Thursday, July 22, 2010

#7: Spike

The sensitive poet William was hardly the obvious candidate for vampirehood that the lusty Irish ne'er-do-well Liam had been some 130 years previously. Though the extent to which the personality of a human affect the personality of the vampire he or she becomes is debated within the Buffyverse, it seems clear that differences that exist between Angel and Spike, the two principal vampires of the Buffyverse, have some connections to the differences that existed between their human predecessors.

A hundred years and change later, when Spike strutted into Sunnydale with his love and his sire Drusilla (who was sired in turn by Angelus), in David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon's “School Hard”, with 749 words and the first of 23 top-two appearances (number two), he was an arrogant, self-assured 'punk' bearing little relation to the man he used to be. It was this character that became Buffy the Vampire Slayer's 'breakout' character, progressing from a one-note villian designed in early Season Two to replace the rapidly-aging 'anointed one' through to comic relief as a desperate vampire neutered by a chip in his head to a more noble ally of Buffy's and protector of Dawn to a lover of Buffy's (her second and final 'big love', excluding Riley) to an ensouled teammate and, finally, after the termination of Buffy, as again a comic foil on Angel. That simplifies Spike's role on the shows, but does give an indication of the ways he's progressed from minor recurring bad guy to central figure in the Buffyverse.

Season Two seems to feature Spike and Drusilla as the 'big bad' until Angel loses his soul and turns Spike into a kind of ally for Buffy. His 3117 words that season are surprisingly few, but across twelve episodes he's mostly minor, excepting his first appearance and his final one that season, “Becoming, Part Two”, where he's again #2 with 454 words. He finishes number seven for that season.

In Season Three, Spike appears in only one episode, the great “Lovers Walk”, where he returns to Sunnydale a mess, having broken up with Drusilla but manages to break up two of the Scoobies' main couples. It's just one episode, but at 1098 words and a number one, Spike's left his fingerprints on this season too.

Season Four starts to feature Spike more regularly, in 18 of 22 b, and with a number six finish. The Initiative have implanted a chip in his head that makes him 'harmless', and he spends much of this season as a comic element – intended, apparently, to replace Cordelia, who had departed for Angel. “The Yoko Factor” is his sole number-one this season, where he uses his 'Yoko' status to break the Scoobies' friendships apart. He spends 1014 words doing so.

I should have said his sole number one that season on Buffy, as he also comes in at number one with 979 words during a one-off appearance on the début season of Angel, in “In the Dark”, where he has come to L.A. to torture the Gem of Amarra out of Angel.

No one would doubt that Spike has a significant role in Season Five, the season of Glory and Dawn. I'm not sure, though, how many people would correctly guess just how important. Somehow, this season, Spike manages to eke out an incredible number two finish: ahead of Willow, ahead of Xander. He does it by saying 8144 words in 21 of the season's 22 episodes (he's absent from the stark “The Body”), finishing number two twice: in “Out of My Head” with 678 words attempting to get a doctor to remove the chip from his head, and in “Intervention” with 546 words hilariously together with the Buffybot and less comically braving torture to protect Dawn. However, these pale next to his amazing contributions to two 'Spike episodes' revolving around his history and his love life. In “Crush”, he says an amazing 1322 words confronting a shocked Buffy with the fact of his love while Drusilla laughs in the background. Tough to see why Buffy's shocked, though, as it's obvious from seven episodes hence, “Fool for Love”, an amazing episode where we learn a lot about the character of Spike. He bests “Crush” by one word, with 1323 words being his highest word count on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and with 40.6% of the dialogue – not far off half of the whole script – being the highest percentage of dialogue in the entire 254-episode Buffyverse.

Progressing quickly from Buffy's confidante to her lover, Spike would appear to be just as crucial to Season Six as he was to Season Five, but in fact his significance drops off greatly, with 7238 words and a number five finish. There are no real 'Spike episodes' this season, and as such no number-one finishes, though he scores number two in “Smashed”, where he and Buffy violently consummate their relationship (645 words) and “Dead Things”, where he tries to prevent Buffy from turning herself into the police. He finishes number four in “Seeing Red”, the episode where Tara's death overshadows the other ugly event: his attempted rape of Buffy. This leads him to see the season out in Africa, attempting to regain his soul.

