named Fred from LA calling for her. Downstairs, Spike won't say anything about his mother. Giles says he's not cooperating and the trigger is still active. Buffy wants to unchain him. He has another waking dream. He's with Dru in William's house. William has only recently been made a vampire. He tells Dru the three of them will have a wonderful time. She's a little taken aback at the idea of his mother coming with them. He vampirizes his mother. Willow comes down and says she's going to have to go to LA for a short time. Buffy unchains Spike and they leave the basement. Wood stays with Giles and says Spike is a problem. He says FE is just waiting for the right time to use Spike against them. Giles says Buffy won't listen. Wood says she'd listen to her watcher. Giles says he doesn't know much about the watcher slayer dynamic. Wood reveals he was raised by one. Giles realizes he is Nikki's son and that Spike killed his mother. Wood admits he knows that. He says Buffy doesn't know. Giles asks if this is about vengeance and Wood says that doesn't matter. That he is talking about the greater good. Giles asks what he wants and he says just to keep Buffy away for a few hours.
Giles and Buffy are walking through the cemetery. Giles says it's training. They've left Spike at Wood's house. Giles says Buffy has to look at the big picture. She has to make hard decisions. She says she's doing both. A vampire comes out of a grave. Wood takes Spike to his garage which he says is his workroom and sanctuary. Spike enters to find the room is lined with crosses. Wood says it's his way of being safe on the hellmouth. Spike asks for his story and Wood says he's just a guy trying to do what's right. He asks the same of Spike who says he's not much for self reflection. Wood starts up his computer and arms himself. He says Spike is the kind of guy who careens through life oblivious to the damage he causes. He says he knows about Spike, that he's been searching for him. Wood reveals Spike killed his mother and that she was a slayer. Spike asks if he wants to kill him. Wood says no, he wants to kill the monster which killed his mother. He presses a key and the computer plays the song. Spike transforms.
William returns home to find his undead mother risen. She says she wants to leave him. That she couldn't bear to spend eternity with him. Wood is beating up Spike. William's mother continues to talk about how good she feels and how happy she will be to be free of him. She calls him a parasite and says she should have bashed his brains out when he was born. Wood is beating Spike to a pulp. Buffy is beating up the vampire, Richard, but Giles tells her not to kill him yet. He asks if she would let Richard go if it meant saving the world and she says yes. She agrees that if she had to she would even let Dawn die to save the world. He says then she accepts that any one of them is expendable. Yet there is Spike.
Wood calls Spike an animal who never cared for anyone but himself. He strips off Spike's coat. He rips a cross off the wall. William's mother continues to mock him. She accuses him of incestuous desires which he denies. She puts on her vampire face and attacks him. He says I'm sorry and stakes her. Wood hears the I'm sorry and thinks it's directed at him. Wood goes to stake him, but Spike snaps out of his fugue and fights him off. Wood says saying he's sorry won't make things right. Spike says he wasn't talking to him. They fight, with Spike making a better showing now. Spike says he was a vampire and Nikki a slayer, that they both knew what they were doing. Wood says Spike took his childhood. Spike says he knows slayers. That no matter how many people are around them they fight alone. Wood says his mother loved him and Spike says not enough to quit. Spike tells him about his mother. He says she did love him. That when he sired her he set lose a demon. That the things it said have weighed on him, but now Wood has made him understand that was a demon and not his mother. He says his mother loved him with all her heart. He goes to the computer and plays the song. Nothing happens. He tells Wood he cured him. He says he has free will now and is not under anyone's influence. He says he wants Wood to know that before he kills him. He picks him up and goes for the bite.
Giles is going on about Spike. Buffy realizes he's stalling her and slays Richard and runs off. Giles shouts this is the way wars are won. Spike leaves the garage, carrying the coat. Buffy runs up as he puts it on. He opens the door to reveal a living Wood. He says he let him live because he killed his mother. But if Wood so much as looks funny at him, he'll kill him. Buffy enters the garage. She tells Wood about her mother's death. She says she understands why he did what he did. But if he tries it again Spike will kill him. And she'll let him. He's the strongest warrior they have and she needs him. She has a mission and the mission is what matters.
At home, Giles tells her nothing is changed. He starts talking about what she needs to learn, but she says he's taught her everything she needs to know and closes the door on him.
At the end of this episode I was thinking: how incredibly wrong and pigheaded can Giles be? Then I realized the truth. Giles represents the final remnants of the old order. In his world the slayer was trained to destroy. The slayer's mission was death. That's what the first slayer told Buffy way back in season 5. But things have changed. When Buffy was resurrected, it changed the mystical balance. And that not only unleashed FE from the controls it had laboured under, it also changed the slayer mission. She is no longer a creature of destruction (and it's no accident that Giles tries to return to those principles while waiting for Wood to destroy Spike). She is no longer the guardian of the hellmouth (as we learnt in Get It Done). She is, instead, the redeemer of demons. If FE can increase the force of evil in the world then the slayer can increase the force of good. She has saved Spike. She calls him their strongest fighter. But his strength lies not only in the physical, but in the metaphysical.
Wood has taken as his mission the destruction of his mother's killer. This is a perversion of his mother's mission. She sought to kill evil demons. She worked within the slayer code. But Wood abandons the code. He just wants to kill. The fact that Spike is not the evil demon who killed his mother is irrelevant. Wood's excuse is the burden of his childhood trauma. It turned him into the killer he at least tries to become. FE appears to him as his mother to trigger his evil. FE uses Spike's mother's song to trigger his evil. Spike realizes that he and Wood are both victims. Spike didn't want to become a vampire. But more importantly, he was traumatized by the evil of the demon he turned his mother into. His actions in siring her were stupid, but well intentioned. He comes to understand the cause of his trauma and overcomes it. He defeats the trigger while Wood gives in to his. More importantly, Spike shows pity. He spares Wood, although he frightens him. Spike might have been justified in killing Wood, but he chose not to. He realized Wood, like himself, was a victim. And he gave him another chance.
In freeing Wood, Spike demonstrated his defeat of the FE and of the trigger within him. He proved Giles wrong in his analysis. And he dealt a harmful blow to FE. Not only did Spike take a further step in his own redemption, but by stopping Wood from committing murder he saved him from falling further under the sway of FE. Buffy's final words to Wood are the words of his mother about the mission. Wood must submit to the mission and forget his drive for personal vengeance. Giles must submit to Buffy and accept the fact that his role as master is finished. The pupil has finished her lessons and has taken command. He has to act under her orders and not attempt to circumvent them.
Wood, Spike, and Buffy are connected by the deaths of their mothers and their reactions to them. Wood became a monomaniac and made himself susceptible to FE. Spike became even more of a demon and made himself susceptible to FE. But Buffy took on the role of mother. She nurtured Dawn and protected her friends. She sacrificed herself whereas Spike sacrificed his mother and Wood wanted to sacrifice Spike. Understanding this tie of death binding them together, Spike finds sympathy for Wood and salvation for himself. Buffy also finds this sympathy and the strength to take command. What Wood finds remains to be seen.
It's interesting that stakes (and Wood picks up the stake his mother tried to use) are made of Wood. They are Buffy's weapon of choice and Spike's bane. And they have become the very essence of Wood just as wood is the essence of the stake. In the work shop surrounded by wooden crosses and wooden stakes, Spike finds his freedom. The destruction of that shop and Spike's flight from it may be a sign that Wood's obsession is now broken as well.
In a war, information is critical. But Giles and Wood both withhold vital information. Giles doesn't tell Buffy what Wood is up to. He presumes to know better than his general. He argues she doesn't see the big picture, but he refuses to give her all the information so she can see that picture. Wood never tells Giles that he discovered Spike murdered his mother from FE. Surely learning that FE was behind this revelation would cause Giles to reconsider Wood's claim that vengeance was not his motive. Interestingly, Giles says they need allies when he first meets Wood, then he lies to Buffy so Wood can eliminate one of the strongest of their allies. Even by his own standards, Giles is inconsistent.
