yourlibrarian: Angel and Lindsey (DevilYouKnow: indulging_breck)
[personal profile] yourlibrarian posting in [community profile] buffyversemeta
I was considering something I mentioned in a discussion about "This is the Picture", which was the repeated use of young women as mentally ill or institutionalized in Joss Whedon's work and how Spike was a rare male recurring character who was shown in the same way. That led me to thinking more about his ensoulment and what a human soul even means in the Buffyverse.

Getting a Soul

There has been, in Buffy fandom, a vigorous debate about what the writers intended to do at the end of S6 with Spike's storyline. Was he always intended to get his soul? The official story is yes but there has always been doubt on this topic. And I'm not sure why because, to my eyes, nothing else really made any sense.

I'll be relatively brief about this because my real interest in this topic lies elsewhere. Given the dialogue and actions Spike takes in that final S6 arc, it seems to me there are four possible options for what he's going to do. He's either:

a) Going to try and kill the Slayer
b) Going to get his chip removed
c) Going to get her out of system so as to leave her and Sunnydale forever
d) Get his soul
e) Some combo of the above.

Out of all of these if we disbelieve (d) then (a) seems the seems a logical action given his dialogue. He's tried before and he may figure he needs some really powerful magic to do so given how many have tried and failed.

It does not, however, fit his character very well. When he's first introduced, Angel testifies to how relentless Spike is when he's focused on something. It's hard to believe he's really given up on trying to win her. He has, though, shown himself to be obsessed with Slayers. He has killed two of them with nothing more than "fists and fangs" and he knows Buffy better than any of them. While he might recognize the need for more firepower and some aces up his sleeves, it's hard to believe he'd ever outsource that job to someone else or do it by remote control.

The other thing is that Spike has always warned against magic and, however biased he was during Angel's activities in S2, he's been fairly consistent about being more likely to mock mystical mumbo jumbo than put himself on the line for some magic mojo. And let's not forget he has some serious trials to go through in which he could die to get whatever it is he wants from the cave demon. So I can't see him utilizing that option if he had other choices.

So we move on to option (b). His journey and trials seem like overkill for the chip. Sure he's going to have some trouble convincing a neurosurgeon to de-chip him but let's face it, he half-assed it last time. Clearly he could have gone to L.A. and had demon surgeons work on him, if not found a bribable doctor. After all, humans put it in him and in S7 they remove it without much difficulty, so this wasn't the sort of hurdle that required this kind of journey.

If I were going for an alternate possibility it would have been (c) for several reasons. Not only is it something for which there is no easy solution (especially for someone as tenacious as Spike), but I could see it as a behind-the-scenes plot as well in case JM's movie career interfered with his return to the show. It is also not negated by Spike getting a soul. It's entirely possible that he could have believed that once he had a soul that his feelings about Buffy would change, such as wanting to stay away from her for her own good.

So one could argue that this is what Spike really wanted and that the cave demon either fulfilled his desire in a really "be careful what you wish for" kind of way, or that it knew that no matter what he wanted to believe or said he wanted to do, he really did want to be worthy of her.

Or he could have just wanted a soul. But the question to me was, what do the cave demons get out of granting wishes? Clearly it or they are very powerful if they can re-ensoul a vampire. The series never refers to them again or explains anything about them so we can't say how Spike heard of them or what they're known for. But it seems to me pretty unlikely that they're either hit men for hire or tech specialists.

My assumption about the trials is that they were done to avoid being overrun with people clamoring for wish fulfillment. But one would also assume that the demons get something out of the whole process. It could be as simple as a sadistic pleasure in watching their petitioners struggle and suffer. The higher the stakes, the more those coming to them are willing to endure.

I would think though that it wouldn't be all that difficult for them to satisfy that need if it were all they wanted. After all, in Angel S1, the episode "The Ring" shows that it's quite possible to get people and demons to fight to the death without having to grant wishes.

While I have no evidence for this one way or another, I think there's something else at play, perhaps the satisfaction of seeing an individual transformed. Season 6 has been criticized often for Willow's storyline which was an intentional drug addiction metaphor. I don't know as I've ever seen Spike's resouling spoken of in the same terms though, even though Willow and Buffy were paralleled throughout the season and there's no question that she and Spike were engaged in a mutually obsessive dance. Although Spike hasn't stopped caring about Buffy any more than Willow has lost her taste for magic, during S7 both take a less selfish approach in expressing the issues at their core. They don't seem transformed so much as they are curbed.

Yet what Spike asks of the cave demon is:

"So, you give me what I want. Make me what I was."

Some have rightly pointed out that re-ensouling Spike does not actually meet the terms of this wish because Spike was neither made human again nor had he previously been a souled demon. If the cave demon had made him human again he would certainly have been transformed, but he would perhaps not have fulfilled the second part of his wish " Buffy can get what she deserves."

What Buffy needed in S7 was not another human ally. What she needed was what she got: a demon under better control of himself, one who could put aside his own needs and wishes in favor of hers (if not that of others), and who had the strength to both wear the amulet and help her close the hellmouth. And apparently only a Spike altered by his soul could have done the last part.

So I find it interesting to speculate that the cave demons are, specifically, transformational demons rather than merely wish granters, and it is for this particular skill that they're sought out.

Continue to Part 2

Date: 2016-08-28 07:51 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That is interesting. I enjoyed your analysis. I enjoy reading meta that is clearly reasoned and concise, and this was both.

It is a very long time since I watched any Buffy episodes, but I know that this question can still cause all sorts of disagreements between fans, so I am commenting in a spirit of pure speculation. And in fact, I am not sure my interpretation is not compatible with your analysis. Back when I watched season 6 and 7, I saw his conscious motivation as a desire to simply get the chip removed, that the demon make him what he was before.

Yes, a human surgeon could take it out, but he had tried that route and failed. At that point, as I remember, he was desperate. He hated what his unlife had become and his quest was for a return to the old certainties and simplicity of season 2. He wanted rid of all that internal conflict and confusion, and Buffy with it. If he got the chip out, he thought he would be a proper demon again and his obsession with Buffy would revert to a healthy desire to kill her without concern, as he had killed the other two slayers.

But he was deluding himself and the demon granted his true wish, rather than the one he could admit to, to himself, but which was betrayed by his postscript to his wish, " Buffy can get what she deserves."

Date: 2016-08-28 11:24 pm (UTC)
gillo: (Mediaeval O)
From: [personal profile] gillo
The chip has not been an impediment to his killing Buffy all season, as we have been repeatedly reminded. Indeed, she is quite possibly the only human he could have attacked in the bathroom scene without intense pain. Thus it makes no sense that he went to get the chip out.

To become what he was could mean several things, from being a living Victorian poet to a violent vampire to being emailed. The request is just vague enough that the demon is able to interpret it, as demons do, in a way that will cause him maximum pain. It's possible to argue he didn't really know what he was asking for, though his constant awareness of Angel and the loving relationship he had with Buffy seems to me justification enough for the getting a soul argument.

Date: 2016-08-30 01:28 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I think that Spike chose his path earlier when Dru demonstrated that she would take care of him and he could fundamentally go back to being a demon - and instead he chose to offer Dru as a sacrifice to Buffy. The episode was crap - but the more I think of it the more it shows that even at this point he had made a deliberate choice to follow Buffy, and stay handicapped.

As for - make me what I was - I always took that as make me souled. That seems to be the key denominator between human and vamp. Spike vents - he did the same thing when Dru left him and he wanted her back - so I take his venting with a hunk of salt.

Now, the demon. I never gave the matter much thought. I'm not sure I could go for transformational demons - it seems to be more of a power limitation if this is all they do. I can see that in addition to granting other wishes though. The trials are nonspecific enough. I wonder if exercising his power makes the demon more powerful. And does he ever get out of the cave or was he doomed to stay and grant wishes?

I think it was season 2 where Spike made the connection between magic and consequences - he did a spell and ended up in a wheelchair, badly burned, and then had Angelus take his life away. All of that was a direct, concrete result of the spell. In season 6 - when he warns that magic has consequences - the hitchhiker was a blind. The consequences were practical consequences - everyone's lives being ripped apart. Something Blue also showed the consequences of magic.

And knowing what magic can do, he still sought out magic to make him able to trust himself, able to control himself. Of course, as per usual, the magic had consequences.
Edited Date: 2016-08-30 01:28 am (UTC)


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