The final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer once again features 'soulful Spike' in a greatly expanded role: though 7279 words is barely any more than the previous season, it's enough to pole-vault him back to a number two finish. He has an impressive three number-one finishes: “Beneath You”, with 1143 words his peak that season, revealing to Buffy the fact of his newly-returned soul; “Sleeper”, with 746 words, killing humans again under the influence of the First; and “Lies My Parents Told Me”, a resolution to Spike's mother-fixated weakness which the First had been abusing, a resolution to Robin's mother-fixated vendetta on Spike, and incidentally a resolution to Buffy and Giles's father-daughter relationship. With 301 words, Spike finishes fourth in series finale “Chosen”, where an amulet given to Angel by Wolfram & Hart allows Spike to save the day but at the cost of his life. “Spike...” is the last word Buffy says, and he appears to join Anya as a sacrifice to the final battle with the First.

But... something so simple as burning up in the sunlight while destroying the whole town you're presently underneath isn't enough to get rid of Spike... not when his fans were so vocal. As Angel carried on for one final season after the termination of Buffy, Spike was sent to Wolfram & Hart as a non-corporeal ensouled vampire to play Angel's 'frenemy', engaging in constant bickering spats and for a second time 'replacing Cordelia' as Angel's funny man. In so doing, Spike had by a considerable distance his most talkative season, with 12,740 words, three number twos and five number ones (and a very obvious number two for the season).

Spike's number twos include “Underneath” and “Power Play”, but the most impressive one is “The Girl in Question”, a buddy comedy sending Spike and Angel to Rome in search of Buffy. Spike's 1155 words are less than Angel's 1444, but between them, the pair speak 51.8% of the episode. Spike's five number ones are all tucked into the first half of the season, starting with episode number two, “Just Rewards”, in which he comes to terms with the fact of his ghost-like existence within Wolfram & Hart over an amazing 1606 words, his highest ever. Two episodes later, Spike's back at number one with 1180 words in “Hellbound”, a bit of a continuation, in which he comes to believe that he is drifting permanently toward eternal damnation. Four episodes after that, Spike becomes corporeal, and we have “Destiny”, another buddy-movie episode where Spike finds out that his and Angel's destinies are intertwined in several ways. His 1175 words are only 15 more than Angel's 1160, and between them they get 52.8% of the whole episode. Two episodes after that, we get the impressive “Soul Purpose”, where Angel dreams about Spike stealing his destiny. Spike's 878 words give him a number one finish, while Angel ekes in at a mere number five – perhaps due to the fact that David Boreanaz was busier behind the camera than in front. Spike's final number one is the very next episode, “Damage”, a great follow-up to the legacy of “Chosen”, where Buffy's plan to activate all potential slayers has created in L.A. a psychotic slayer who blames Spike for the trauma she suffered as a child.

A character as important as Spike doesn't really die... well, not permanently, anyway. He is shoulder-to-shoulder with Angel in “Not Fade Away”, about to go into battle, and his character is all over the comic book series that have followed the Buffyverse's televisual demise. James Marsters might even appear in a made-for-TV movie in the role. There's just no killing Spike.
  • Overall ranking: #7
  • Ranking on Buffy: #5
  • Ranking on Angel: #7
  • Total words spoken on Buffy: 32,573
    • Season 2: 3117
    • Season 3: 1098
    • Season 4: 5697
    • Season 5: 8144
    • Season 6: 7238
    • Season 7: 7279
  • Total words spoken on Angel: 13,780
    • Season 1: 979
    • Season 2: 61
    • Season 5: 12,740
  • Total words spoken in the Buffyverse: 46,353
  • Total speaking appearances on Buffy: 95
    • Ranking #1: 7
    • Ranking #2: 7
    • Ranking #3: 6
    • Ranking #4: 10
    • Ranking #5: 12
    • Minor: 53
  • Total speaking appearances on Angel: 24
    • Ranking #1: 6
    • Ranking #2: 3
    • Ranking #3: 1
    • Ranking #4: 1
    • Ranking #5: 7
    • Minor: 6
  • Total speaking appearances in the Buffyverse: 119
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment