The thread for our latest discussion for the After the Fall series - both Angel and Spike.  We will also include the discussions for the IDW comic books. 

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I can only apologise in advance for the holes in my recollection of the episodes that are definitely going to be exposed as we chat.  I just don't have the time to work in watching them and I'd have to physically fight my instinctive recoil from watching the show out of sequence.  Gah, I'm just so anal sometimes, but I can't break my current rewatch and skip forward for AtS 5, it would just make my head pop!  I'll try to find time to skim over the transcripts perhaps.  :s

I have a copy of Asylum Cil. :D

Stoney, don't feel that you have to rewatch the episodes!  I understand that you're trying to watch them in order - hopefully, this discussion will only enlarge your response when you do watch them again. 

I'll try to go over the basic events of the first two episodes so that you don't have to!  So here are my thoughts on Conviction and Just Rewards culled from former notes and a rewatch of the episodes:

Looking at “Conviction” what strikes me the most is how evil is equivalent to capitalist excess in Angel Season Five. Angel the “hero” no longer walks in the shadows and on the dark side but is compromised by the Evil Powers That Be - the Senior Partners who are a representation of every faceless corporate entity out there that we fear. 

In legal parlance, the senior partners are generally a group of senior lawyers who represent the top of a two-tier structure consisting of those who are equity (profit-sharing) and those who are not (non-profit sharing) and the junior partners are always on a probationary basis until they either move up to senior partner level or remain associates. 

As a junior partner on probation, Angel is convinced that he can outwit the senior partners by “turning this place inside out” and W&H encourages him in believing this up to the point of giving him a Darla clone, Eve, to act as a contrary baddie – under the guise of being an antagonist, she is really a strawman who makes Angel feel that he’s fighting evil when he’s really succumbing to it.  And this plays into an interesting side of Liam/Angelus, I think, by both underlying his belief that everyone is born corrupted and the equally compelling desire to capitalize upon this by living a libertine lifestyle as a rejection of blatant societal hypocrisy.

And there’s a sense of class division that appeals to the side of Angel that loved dressing up as the dreaded aristocrat of Liam’s time when he was soulless – fancy cars and penthouse apartments and lavish offices – things that Spike immediately mocks as the typical trappings that Angelus preferred.  Angel walks through the garage with a spring in his step as he admires the incredibly expensive luxury cars - “They’re all so beautiful!” – that gives us a clue that taking over W&H isn’t only about saving Connor, but also touches something deep within Angel.  It’s a taste for power and luxury that both haunts and tempts him.  We see how Angel mouths the belief that he learned from Buffy – that mercy is the most powerful thing in the world – even more than conviction – and then we see how his actions contradict his words. 

And transforming Gunn into a high-class, over-educated lawyer and Harmony as an executive assistant and Lorne as a high-performing Hollywood agent feeds into this idea that corruption does pay in a vulture capitalist world where evil itself has been corporatized.  Or perhaps it’s the idea that evil is drawn to wherever the most power and corruption lies when it escapes the Hellmouth – which is the corporate world of late-capitalism – the real corridors of power that cause major depressions and world wars.

From the very beginning, we are also given a glimpse of the other side of the divide - the lowest employees wheeling mail carts throughout W&H – including our masked hidden hero from Numero Cinco.  And I think that the contrast between the lowly hero and the high-flown villain is particularly punched in Angel Season Five as a major culmination of Angel’s storyline up to this point.  We see not only our masked hero, but Angel himself identifying with the five brothers as he pushes the same cart in his nightmarish guilt-laden dreams of imagining Spike as the Chosen Vamp – and we see Spike accepting a depressingly spartan apartment as he attempts to fulfill the former role that Angel has abandoned of helping the helpless. 

There’s also an interesting divide in Wesley – who remains rather shabbily dressed and scruffy throughout – a reluctance to accept such good fortune.  And Fred also seems a bit untouched by the wealth around her – it makes sense that she is the ultimate target of destruction by W&H since she already proved somewhat immune to the trappings of power throughout Angel.  And we learn that in the desire to do good by eradicating evil, Angel and Wesley and Gunn and Lorne have walked into a trap in which Fred’s destruction was created by their acceptance.  Fred is uncertain that they’re ever going to do any good – but Angel believes the opposite will happen.  Which is exactly what W&H desire. 

And so it looks like W&H’s plan will come to perfect fruition – except for one kink – they didn’t foresee the machinations of Lindsey McDonald – who brings back the only person who could possibly change Angel’s trajectory.  And that’s William the Bloody.  Why? More on that soon.

But the most important thing is that Whedon intended Spike to be the fly in the ointment, the sand in the oyster, the pain in the neck, the dissonant musical note that spoils the illusion:

SPIKE: Damn right I don't. Look at you. This is what you do now? Delegate the dirty work to spineless, low-level flunkies…The mighty hero reduced to a bloody bureaucrat. If a certain slayer could see you now—

And:

SPIKE: I'm not the prat here. I know you, Angel. What do you think you're doing? Made some devil's bargain to take over this company. Thought you'd use it to fight the evil of the world from inside the belly of the beast. Trouble is you're too busy fighting to see you and yours are getting digested.

ANGEL: Not gonna happen.

But why cut the infamous "I love you - no you don't" lines in the flashback? Is that the last memory Spike had before he died?  If so, did his mind actually block out that exchange because it was too hurtful?  (Obviously, the real reason is that it would have been too confusing to viewers who had never watched Buffy - all ten of them might have walked away with the wrong impression.)  

I do see a connective through line with Buffy Season Seven Spike – first, confusion and anger at his new situation, then concern about Buffy followed by fear of the unknown people surrounding him and finally landing on hatred for the vampire he blames for bringing him back. Not only is Spike reacting to his past history with Angel, but he's naturally reaching for his only weapon to protect himself in a frightening situation - and perhaps testing that he's still a vampire.  

Angel's team really does treat Spike like dirt considering all the crap he's been through - although you can't really blame them since they've only heard about Spike as filtered through Angel's prejudices.  Gunn, Lorne and Wesley are a bit confused and stand-offish towards Spike - of course, Harmony sides with Angel against Spike - they both lob nasty jabs at Spike and mock him for his relationship with Buffy.  However, in their defense, Harmony and Angel are two of his most contentious frenemies - they would only remember the soulless Spike who treated both of them like s**t the last time they saw him. They aren't really familar with the new man they see before them and the assumptions that they make that Spike is still a rotten bastard are understandable, despite what Buffy might have told them.  

The unease of the gang - their glances towards Angel to see what to do with Spike starts the important process of viewing their boss in an unflattering light, especially when they realize that he's kept mum on Spike's soul, his relationship with Buffy and saving the world by dying to close the Hellmouth out of some perverse kind of jealousy.  This is yet another way in which Spike mucks up the W&H plans by creating a level of mistrust in Angel and W&H itself.

But at this stage, Wesley is also quite certain that Spike is still evil – the second worst vampire of all time - while Angel seems furious that Spike is standing in front of him.  “But you’re dead!”  Which is an odd thing to say considering that Angel is dead as well – but perhaps he doesn’t quite see himself as dead that much anymore since he was made the head of W&H. 

The most interesting reaction is Spike himself – who doesn’t bother to connect with anyone there, but immediately vamps out in reaction to Angel’s anger – and tries to attack him.  He maintains that he and Buffy had something special – something that Angel can’t understand. Except for Harmony (who he treated shamefully) and Angel (who hates him), he knows no one else there.   But he quickly realizes that no sympathy is to be found from Angel – or Harmony – or this group for a while – so he retreats from the soulful vamp of Buffy Season Seven to move into a harder shell.  And we see that Spike’s ghostly purgatory is a form of Hell:

SPIKE: I must be in Hell.

LORNE: LA – but a lot of people make that mistake. 

A prefiguration of AtF, to be sure.

From this point onwards, Spike hugs himself continually as if trying to protect himself in a dangerous place – his fear is palpable.  And as he realizes the impossibility of action, he uses his words as a weapon and takes refuge in the stance of the Soulless Spike we saw in Fool for Love a century ago – his only defense against Angel.  When Spike discovers that he’s literally a shadow of himself, he seems to diminish as he tests each crew member for strengths and weaknesses – and accurately discerns that Fred is the only one he can turn to in great need.

Unlike Angel, Spike rejects any thought that he’s come back to save the world and help the helpless.  In fact, he protests that it’s the last thing he wanted:

SPIKE: Can't a man die in peace without some high almighty deciding it's not his time. Let's have a little more fun with him, eh? You think that saving the sodding world would be enough to earn me a rest…I don't give a piss about atonement or destiny.

Is this actually true?  Yes and no, I think.  Spike is referring not to his choice to burn in the Hellmouth, but his lack of choice in returning.  I’ve read many thoughts about Spike’s unease over seeing Buffy again, fearful that he can’t live up to those last moments in the Hellmouth, but not a lot about the terror that Spike feels about being resurrected and forced to subsist on his own.  He really doesn’t know what to do with himself and finds it almost impossible to reach out to others – especially Angel.  And this is also a clear link with the Spike of Season Seven who can only really relate to Buffy.

When the necromancer offers Spike a way to return to corporeal form by double-crossing Angel, I think we are meant to see the difference between old Spike and new Spike in his reaction when he returns to Wolfram and Hart.  Spike is proved to be right about his fears that the crew means him harm.  Spike overhears Angel and his crew debating whether to destroy the amulet (and Spike) without asking him - as Angel tells them he'll sleep on it, Spike's defensive swagger is deflated, the look in his eyes tired and sad.

And when Spike retreats to Angel's bedroom to talk with him, he's depressed and slightly humiliated at having to humble himself before Angel.  Spike intimates that Angel is once again looking down on him as he did years ago as Angelus when Spike was first sired - that he once again realizes his existence is in Angel's hands and he doesn't want to fight anymore.  Spike reveals the necromancer's offer as he tries to convince Angel that he's changed and reveals his despair at his situation.

SPIKE: (from the shadows near Angel's windows) Well, look at you.

ANGEL: Aw, no. No. No, no!

SPIKE: Sitting in luxury's ample lap. Top of the world. Looking down on... well, everyone. It's good to be king, isn't it?

ANGEL: Ground rules. Haunt me all you want during business hours, but this space—off limits.

SPIKE: Relax, beefcake. I didn't come for a fight.

ANGEL: Really?

SPIKE: Not that I could, right? Can't touch, can't affect anything... Yeah, I overheard your little group powwow about me.

ANGEL: How much?

SPIKE: Enough of enough.

ANGEL: Look, Spike—

SPIKE: Necromancer tried to make a deal with me.

ANGEL: What?

SPIKE: Said he could bring me back—body and soul—if I used our close personal relationship to double-cross you.

ANGEL: Tempting. So what'd you say?

SPIKE: You see, right there, that's the problem. You having to ask me that. I don't play for that side anymore, or haven't you heard? Besides... even if Mr. Death could do what he promised, I trust him about as much as you trust me.

ANGEL: What do you want from me?

SPIKE: I can't live like this, Angel. Being useless. (sighs) Being nothing. I want it to end.

Why does Spike say this?  Is it because he believes that Hainsley is listening?  Or it is because the part of his speech we didn’t hear is about a truce between the two vamps – Spike wants to be a part of the team and agrees to try and bring down Hainsley.

I think Angel is both surprised and a bit mortified at his own childish behavior regarding Spike’s return. He doesn’t want to accept that Spike might have actually changed during his time with Buffy.  The viewer knows that Spike is truly different from William the Bloody.  When Spike tells Angel that he's tired of being useless - that he wants it to end - we never get to hear the rest of the conversation.  But we can assume that Angel and Spike came to an agreement - Spike's next words must have been that he can BE useful - he's not nothing - that he can help right now by fooling the bad guy into believing he's going to betray Angel. And Angel sees that Spike is right.  

The most interesting thing is that when push comes to shove, Angel really doesn’t seem to want to get rid of Spike.  Whether it’s a family love/hate affection or a fear of how Buffy will react if she found out that Angel had harmed Spike or a guilty conscience regarding Spike’s situation, Angel doesn’t really want to kill Spike or he’d have done it already.

Still, it must hurt that Angel was considering smashing the amulet and Spike's depression over that bleeds into the next scene. Even though Spike and Angel are acting, there is a telling moment when Angel pretends that he is going to smash the amulet and Spike looks directly into his eyes and tells him he's glad it's Angel who will kill him. Angel pauses, his face haunted by Spike's words – he reacts even more strongly when Spike calls him his grandsire.  Even though their act is a ruse to fool the bad guy, the guilt and remorse on Angel's face is telling - he's remembering their past relationship and some truly awful things they did to each other. 

SPIKE: Suppose this'll do. Feels hallowed enough.

ANGEL: (looks at the amulet he's holding) Sure you want to do this, Spike?

SPIKE: (scoffs) What, think I could really stand hanging out with you and your lot, now and forever? Wisecracking ghost sidekick. No bloody thanks. Come on. You know as well as I do, it's for the best.

Angel picks up an urn from a nearby grave. 

SPIKE: I'm glad it's you, though. Finally doin' me in. Feels right. You being my grandsire and all. Circle of death, eh?

ANGEL: Good-bye, Spike.

SPIKE: See you around, Angel.

Spike does have an idea of the effect he's having on Angel – but after overhearing their conversation about destroying the amulet, he still doesn't trust in Angel enough to confess his REAL feelings – his fears that he's being dragged down to Hell.

Spike's situation is crushingly sad - he can't leave Wolfram and Hart and his fate has been left in the hands of someone that has never really cared about him – and he's not even certain whether he can rely on Fred.  His last words are supplicant in nature – he can't even look at Fred - he's despairing and doesn't know who to turn to for comfort.  

SPIKE: I'm slippin'.

FRED: What?

SPIKE: Don't wanna go, but it's like... It's like the ground underneath me is... splitting open and my legs are... straddling both sides of this bloody big chasm. It's getting wider, pulling me in.

FRED: Is that... is that what's happening when you keep vanishing?

Spike looks away from Fred, his face downward.

SPIKE: I know what's down there—where it's trying to take me—and it's not the place heroes go. Not by a bloody long shot. It's the other one. Full of fire and torment. And it's happening. And I'm terrified.

Spike turns to face Fred.

SPIKE: Help me?

Spike hugs himself repeatedly during Angel 5 in a vain attempt to comfort himself. I noticed that Spike does that a lot in Season Seven as well - it's a great acting choice after he gets his soul. The only time I can remember Spike doing it in earlier seasons is in the crypt with Buffy in As You Were. Riley finds them lying naked together, but as far apart as possible on the cramped surface with Buffy looking away from Spike as he faces her and hugs himself.  No hugging, no snuggling, no romance. That's really kind of sad considering it was the last time they probably had sex - their whole romantic relationship in a flash.

And worst of all, Spike finds himself bound to Angel’s crummy evil law firm, unable to even have the agency of leaving.  And this pushes Spike into a very cynical shell – constantly goading and snarking and spinning to dodge the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. At the start of Angel Season Five, Spike is slowly becoming convinced that the unfair nature of his heroic sacrifice proves that the world is rotten to the core if this is his reward.   

SPIKE: They're the lucky ones, aren't they? It's over for them. They've shuffled off, cleanly, the one time. Nobody's shoving them back into the stinking world against their will.

Spike can't believe that he almost died to win his soul - that he did die to save the world - isn't that what the PTB wanted – and now he's being dragged to Hell despite all of his noble deeds. Or perhaps deep down, he feels he does deserve his fate because of all the murder and mayhem of his past. And he's afraid that Angel will feel the same way – because he knows that Angel feels that way about himself. 

And now, as post-Season Seven Spike, he mournfully wanders an evil law firm, watching Angel futilely trust that he can “change” evil to good as he feels his own pull towards Hell and in a bizarre fashion, it seems that Angel and Spike have switched positions due to circumstance from the positions they held at the end of Lovers Walk. It's now Spike who is the cynical one and Angel who is overly hopeful that things will turn out alright. 

There's also the idea that Spike is now suffering much more than before with regards to his contentious relationship with Angel because he now has a soul - and this in turn, leads him to visit Angel in his bedroom that night.  Angel mocks Spike's seemingly three-week grappling with the soul - because he's not really seeing that Spike is still going through the process that Angel had nearly a century to deal with.

And I think this explains a lot of Spike’s outrageous behavior – there’s something to the idea of Puck Robin that Spike’s crap reward of being a ghost liberates him from his soulfulness in a sense – he lashes out in bitterness and makes a pretense of trying out the proposition that a souled Spike isn’t that much different than a soulless Spike – and intimates as much to Angel when he criticizes his love for luxury and power.  But as Spike tells Angel – even though he’s the head of a big law firm, Angel is no more in control of his destiny than Spike is as a ghost. 

Just quickly checking in to let you all know that I'm reading along, and that I'm enjoying hearing your thoughts, even though I've had no time for active participation.

Aurora said:

Stoney, don't feel that you have to rewatch the episodes!  I understand that you're trying to watch them in order - hopefully, this discussion will only enlarge your response when you do watch them again.

I wasn't going to watch them, which was why I wanted to apologise again for anything I miss due to the flakiness of my memory! :D 

I totally agree that these discussions are definitely going to deepen my appreciation for the season when I finally get there.  It really is just that I'm aware that the level to which we tend to discuss these things really does benefit from having just watched the episodes and that I may be restricted in my ability to contribute by not doing so, or I may say something I wouldn't even agree with if I'd just watched it again, ha! 

My first block of response was a thought dump after having a quick read through your post.  So it covers general thoughts as well as being somewhat responsive to things you raised.  But I then read back through your post again later and added some additional specific comments too.  Consequently, I'm afraid it is my typically lengthy response. :s

So here are my thoughts on Conviction and Just Rewards culled from former notes and a rewatch of the episodes:

You've given a really great run down of the starting situation for the season that these two episodes set up, both for Angel and for Spike's response to his situation too.

One of the things that strikes me about the start of S5 and the choice to go into W&H, is all the different ways we are seeing characters working with change and making new starts but coming from very different points of view.  Some are grasping the opportunity to change, some are entering it far more reluctantly, as well as there being some degree of changing unknowingly mixed in there too.  Obviously change is happening in a far greater, more literal way for Connor as it is over his entire life, obliterating all his past and creating a new present.  But in some ways Angel too is getting a freedom from the decision to erase the history with his son by giving him a falsely happy childhood, even if it doesn't literally include Angel himself.  And this is because he isn't cutting himself off from his son but in watching him, whilst no doubt difficult and arguably somewhat self destructive, he is also getting satisfaction from seeing Connor living a 'normal' life and getting to enjoy seeing his achievements too.  But on a day-to-day level obviously Angel is facing the consequence of that choice and needing to settle into the reality of the new situation he has walked himself into.  We see from the start he is struggling to adjust and a lot of that is because he is hiding the truth and his true feelings about it all.  As much as Angel is openly stating that Spike hasn't changed, I agree that there is this fear that it is actually himself and his inner corruption that is still driving him.  Although I am sure that he feels very justified in taking the choice he has for Connor and everyone else.  

I looked back on my review of the episode way back and I had ranted about the inclusion of Harmony despite her last betrayal and of course the season will show that she hasn't fundamentally changed despite what her latest intentions may have started out as.  Although I do find the character irritating for the way she is treated despite her actions, I do think she provides some interesting contrast against the two souled vamps during the season.  Gunn is seduced by the possibility to change who he is in a more deliberate but artificial way.  I actually think it is a great continuation for his character who has always been so hung up on his social background and the comparison he feels to others.  It isn't hard to believe that he could be drawn by the chance to change his fortune and grasp at what he feels will bring him equality.  His inability to realise the danger he is putting himself and the others in is another great reflection of Angel's behaviour, even though obviously Angel has deliberately made decisions that specifically affect the others.  How power and authority can be seductive and sway people's choices does, as you say, feature through the season.  Angel's assumed authority to decide what happens to the amulet/Spike is certainly a stark contrast against Spike's feeling of helplessness.

I think it is important to remember when considering Spike's responses in the moment he is torn out from the amulet that not only is he disorientated and, correctly, assessing the aggression directed at him from multiple quarters, but he was just experiencing intense physical pain and was being pulled from having been in a huge battle.  The fight/flight instinct will be incredibly heightened.  As far as I remember, his route out of the room is somewhat blocked from the way the group are positioned around him and so the choice to fight is somewhat pressed on him.  The repeated visual of him wrapping himself in comfort really links what he has just experienced in the hellmouth with the fears for himself and what will happen next to him.

I can see the argument that Spike in some senses reinvents himself yet again this season.  It is really a repeated survival trait in his character to do so.  Although he speaks to Angel about his sense of being damned eventually, he does protect the truth of his fears from him at first and a lot of his less admirable behaviour through the season, even later on when they are working better together, seems to relate to hiding his true emotions and protecting himself from exposure.  So yes, although there is certainly some pushing towards the brash side of his personality and brushing past the more considered and deliberately thoughtful traits he has in the writing, there is logic to it justified by circumstance that we can understand from the layered individual and joint histories involved.  By considering the combination of what Spike has come from, what he fears for himself, his worries about measuring up badly (both against Angel and in Buffy's view) added to all his other insecurities really helps to explain the Spike that AtS 5 is presenting to us.  Anyone who knows Spike through BtVS should be able to make these connections, but the omission of the ILY does tend to lean to the fact that they are catering for an audience that are focused on Angel's story rather than Spike's to me.  He is the add-on, the intruder amongst the cast and to keep him around they had to generate the contrasts between the two vamps as you described.  But it isn't just Spike that comes off badly from this, not all the time.

I actually really like the characterisation they give Spike when he first arrives all ghostly and it seems very true to character that he starts off by calling it as he sees it to Angel, stating out loud things Angel is trying to not say to himself.  Yes, it is greatly about getting to affect the world around him in some actual way, even being a little childish about it because he is frustrated, unhappy and unsettled and he won't hold back on making others feel the same way.  But it is also about wanting to call Angel on his bull because Spike is sick of feeling held against the standard Angel sets when he can see the blatant flaw and folly in Angel's actions.  It is actually a pretty good way, alongside Angel's callous dismissal of Spike, to introduce the feeling that both vamps need to get to know each other anew and work past the barriers they hold in front of the other to find out how they are now better able to understand each other and of course this comes a little during the season.

Spike considering in Just Rewards that he can't fully control what happens to himself, that his own choices may not matter, somewhat reflects the dejection that Angel feels currently towards his own supposed destiny.  Both are key points of self-belief for the vamps that are currently up in the air.  Although Angel may feel he is succumbing to his own corruption, confirmed through any enjoyment of the rush of power/material gains just as Gunn is enjoying his new intellectual muscles, it still ultimately comes down to the choice to affect your path and if someone else is controlling the strings above you.  If you feel controlled, in the way they both do at the start of the season, it is likely to generate both displays of despondency and, contrastingly, ones of rebellion.  As you said during our pre S5 chat, both have repeatedly shown little inclination for accepting authority over them.

Aurora said:

As a junior partner on probation, Angel is convinced that he can outwit the senior partners by “turning this place inside out” and W&H encourages him in believing this up to the point of giving him a Darla clone, Eve, to act as a contrary baddie – under the guise of being an antagonist, she is really a strawman who makes Angel feel that he’s fighting evil when he’s really succumbing to it.  And this plays into an interesting side of Liam/Angelus, I think, by both underlying his belief that everyone is born corrupted and the equally compelling desire to capitalize upon this by living a libertine lifestyle as a rejection of blatant societal hypocrisy.

It is interesting to perhaps see the newly souled Spike as playing the junior partner to Angel as the established souled champion.  Wanting to gain from him whilst also rejecting a lot of the examples Angel is setting as 'the' way to be.  Angel's desire to try and emphasise how much more he has gone through in dealing with his soul, to push away from the comparison that Spike's journey started earlier and led him to seek his soul, is about trying to establish authority, his seniority, even despite the comparison not being favourable to him in all ways.  Really of course we come to see that he fears his own loss of direction.  And I think the parallel can run further as Spike's wish to call out Angel on his bullsh*t actually ends up being smothered by his self doubts and the wish to receive support and guidance until he ends up conforming too, corrupting himself somewhat.

The whole starting issue of how your rewards may not reflect the commitment and intention behind the choices you make, that you might still be damned, is so key for both vamps this season.  I have always struggled to see the final plan of the season as anything other than a loss of hope and Spike getting caught up in believing in a great glorious exit, not something that is out of character for him of course, similarly works with not looking forward to a future for himself.  Perhaps it is that we should celebrate the return to the rebellious response to power from Angel, but he is still acting without hope, as is Spike, and so it is difficult for me to try and see the glory when it all just screams of negativity to me.  Perhaps as we go through the season Angel's mindset may strike me differently.

And there’s a sense of class division that appeals to the side of Angel that loved dressing up as the dreaded aristocrat of Liam’s time when he was soulless – fancy cars and penthouse apartments and lavish offices – things that Spike immediately mocks as the typical trappings that Angelus preferred.  Angel walks through the garage with a spring in his step as he admires the incredibly expensive luxury cars - “They’re all so beautiful!” – that gives us a clue that taking over W&H isn’t only about saving Connor, but also touches something deep within Angel.  It’s a taste for power and luxury that both haunts and tempts him.  We see how Angel mouths the belief that he learned from Buffy – that mercy is the most powerful thing in the world – even more than conviction – and then we see how his actions contradict his words. 

I hate to imagine that we are supposed to see any mercy in Angel's behaviour towards Spike in JR.  That perhaps his willingness to listen to him and hear out his plan, to trust him that little bit, was a kindness Spike perhaps doesn't deserve because it hasn't been earned yet in Angel's eyes?? :(

And transforming Gunn into a high-class, over-educated lawyer and Harmony as an executive assistant and Lorne as a high-performing Hollywood agent feeds into this idea that corruption does pay in a vulture capitalist world where evil itself has been corporatized.  Or perhaps it’s the idea that evil is drawn to wherever the most power and corruption lies when it escapes the Hellmouth – which is the corporate world of late-capitalism – the real corridors of power that cause major depressions and world wars.

And, as Angel believes, perhaps we fear that there is a motivation within us all that the most astute evil could reach down within us to find and exploit, just by offering the right thing at the right price.  The vamps are constantly struggling with the aspects of themselves that motivate them and drive their choices whether souled or not.  Gunn is also exposed very specifically within the season, but the others feel to mostly be there out of their belief in Angel as the decision-maker and group leader.  Although the effect of power that is corrosive, extremely represented by the hollowing out of Fred, exists by being in the belly of the beast, I find it hard to see negativity lying within the others when their commitment to the fight is really what drew them into danger.

From the very beginning, we are also given a glimpse of the other side of the divide - the lowest employees wheeling mail carts throughout W&H – including our masked hidden hero from Numero Cinco.  And I think that the contrast between the lowly hero and the high-flown villain is particularly punched in Angel Season Five as a major culmination of Angel’s storyline up to this point.  We see not only our masked hero, but Angel himself identifying with the five brothers as he pushes the same cart in his nightmarish guilt-laden dreams of imagining Spike as the Chosen Vamp – and we see Spike accepting a depressingly spartan apartment as he attempts to fulfill the former role that Angel has abandoned of helping the helpless. 

I *love* these observations. :D

There’s also an interesting divide in Wesley – who remains rather shabbily dressed and scruffy throughout – a reluctance to accept such good fortune.  And Fred also seems a bit untouched by the wealth around her – it makes sense that she is the ultimate target of destruction by W&H since she already proved somewhat immune to the trappings of power throughout Angel.  And we learn that in the desire to do good by eradicating evil, Angel and Wesley and Gunn and Lorne have walked into a trap in which Fred’s destruction was created by their acceptance.  Fred is uncertain that they’re ever going to do any good – but Angel believes the opposite will happen.  Which is exactly what W&H desire. 

I think Gunn was the only one who walked in there because of something he felt he was getting from it personally, intentionally looking to change himself.  Wes, Fred and Lorne I always felt were falsely led to agree by Angel, by their belief in him and his choices.  This leads to the frustratingly unaddressed aspect of the season of how much their memories were meddled with.  Who do they believe they were and how have their perceptions of each other been affected too?  Take the Wes/Angel dynamic in W&H.  How much of the past two seasons was eradicated from Wes' memory in order to remove Connor?  We can't put Wes' willing subservience down to guilt if he doesn't know what came between Angel and himself.  Perhaps a replacement scenario was implanted to make him feel he has wronged Angel still somehow (and then it would be bias too of course).  But Wes isn't taking an authoritative stance at all as per early S3, pre-Connor, so what history does he think he has with Angel and the group at this later stage?  I honestly can't remember much at all about Wes in AtF and if any of this is addressed any further, but it definitely felt like it was pushed aside in the season due to Wes' depression and totally inadequately dealt with for such a serious breach of trust.  The story moved past it and didn't really care and it was deeply dissatisfying.

And so it looks like W&H’s plan will come to perfect fruition – except for one kink – they didn’t foresee the machinations of Lindsey McDonald – who brings back the only person who could possibly change Angel’s trajectory.  And that’s William the Bloody.  Why? More on that soon.

But the most important thing is that Whedon intended Spike to be the fly in the ointment, the sand in the oyster, the pain in the neck, the dissonant musical note that spoils the illusion:

But why cut the infamous "I love you - no you don't" lines in the flashback? Is that the last memory Spike had before he died?  If so, did his mind actually block out that exchange because it was too hurtful?  (Obviously, the real reason is that it would have been too confusing to viewers who had never watched Buffy - all ten of them might have walked away with the wrong impression.)  

I do see a connective through line with Buffy Season Seven Spike – first, confusion and anger at his new situation, then concern about Buffy followed by fear of the unknown people surrounding him and finally landing on hatred for the vampire he blames for bringing him back. Not only is Spike reacting to his past history with Angel, but he's naturally reaching for his only weapon to protect himself in a frightening situation - and perhaps testing that he's still a vampire.  

Yes, you're right that there probably is a rising up of existing anger towards Angel that goes back over issues from their distant history as well as being focused on more recent events and his current disorientation.  They certainly directly address in the season why Spike might have long held resentment towards Angel in Destiny.

Angel's team really does treat Spike like dirt considering all the crap he's been through - although you can't really blame them since they've only heard about Spike as filtered through Angel's prejudices.  Gunn, Lorne and Wesley are a bit confused and stand-offish towards Spike - of course, Harmony sides with Angel against Spike - they both lob nasty jabs at Spike and mock him for his relationship with Buffy.  However, in their defense, Harmony and Angel are two of his most contentious frenemies - they would only remember the soulless Spike who treated both of them like s**t the last time they saw him. They aren't really familar with the new man they see before them and the assumptions that they make that Spike is still a rotten bastard are understandable, despite what Buffy might have told them.  

Well it is only understandable to a certain degree.  Sure Angel's last personal contact with Spike was being tortured over the ring of amara, but that was years ago and from what we see and hear of the relationships between spike/angel/darla/dru, not especially unusual.  And the tone of the vehement contempt Angel voices on Spike's arrival doesn't sit well against the whiny Angel who was mostly sulking when he heard from Buffy that Spike had a soul in S7.  So let's put his venom down to how unsettled he is in his current situation and the instant jealousies Spike's sudden presence releases to make it all ten times worse.

And it is really this initial reaction from Angel that sets the tone between them and his consistent attempts to belittle Spike and not give leeway.  Angel should be at the very least somewhat understanding of how difficult it is but whatever Buffy said to him further about Spike, after S7, has presumably caused him to react even more negatively in jealousy.  His attempts to constantly label Spike and Buffy's relationship as being purely physical is an obvious way to try to dismiss the relationship and perhaps justify to himself why Buffy would have been with Spike, to use him to satisfy what Angel doesn't feel he can give her.  So as well as the ILY being omitted, we also know that Buffy outright told Angel that Spike was in her heart and yet all we see is him very deliberately trying to pull it down as a hurtful tactic repeatedly.  Does Angel think Buffy and Spike's sexual relationship happened when Spike was souled?  Spike obviously isn't going to draw the distinction and get into what happened in their relationship whilst he was unsouled or risk exposing himself emotionally now.  Plus, it is interesting to watch Angel being so deliberately cruel as he attacks Spike verbally for not being different enough souled!  Really he knows that there is a very meaningful distinction as much as knowing how much he feels the same too.  But his less admirable side has him acting callously to try and make himself feel superior.  Spike of course obliges by acting like an ass and the two feel their opinions of each other are justified.  It will be interesting to see how steadily they have these barriers breaking down in small degrees, enough to allow for the development of some mutual respect anyway.

As a spuffy fan, the frustration in all this of course is that for the ten people who haven't watched BtVS they will dismiss the relationship from what this season of AtS shows.  For the rest there are also those who aren't fans of Spike/spuffy or perhaps just resented the character being crowbarred into the AtS series, and they can point at Spike's behaviour in the season as supporting Angel's pov as it isn't truly ever refuted and Spike's defensive 'bad' behaviour, callous attitude and crass comments support the more shallow interpretations of the character that he doesn't change with his soul. >:(

The unease of the gang - their glances towards Angel to see what to do with Spike starts the important process of viewing their boss in an unflattering light, especially when they realize that he's kept mum on Spike's soul, his relationship with Buffy and saving the world by dying to close the Hellmouth out of some perverse kind of jealousy.  This is yet another way in which Spike mucks up the W&H plans by creating a level of mistrust in Angel and W&H itself.

But at this stage, Wesley is also quite certain that Spike is still evil – the second worst vampire of all time - while Angel seems furious that Spike is standing in front of him.  “But you’re dead!”  Which is an odd thing to say considering that Angel is dead as well – but perhaps he doesn’t quite see himself as dead that much anymore since he was made the head of W&H. 

And this really illustrates where the decision to alter their memories really plays into what happens in the season and why it is so frustrating then that we don't get any realistic (imo) wider fallout from any of the group over it later.

The most interesting reaction is Spike himself – who doesn’t bother to connect with anyone there, but immediately vamps out in reaction to Angel’s anger – and tries to attack him.  He maintains that he and Buffy had something special – something that Angel can’t understand. Except for Harmony (who he treated shamefully) and Angel (who hates him), he knows no one else there.   But he quickly realizes that no sympathy is to be found from Angel – or Harmony – or this group for a while – so he retreats from the soulful vamp of Buffy Season Seven to move into a harder shell.  And we see that Spike’s ghostly purgatory is a form of Hell:

SPIKE: I must be in Hell.

LORNE: LA – but a lot of people make that mistake. 

A prefiguration of AtF, to be sure.

Nice call. :D

From this point onwards, Spike hugs himself continually as if trying to protect himself in a dangerous place – his fear is palpable.  And as he realizes the impossibility of action, he uses his words as a weapon and takes refuge in the stance of the Soulless Spike we saw in Fool for Love a century ago – his only defense against Angel.  When Spike discovers that he’s literally a shadow of himself, he seems to diminish as he tests each crew member for strengths and weaknesses – and accurately discerns that Fred is the only one he can turn to in great need.

Unlike Angel, Spike rejects any thought that he’s come back to save the world and help the helpless.  In fact, he protests that it’s the last thing he wanted:

SPIKE: Can't a man die in peace without some high almighty deciding it's not his time. Let's have a little more fun with him, eh? You think that saving the sodding world would be enough to earn me a rest…I don't give a piss about atonement or destiny.

Is this actually true?  Yes and no, I think.  Spike is referring not to his choice to burn in the Hellmouth, but his lack of choice in returning.  I’ve read many thoughts about Spike’s unease over seeing Buffy again, fearful that he can’t live up to those last moments in the Hellmouth, but not a lot about the terror that Spike feels about being resurrected and forced to subsist on his own.  He really doesn’t know what to do with himself and finds it almost impossible to reach out to others – especially Angel.  And this is also a clear link with the Spike of Season Seven who can only really relate to Buffy.

I agree that Spike isn't being honest about his lack of any interest in atonement or destiny.  We see emphasised in Destiny that the core of William driving who Spike became always had this sense of destiny wrapped into his wants/motivations, they just are things he has learnt not to expose around Angel.  I think a lot of it comes down to a different mindset too, as I think we've said.  Angel continues to look back and be wracked with guilt so the idea of a higher purpose and atonement works with his upbringing/personality.  But I think there is a difference between believing something can be earned and feeling something can be reached for.  In contrast Spike tries to look forward to how he can progress from where he is and where he has been.  BtVS 7 and AtS 5 is greatly about Spike starting to shape and understand what it is he wants to aim to reach for now.

It is a really good point about this lack of choice and it drives alongside the decision to reinvent yourself, to present certain aspects of your character and create defences around others.  There is a sense of self-corruption on a minor scale in there, that we can choose a side of ourselves, even if it mostly as a mask, that is detrimental to how others then perceive us.  Spike is somewhat self destructive in this way during this season as he is very adrift and insecure.  He bounces off different influences whilst looking for guidance and desperately tries to work out who he is now and where he is going.  As you say, he is still very much in the process of dealing with becoming souled. 

Although I don't think Spike discovers who he wants to be within this season, it is the furthering of a process and starting to integrate better with a wider group is possibly the positive he does come away with from AtS 5 that he hadn't meaningfully developed in S7.  Even if it does lead him to make, imo, a foolish choice to raise up his hand.

When the necromancer offers Spike a way to return to corporeal form by double-crossing Angel, I think we are meant to see the difference between old Spike and new Spike in his reaction when he returns to Wolfram and Hart.  Spike is proved to be right about his fears that the crew means him harm.  Spike overhears Angel and his crew debating whether to destroy the amulet (and Spike) without asking him - as Angel tells them he'll sleep on it, Spike's defensive swagger is deflated, the look in his eyes tired and sad.

And when Spike retreats to Angel's bedroom to talk with him, he's depressed and slightly humiliated at having to humble himself before Angel.  Spike intimates that Angel is once again looking down on him as he did years ago as Angelus when Spike was first sired - that he once again realizes his existence is in Angel's hands and he doesn't want to fight anymore.  Spike reveals the necromancer's offer as he tries to convince Angel that he's changed and reveals his despair at his situation.

Why does Spike say this?  Is it because he believes that Hainsley is listening?  Or it is because the part of his speech we didn’t hear is about a truce between the two vamps – Spike wants to be a part of the team and agrees to try and bring down Hainsley.

I think Angel is both surprised and a bit mortified at his own childish behavior regarding Spike’s return. He doesn’t want to accept that Spike might have actually changed during his time with Buffy.  The viewer knows that Spike is truly different from William the Bloody.  When Spike tells Angel that he's tired of being useless - that he wants it to end - we never get to hear the rest of the conversation.  But we can assume that Angel and Spike came to an agreement - Spike's next words must have been that he can BE useful - he's not nothing - that he can help right now by fooling the bad guy into believing he's going to betray Angel. And Angel sees that Spike is right.  

Yes, I agree that this is played to emphasise the difference to the viewer but I'm not so convinced that they assume that the viewer is as sure of the difference between Spike souled and unsouled as you feel.  I think that there was still also a touch of a fake out aimed at the viewer later.  That we, like Angel, may have had some residual doubt of whether Spike would double cross him still.  Whether Spike had in fact told Angel all of this to get him to agree to the plan so that he could earn his new body from Hainsley.  I think the question mark over how different Spike really is is also raised by the show a few times in a way that doesn't feel like it is just seeing Angel's pov to me.  I mean, if we ask ourselves questions like, do some viewers actually assume Spike isn't in the same situation as Angel?  Do they really believe he isn't suffering adequately in response to becoming souled?  Do they really think he hasn't really changed in any meaningful way?  Do they in fact need persuading just as Angel does that Spike of S7, wasn't all just a front to try and win Buffy back?  I have certainly heard such comments said very seriously and so can't easily dismiss that the show isn't frustratingly somewhat supporting it as needing questioning still.

The most interesting thing is that when push comes to shove, Angel really doesn’t seem to want to get rid of Spike.  Whether it’s a family love/hate affection or a fear of how Buffy will react if she found out that Angel had harmed Spike or a guilty conscience regarding Spike’s situation, Angel doesn’t really want to kill Spike or he’d have done it already.

It is difficult to judge how Angel might have responded to Spike's arrival if the facts of Spike's involvement in closing the hellmouth and his souled status hadn't very quickly been shed light on.  I think there is some guilt and attachment in actuality, as well as a sense of reflection where to damn Spike would be to finally damn himself and accept that there really is no point in it all, as he currently feels.  So if that is true, how important is it that Spike falls in line in the latter half of the season?  Would Angel have truly continued with his plan at the end of the season and the others agreed if Spike had openly stood against it?

Still, it must hurt that Angel was considering smashing the amulet and Spike's depression over that bleeds into the next scene. Even though Spike and Angel are acting, there is a telling moment when Angel pretends that he is going to smash the amulet and Spike looks directly into his eyes and tells him he's glad it's Angel who will kill him. Angel pauses, his face haunted by Spike's words – he reacts even more strongly when Spike calls him his grandsire.  Even though their act is a ruse to fool the bad guy, the guilt and remorse on Angel's face is telling - he's remembering their past relationship and some truly awful things they did to each other. 

Spike does have an idea of the effect he's having on Angel – but after overhearing their conversation about destroying the amulet, he still doesn't trust in Angel enough to confess his REAL feelings – his fears that he's being dragged down to Hell.

Spike's situation is crushingly sad - he can't leave Wolfram and Hart and his fate has been left in the hands of someone that has never really cared about him – and he's not even certain whether he can rely on Fred.  His last words are supplicant in nature – he can't even look at Fred - he's despairing and doesn't know who to turn to for comfort.  

I agree that Spike's situation is incredibly sad, but I felt that AtS 5's depiction of Spike also suffered on occasion from JM's delight in being more antagonistic again.  As I remember it, I felt that JM played a slight edge to Spike's appeal to Fred that came across as deliberately manipulative.  To be clear, I think he was being so and that it makes sense he'd still feel he needed to in order to secure some help.  But his smile at the end comes off as smug in an unpleasant self-satisfied way to me.  It made his previous words seem less genuine and more said for their affect on Fred (if I'm thinking of the right exchange that is of course!).

Spike hugs himself repeatedly during Angel 5 in a vain attempt to comfort himself. I noticed that Spike does that a lot in Season Seven as well - it's a great acting choice after he gets his soul. The only time I can remember Spike doing it in earlier seasons is in the crypt with Buffy in As You Were. Riley finds them lying naked together, but as far apart as possible on the cramped surface with Buffy looking away from Spike as he faces her and hugs himself.  No hugging, no snuggling, no romance. That's really kind of sad considering it was the last time they probably had sex - their whole romantic relationship in a flash.

I've considered this before in regards to the start of this season but I've never noticed it in S7 specifically, I'll definitely look out for it now though. :D

And worst of all, Spike finds himself bound to Angel’s crummy evil law firm, unable to even have the agency of leaving.  And this pushes Spike into a very cynical shell – constantly goading and snarking and spinning to dodge the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. At the start of Angel Season Five, Spike is slowly becoming convinced that the unfair nature of his heroic sacrifice proves that the world is rotten to the core if this is his reward.   

SPIKE: They're the lucky ones, aren't they? It's over for them. They've shuffled off, cleanly, the one time. Nobody's shoving them back into the stinking world against their will.

Spike can't believe that he almost died to win his soul - that he did die to save the world - isn't that what the PTB wanted – and now he's being dragged to Hell despite all of his noble deeds. Or perhaps deep down, he feels he does deserve his fate because of all the murder and mayhem of his past. And he's afraid that Angel will feel the same way – because he knows that Angel feels that way about himself. 

And now, as post-Season Seven Spike, he mournfully wanders an evil law firm, watching Angel futilely trust that he can “change” evil to good as he feels his own pull towards Hell and in a bizarre fashion, it seems that Angel and Spike have switched positions due to circumstance from the positions they held at the end of Lovers Walk. It's now Spike who is the cynical one and Angel who is overly hopeful that things will turn out alright. 

But Angel doesn't really think it and Spike only feels it because of the frustration of not being able to affect things, to touch things and 'make' things change.  Spike is very action driven and being reduced to trying to cajole people to help him is likely deeply frustrating.  But he doesn't actually stop reaching really and Angel is actually quite deeply resigned to it all meaning nothing anymore, if it ever did.

There's also the idea that Spike is now suffering much more than before with regards to his contentious relationship with Angel because he now has a soul - and this in turn, leads him to visit Angel in his bedroom that night.  Angel mocks Spike's seemingly three-week grappling with the soul - because he's not really seeing that Spike is still going through the process that Angel had nearly a century to deal with.

And I think this explains a lot of Spike’s outrageous behavior – there’s something to the idea of Puck Robin that Spike’s crap reward of being a ghost liberates him from his soulfulness in a sense – he lashes out in bitterness and makes a pretense of trying out the proposition that a souled Spike isn’t that much different than a soulless Spike – and intimates as much to Angel when he criticizes his love for luxury and power.  But as Spike tells Angel – even though he’s the head of a big law firm, Angel is no more in control of his destiny than Spike is as a ghost. 

Angel's cruelty to Spike in the lack of consideration he gives him for being newly souled is on a surface level somewhat supported in how Spike behaves defensively.  I agree he is struggling with feeling damned regardless of what he has done, with being pulled back into existence to only feel dragged into hell, and that there is some resentment and bitterness in some of his behaviour.  But I'd hesitate to say he feels liberated from his soul as that just sounds like it would be a freedom he would somewhat welcome and I don't think that is true. 

He is behaving negatively and so that naturally draws forward similarities to his unsouled self simply due to the fact that the souled and soulless vampire are linked to the person underneath.  We've talked about the continuity in the vamp's personalities plenty of times before of course and, as you say, Spike's criticisms of Angel draw on the same continuity against him. And there have been previous occasions we can point to of souled Angel manipulating/hurting people where we can 'see' his unsouled-self in his actions, just like Spike's deliberately provocative and crass behaviour can link to his unsouled self too.  Is it plausible that Spike and Angel would sometimes wish away their souls?  Yes.  But as much as Angel went there once in his utter disbelief at the pointlessness of it all I can't see Spike doing the same as he doesn't have the same general outlook to his path and that needs to feel a reward will be given, as much as it might appeal at times to feel validated like that.  Perhaps it is easy to imagine being without the soul sometimes when there is that comforting cushion of it not being something you'd actually ever choose??

Great to see all the new comments - I've have to go missing for last few days as I did not want to read and reply without first having time to do a good reading first as well as watching those couple of episodes on my list.  Will post later tonight right now I've got some artwork that I need to work on.

No Reason why you should break your schedule - My preference would also be to watch episodes in order but It's been such a long time since I watched and of the Angel seasons I absolutely need the refreshers.  

Stoney said:

I can only apologise in advance for the holes in my recollection of the episodes that are definitely going to be exposed as we chat.  I just don't have the time to work in watching them and I'd have to physically fight my instinctive recoil from watching the show out of sequence.  Gah, I'm just so anal sometimes, but I can't break my current rewatch and skip forward for AtS 5, it would just make my head pop!  I'll try to find time to skim over the transcripts perhaps.  :s

I have a copy of Asylum Cil. :D

Aurora:

Yes, I've noticed that pop culture musings on the show have always given Spike the fuzzy end of the lollipop.  

In a previous issue about the greatest binge TV shows of all time in EW, Buffy got part of the cover plus four glossy pages with text - none of which either mentioned Spike or showed a picture of him except for a half face shot in OMWF. Except for the musical, all of the recommended episodes were in Seasons One through Four - I have a feeling that the author never even saw the show past that point.  ;(

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You can just about bet money on the Like vs Don't Like perspectives in these magazine and online articles on the issue of Spike and the joining of S&B as primary characters in the series.  Most of these "the early seasons were the Golden Years of Buffy" are either very much enamored with the Buffy & Angel Love Story or they have a great dislike or discomfort with Spike being transformed into the Spike Transformation Journey story.

Too Bad For Them 'cause I'm thinking they have missed some extremely important in the series and they sure have missed out on appreciation of the great drama that the later seasons produced. 

Aurora: 

As a junior partner on probation, Angel is convinced that he can outwit the senior partners by “turning this place inside out” and W&H encourages him in believing this up to the point of giving him a Darla clone, Eve, to act as a contrary baddie – under the guise of being an antagonist, she is really a strawman who makes Angel feel that he’s fighting evil when he’s really succumbing to it.  And this plays into an interesting side of Liam/Angelus, I think, by both underlying his belief that everyone is born corrupted and the equally compelling desire to capitalize upon this by living a libertine lifestyle as a rejection of blatant societal hypocrisy.  that mercy is the most powerful thing in the world – even more than conviction – and then we see how his actions contradict his words.

You see where he is now, his intention of transforming W&H to serve his own purposes – No Mercy to the henchmen of W&H EXCEPT that they must all navigate the shark invested waters of the W&H clients.  Spike comes in and tell him just as it is with his belly of the beast declaration.  And Gunn has been corrupted toward serving the powerful of W&H perhaps more than all of them – if he wants to be this super powerful lawyer he has to sell himself to get it.  Angel had to do the same to save Connor and what a temptation it all is giving him access to all this power. 

You are so right about Angelus loving to be the FACE of Vampire Power and Vampire Privilege with his fancy clothes and wanting to live as the wealthy and powerful humans do – he liked the Crawford Mansion and his apartment also looked like it was a very nice living place. 

From the very beginning, we are also given a glimpse of the other side of the divide - the lowest employees wheeling mail carts throughout W&H – including our masked hidden hero from Numero Cinco.  And I think that the contrast between the lowly hero and the high-flown villain is particularly punched in Angel Season Five as a major culmination of Angel’s storyline up to this point.

Connor became almost a second Darla and the foundation for his Second Temptation and Fall except that with Darla Liam was acting from only a personal life with only his own life to lose.  With Connor, the temptation that could not be rejected the inversion is saving a life – that of his son.  The only reason that Connor is alive is because Darla was connected to the soul of Connor and she wiling chose to sacrifice her life for his birth.  Angel also thinks that he can give birth/life to Connor but he thinks he does not have to sacrifice his own life but, as you state, that he can outwit and game the system of W&H to continue his redemption road work.  All it will take is to finesse the rules and bend all things to eventually come out the winner. 

Spike too has to deal with this premise of making or controlling your own world and identity – Reality Bends To Desire.  Each one of Angel’s friends will have to deal with what their hearts hold dear or what they think they need and want to make them success, have power or bring love and peace into their lives.   Numero Cinco and his brothers are symbolic of the common man they people whom Angel and his AI Team were fighting for now they have to play the Twister Game to keep fighting for the hopeless and helpless.  We could say the Numero Cinco and his luchadores brothers are Angel, Gunn, Wesley, Lorne and Fred. 

There’s also an interesting divide in Wesley – who remains rather shabbily dressed and scruffy throughout – a reluctance to accept such good fortune.

Excellent Point!  Same on Fred – her death is foreshadowed right from the start.

But why cut the infamous "I love you - no you don't" lines in the flashback? Is that the last memory Spike had before he died?  If so, did his mind actually block out that exchange because it was too hurtful?  (Obviously, the real reason is that it would have been too confusing to viewers who had never watched Buffy - all ten of them might have walked away with the wrong impression.) 

Their relationship story is picked up pretty quickly.  PLUS, back then the Corporate Franchise branding was Buffy & Angel Love Forever.  That whole Immortal Lover story was retconned totally away.

Aurora: 

But he quickly realizes that no sympathy is to be found from Angel – or Harmony – or this group for a while – so he retreats from the soulful vamp of Buffy Season Seven to move into a harder shell.  And we see that Spike’s ghostly purgatory is a form of Hell:

 

SPIKE: I must be in Hell.

LORNE: LA – but a lot of people make that mistake.

A prefiguration of AtF, to be sure.

I like how they use the similar idea for Spike - Buffy also thinks when she is resurrected that she is in Hell – up in the tower she asked Dawn “Is…this hell?” 

SPIKE: Necromancer tried to make a deal with me.

ANGEL: What?

SPIKE: Said he could bring me back—body and soul—if I used our close personal relationship to double-cross you.

ANGEL: Tempting. So what'd you say?

SPIKE: You see, right there, that's the problem. You having to ask me that. I don't play for that side anymore, or haven't you heard? Besides... even if Mr. Death could do what he promised, I trust him about as much as you trust me.

ANGEL: What do you want from me?

SPIKE: I can't live like this, Angel. Being useless. (sighs) Being nothing. I want it to end.

 

Why does Spike say this?  Is it because he believes that Hainsley is listening?  Or it is because the part of his speech we didn’t hear is about a truce between the two vamps – Spike wants to be a part of the team and agrees to try and bring down Hainsley.

Spike has no choice – he has to be terrified first because of the resurrection and coming back as a ghost – he can’t effect or be physically connected to anything or anyone and additionally he is at the mercy of Angel and knows that his existence can be terminated by the decisions of Angel and his AI Team.  Angel/Angelus is the absolute personification of the powerless  weak human  William and the reason that Spike had to be created.  So Spike can either decided to survive and live to fight another day and make a deal with Angel or he can indeed have Angel bring him a final death by the destruction of the amulet.   I don’t see Spike as being a quitter – just as he told Buffy that she was not a quitter when she is betrayed by her own team and family.

SPIKE: I know what's down there—where it's trying to take me—and it's not the place heroes go. Not by a bloody long shot. It's the other one. Full of fire and torment. And it's happening. And I'm terrified.

Spike turns to face Fred.

SPIKE: Help me

Have to love how Spike sees himself from his history with Angelus now and how he sees them as both doomed to Hell – he answers Ange’s “Good bye” with “See you around” when the amulet should be destroyed and eventually Angel tells Spike that nothing matters and all their work for redemption means zero and they are both headed straight for hell upon their final deaths or lives on this world and dimension.

Also, again Spike repeats the words that he speaks to Buffy when he ask her to “help me” when he shows her all his victims he killed under the control of the First Evil.

Spike can't believe that he almost died to win his soul - that he did die to save the world - isn't that what the PTB wanted – and now he's being dragged to Hell despite all of his noble deeds. Or perhaps deep down, he feels he does deserve his fate because of all the murder and mayhem of his past. And he's afraid that Angel will feel the same way – because he knows that Angel feels that way about himself.

Another Excellent summary and observation – And Angel will dispel any hopes for Spike that all his efforts, his fighting for and winning back his soul and ultimate Heroic self-sacrifice is all for nothing and meaningless. The only thing that ultimately matters is all the evil they have done and all those deaths they caused.   And this is absolutely fascinating and most intriguing when you bring in Pavanne and the concept of “without a soul” Spike would not be undergoing the Pulled Into Hell events.  It’s fundamental in the Buffyverse canon that having their souls allows these two vampires to follow the path or redemption and takes them out of the automatic Evil Demon Vampire status.   Can’t help but take it back to Angel’s earlier comments regarding The Power of Mercy and that he is through with mercy.    

Angel :  FALLEN AGENT: What happened to mercy?

ANGEL: (walking out) You just saw the last of it.

Angel’s perceptions are that his No Mercy can work being applied to the Evil and Demons or Evil Humans – but can he really work within the evil of W&H and the Senior Partners and not become corrupted or fall under the control of those powers?  He already has had to fall under their control by using them to save Connor and he has Spike always there as a reminder of the deal with the devil that he has already made. 

Aurora: 

And I think this explains a lot of Spike’s outrageous behavior – there’s something to the idea of Puck Robin that Spike’s crap reward of being a ghost liberates him from his soulfulness in a sense – he lashes out in bitterness and makes a pretense of trying out the proposition that a souled Spike isn’t that much different than a soulless Spike – and intimates as much to Angel when he criticizes his love for luxury and power.  But as Spike tells Angel – even though he’s the head of a big law firm, Angel is no more in control of his destiny than Spike is as a ghost

One has to wonder how much impact Angel’s Nothing Matters and We Are Both Going To Hell has to do with Spike’s eventual agreeing to follow Angel on that final, IMO, suicidal taking on of the Circle of the Black Thorn.  Was Spike still be so heavily influenced by Angel/Angelus even at this point?  Wesley I can see as having been so completely devastated by Fred’s death that he willingly would give up on living – but for the others?  It was in the end Angel who dragged down Lorne into doing the killing of Lindsey.  Gunn  could see  no other choice once Wesley goes along with the plan and Illyria – well, it was her nature to live as her former self – Biggest Bad Ass God/King that would take her revenge.  

Hey Guys!

Sorry about the too long delay - I had a series of medical tests a few weeks ago plus some family stuff that just really took a lot out of me (being the hypochondriac that I am) and the last test came back clean yesterday.   So all is fine now - tests are good - I'm just finishing my rewatch on BuffyForum of Once More With Feeling and am raring to get back to the Angel Season Five next week.  I've got a LOT to say!  :P

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Spike "Into the Light" 159 Replies

Started by Double Dutchess. Last reply by cil domney Aug 5, 2014.

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