Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Season 5, Episode “Fool for Love”
Broadcast November 14, 2000
Sarah Michelle Gellar .... Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon .... Alexander 'Xander' Harris
Alyson Hannigan .... Willow Rosenberg
Marc Blucas .... Riley Finn
Michelle Trachtenberg .... Dawn Summers
Amber Benson .... Tara
Anthony Head .... Rupert Giles
James Marsters .... Spike/William the Bloody
Kristine Sutherland .... Joyce Summers
Mercedes McNab .... Harmony Kendall
Emma Caulfield .... Anya Emerson
Buffy fights a sleazy-looking, Dokken-haired vampire with a cheap leather jacket, who manages to seize her own stake and drive it painfully into her stomach.
Buffy runs, wounded, but the longhaired vampire catches up to her. From nowhere, Riley arrives to save her. He patches her wounds himself because Buffy refuses to go to a hospital. (Luckily, she has a Slayer healing factor.)
Buffy can’t figure out why she suddenly lost to a garden-variety vampire. She lets Dawn in on her injury so her sister can help her out around the house until she heals completely.
That night, Riley leads the Buffy-less Scooby Gang on a patrol, but he’s dissatisfied with their professionalism.
Buffy tells Giles she’s frustrated that the files on other Slayers are woefully inadequate, but she knows one person who killed two: Spike. She tells the now-defanged vampire, “You’re gonna show me how.”
Two Slayers-- one in China during the Boxer Rebellion, one in New York. Both killed by Spike. She’ll pay for the story. Spike wants buffalo wings and he’ll talk.
We flash to a Victorian Spike in London, 1880, and he’s a middle-class, Giles-like, tan, mop-headed blond who writes poetry in the corner of parties and gets mocked by the guests. He’s called William the Bloody, and he’s in love with a lady named Cecily. Cecily rejects his love (“you’re nothing to me... you’re beneath me,”) and William runs into the streets.
A mysterious killer is stalking the streets, and the killer appears to William: it’s Drusilla, a psychic and vampire who knows him to be a man of vision. “You’re wealth lies... in the spirit and imagination. You walk in worlds that others can’t begin to imagine.” He is struck by her vocabulary, which echoes his own, and she bits him on the neck.
In modern day Sunnydale, the Scooby Gang spot the heavy metal vampire in the graveyard. They track Count Dokken to a particular vampire-infested crypt and decide to return in the morning, when the vampires sleep.
Back in the nineteenth century, Spike has now been travelling for some time with Angel, Drusilla and Darla, Angel’s sire. They’re angry with him because Spike has, along with his new name, taken to making grand, public kills. So now they have to hide. Spike hears of and is intrigued by the myth of the Slayer, the only thing he has to fear.
The Victorian Era Slayer was Chinese, and Spike fought her in 1900 in China. He bit her neck and killed her, acquiring a taste for killing Slayers.
Drusilla is duly impressed that Spike killed a Slayer. (The blood of a Slayer, Spike says, is powerful aphrodisiac.) Angel is a little more irritated, but he might just be jealous.
As the triumphant vampire gang walks through the chaos of China as Beijing burns, Spike is drunk on his killing. It was the best day of his life, he says.
Lesson the first for Buffy was “Always reach for your weapon first.” The second, he tells her as they semi-spar outside the Bronze, is to focus not on how he won, but how the Slayer’s lost. He insists she’s not ready to know.
But he’ll try, and we’re whisked back to the New York Subway, 1977, and Spike is a punk rocker who’s traded a blond ponytail for a platinum crew cut and now fights a Pam Grier-like Slayer.
“Death is your art,” he says, “and part of you is desperate to know what it’s like... every slayer has a death wish. Even you.” All that keeps her from giving in to her death wish is her attachment on so many fronts to the everyday world-- family, friends, etc. But it will get her in the end, and all Spike needs is one good day to catch up to her.
Spike ends his lesson by trying to kiss Buffy, and she rejects him, taunting, “It would never be you... you’re beneath me.” She throws him his pay and storms away.