Giles is proven wrong in his estimation of Spike. When he shows them the stone and explains the process, he says the stone is just a catalyst and whether Spike defeats the trigger is up to him. If Spike is the danger Giles thinks he is then he shouldn't be able to succeed. But he does. He breaks the trigger and then he goes further in controlling his own rage - something Wood cannot do. By Giles' own measure, Spike is a success and Wood a failure.
Wood calls Spike an animal who never cared for anyone but himself. Yet it is Wood who is self centered, not Spike. Wood wishes to have his revenge no matter the consequences. He pretends he does it for the greater good, but he does it for himself. That's a ruse to blind Giles. Spike truly did love his mother. And he truly did love Buffy. And he risked death more than once rather than harm her or see her come to harm. Wood's childhood trauma has insulated him from the world. Like his mother, he is driven by the mission. Only her mission was to protect others and his is to kill. Spike has constantly reached out to the world, seeking love. From his mother, from Dru, from Buffy. Now that he understands the mistake he made in believing the demon mother, he may be able to finally find that love.
When Giles tells Buffy this is the way wars are won, he's talking about subterfuge, deceit, and murder. When Buffy talks to Wood about the mission, she's talking about accepting allies no matter what differences you had in the past. Wood and Giles think Buffy has a soft spot for Spike and lets that taint her reasoning. But their dislike of Spike taints theirs. They don't understand that he is a strong and good ally and Buffy cannot afford the luxury of their moral qualms about a one time evil demon fighting on their side. Wars are won by doing practical things, not by giving in to personal desires for vengeance, or getting picky about who your allies are.
Some quick final thoughts. I liked the fact that Wood has a bandage on his hand after gripping the stake so tightly he bled. Lots of shows would have ignored that wound. A friend of mine hated the comic relief scene where Giles goes on about the computers in the library. I loved it. It's classic Giles, he has always hated computers, and it highlights Giles as a representative of the old and passing order. In many ways, he's no longer relevant. Who is Wood's father? Is it Crowley? Or did his father die even before his mother? Spike being a vampire, the comment about not being much for self reflection just had to be a joke. That Wood has no sense of humour.
Lines of the week:
"Love the coat." - Spike with a real compliment.
"The mission is what matters." - Nikki starting it all for Robin.
"The stake's your friend. Don't be afraid to use it." - Spike probably giving Wood the wrong kind of advice.
"Just waiting for my moment." - Wood making it clear he has murder on his mind.
"The stone is just a catalyst for the process. The rest is up to Spike." - Giles giving Spike more credit than you'd expect.
"The guy sounds kind of effeminate." - Andrew on Fred.
"I killed a lot of people's mothers." - Spike being really honest.
"I'm sorry." - Spike definitely not talking to Wood.
"This is the way wars are won." - Giles being really, really, wrong.
"I'll let him." - Buffy doing the kind of thing that wins wars.
"The mission is what matters." - Buffy repeating the slayer credo.
At dinner tonight we talked about Buffy and an entirely new concept of the critical Spike/mother sequence was explained to me. So here it is. When the demon mother goads vampire William, she's doing it on purpose to get him to slay her. She realizes she can never be happy as a vampire and she still has her old personality. She still wants William to be happy. And she cannot be the mother he wants. This fits in with the existing personality of the mother and the fact that vampires keep the personality of the person they replace - only without any sense of conscience or morality. But they can love and her maternal love is still there. Also, the mother seemed to have something of a death wish (note she didn't want the doctor when she was ill earlier). This all makes a lot of sense to me and makes the scene work better. So William's mother makes him kill her for his happiness - the biggest sacrifice a person can make. While Robin's mother abandons him to save the world.Got a comment? Send me mail.
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