Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Broadcast February 13, 2001
By Jason Henderson
In "Crush," our evil hero Spike declares his love for our petulant heroine Buffy and fails utterly to win her heart. He ends the episode worse off than he began, forcibly shut out of the Slayer's life.
It's Valentine's Day, which for Spike the vampire means a final realization that, as someone observed, love is a swirling, sucking eddy of despair full of brief glimpses of false hope in an ever-darkening universe. Or something to that effect.
We open the episode with the Scooby Gang dancing at a the newly-remodeled Bronze, a club unique in that high school students gradually become college students and still go there. It's here that trouble begins, as Spike tries to hang out with Buffy only to be scorned by her. Soon Dawn, who's tired of the regulars treating her like a piece of China, goes to hang out with Spike at his lair (she's developed a thing for the Vampire Slayer Slayer, and he's the only one who talks to her with any forthrightness.) Spike is friendly and sweet towards Dawn, which infuriates Buffy when the Slayer finds her sister at Spike's lair. On the way home, Dawn reveals to her sister that Spike is in love with Buffy.
It's true, and when Spike drags Buffy out to a vampire lair to investigate a recent killing, Buffy confronts him about his feelings. Spike actually says, "I love you," causing Buffy to go rebuff him. Spike insists that he has changed and is willing to turn his back on "the whole evil thing," but Buffy thinks the chip in his head is all that keeps him from being evil. "You're like a serial killer in prison."
Spike wanders home, depressed, only to find: DRUSILLA! The vampiress has returned to retrieve Spike and bring him back to LA, where she's currently tormenting Angel. Dru insists the chip can be overcome with willpower and bloodlust, and invites Spike to drink of a dead girl at the Bronze. He drinks. But when the pair returns home, they find Buffy waiting to depress Spike even more. Spike actually goes so far as to offer to kill Dru for Buffy to prove his love, but Buffy isn't biting. Finally Dru (and the often forgotten actual girlfriend, Harmony) give up on Spike and exit, leaving Spike to beg Buffy once more to return his love. She tells him to get out of her and her friend's lives. We end with a real crusher-- as Spike discovers that Buffy has finally blocked Spike from entering her house.
Well, finally Spike's odd love for Buffy is in the open, and the result is a dismal failure. The whole storyline has been an odd one that, like the introduction of Dawn, challenges long-held beliefs about the Buffy world. The issue is less whether Buffy could fall for Spike but whether love could reform a vampire, who is supposed to be evil by nature. Dru observes that vampires can and do feel and express love ("well, if not wisely,") but Buffy insists that the only thing keeping Spike from his evil ways is the chip in his head. Dru isn't even all that impressed with the chip-- but what stops Spike from killing Buffy, love, obsession, the chip, or emerging goodness. Actually, we've seen on Angel that demons can go from evil to good, usually paying great tribute for their betrayal of the dark side. But can a vampire demon switch?
The real test would be if Spike were to reform once the chip was out, which he might be inclined to do to prove his love or simply because he wishes the conversion. But whether or not it would work we can only guess. The best evidence for Spike is his attitude towards Dawn, whom he counsels wisely and treats humanely. Does he do this just to please Buffy? After a while, would it matter-- isn't that the plot of almost every romance?
It’s sadly ironic that Buffy has invited or at least allowed Spike into her life as long as he was "evil in chains," but shuts him out when he declares himself devoted and good. Note that despite her denial of place with her at the beginning, it is to Spike that she turns, repeatedly, when she's worried about Dawn. Mind you, Buffy is under no obligation to return Spike's affection, but her punishment feels harsh: there's a hard note of pain on Spike's face when he realizes he can no longer enter her home.
For one brief moment we also see the old Spike, as he strides into the Bronze with Dru, looking every bit the evil he always was. But when he turns on Dru, he refers to his actions as "playing." Even Spike admits he's confused.
He's gonna get more confused: as of next episode, like so many lovelorns, Spike becomes a stalker, driving Buffy farther away. We'll see how that goes.
I have one question: IF Spike is unreformable, AND he's as dangerous as Buffy says, WHY hasn't she killed him yet? If it's to keep him as an occasional ally and informant, she's playing with fire-- but she at least should have lied and strung him along for a while.