Alone in the alley, Spike chokes back tears and seems to reach a new resolve. He goes home to his crypt and grabs a rifle.
Spike is ready to take the pain that will come from shooting her.
We flash back to the period when Spike and Dru ran off together last, and learn that one other things that drove the vampire pair apart was Spike's growing obsession with Buffy, whom he had failed to kill.
Buffy cries on her porch when she learns that her mother may have cancer, and Spike walks up, preparing to shoot her. But instead he asks her what’s wrong and offers to help. He puts down his rifle and sits beside her silently in the night.
"Fool for Love" is bound to be a fan favorite for the simple fact that it goes where no show has gone before: not only is this a cross-over episode with Angel, but it actually shares scenes with the Angel episode of the same night, Darla. It's common for a show to share flashbacks, but these are new scenes that can be understood differently depending on which episode you're watching. It's an impressive experiment.
But even without that trick, "Fool for Love" is the sort of well-written episode that Buffy earned its reputation on. The script performs neat narrative tricks like having Spike talk in his flashback to Buffy, who is listening outside the flashback. This is the sort of visualization of memory that takes work to envision but ends up looking perfect on screen.
The story centers on Spike, who we learn (as we have been reminded from time to time) was the Slayers' nightmare, having killed two of them since his vampirism at the age of 20 in Victorian England. Most impressive is that Spike is a genuine character and hero of his own story, in the way that Buffy is the hero of hers. Spike overcame rejection by the woman he loved to take on vampirism and finally found a goal to devote himself to: killing Slayers. And like every assassin in every assassin movie, Spike meets his match not when he meets a Slayer who fights better than he, but when he meets one he can't help but fall in love with.
And that's Buffy-- Buffy, who hasn't even had the training that her sister Slayer Kendra received, who knows little of tradition, who seems to have survived a long time and done a lot of historically important Slayer things-- such as firing her watcher. Buffy is the Slayer who trips Spike up. Drusilla knew it, and left Spike because he "tasted like ashes."
And for money, he's willing to tell her where her weakness would lie.
Spike's solution is that Buffy, like all Slayers, is curious about her death and all it will take is "one good day" for her foe to kill her. Indeed, we two such good days for Spike, when he kills the Chinese Slayer in 1900, and the Pam Grier Slayer in New York in 1979.
Pam Grier is my favorite-- what a groovy idea-- and I especially like that Spike got his long coat from her.
But Buffy's rejection of Spike, although completely fair in light of his evil, hurts, and even Spike chokes back tears. One suspects he would indeed have shot Buffy in the head had she not been crying at the time, which triggers Spike's mercy and love.
Spike wants to help, but he's evil. He's a demon in a human host. He has no soul. There is no evidence in the Buffy universe that a vampire can reform towards good without some special Gypsy curse at work, so Spike's love for Buffy dooms him to confusion. He should be destroyed, in fact, but he won't be. The irony is that Angel was lucky enough to get the curse, whereas Spike must suffer without it.
Buffy, meanwhile, stays attached to her life and is probably doing better as a Slayer for the very reasons that Buffy is a different Slayer to begin with: she has kept her friends close. Last season Buffy nastily said there was no ancient prophesy about "the Slayer and her friends," but Spike knows that human entanglements are keeping Buffy from giving in to the suicidal tendencies that come with being a super-powered killing machine.
In a minor note, despite Riley's experience here, we've we’ve seen Xander and Willow doing quite well hunting vampires on their own. They were doing that the whole time Buffy was missing ( see “Anne”).
Here's a question: in this episode, we see Dru kill Spike to vampirize him. Didn't Spike call Angel "old sire?" Here Angel seems more like a grand-sire.
The single best moment in the whole episode is the slow-motion shot, when the vampire family walk through burning Peking. It's a nice piece of work that gets used again in the Angel episode, "Darla."
Lastly, Joyce may have cancer. Perhaps Spike could vampirize her to save her, but only if they asked.
Spike: “I could have danced all night with that one.”
Buffy: "You think we’re dancing?”
Spike: "That’s all we’ve ever done.”