Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)


As Buffy and Angel continued to evolve, it seemed to me that Spike fans began to eclipse all of the Buffyverse. And I get it. I mean, Spike is a pretty incredible character. His transition from bad guy, to goofball, to pathetically infatuated with Buffy, to genuine hero was very compelling. I’ve sometimes heard the argument made that Spike manages to do more good without a soul than Angel can do with one. And while I’m a hardcore Angel fan, I have to concede this point. Spike says it to Angel himself: he fought for his soul. He went after it. For the wrong reasons, maybe, but Spike earned it nonetheless. The thing Angel was cursed with was the thing Spike went out and got for himself.

So one vampire running around with a soul is weird. Two? Inexplicable. When Spike gets his soul back, it would have been easy--I think--to let this plot point become routine. Like "Oh, a vampire with a soul- it happens sometimes." What I love about the final season of Angel is how much they don't just let that plot point go. Two vampires with a soul? What does this mean exactly? Could Spike actually be the destined vampire of the Shanshu prophecy? What if all of this isn’t about Angel? Could Angel be the wrong guy?

I mean, let’s face it: Angel has a lot of problems sustaining heroism. He starts brooding, gets distracted and has trouble believing he’s even worth redeeming. Not for nothing: Spike has done some really horrible things in his tenure as a soulless vampire. I mean, killing two Slayers isn’t just horrible; it’s like a blow to the forces of good everywhere. Still it seems to me that everything Spike has ever done has been about challenging himself and striving to be better, or at least different. He’s a poet: a woman tells him he’s nothing. He becomes a vampire: he gets in there and fights slayers. It’s crazy, as even Angel and Darla bolt at the first sign of a Slayer. But Spike? He goes for it. Because he’s got something to prove.

Spike comments to Angelus that there’s no reason not to act like vampires now that they are vampires. I guess you can say Spike sets out to be the best vampire he can be, as bizarre a statement of that sounds. Angelus seems compelled to emotionally and mentally torture his victims. And while you could make the argument that Spike just isn’t quite that bright, he seems to prefer a fair fight. So it does seem like strangely, Spike’s experiences have preserved something kind of pseudo-noble about him, despite all the bad that he does as a vampire. And all that striving to make himself better seems to make Spike very insightful about people. And honest (sometimes). So I guess the question the fifth season of Angel leaves us with is this: is Spike really the hero here? Is this the guy the Powers that Be have been looking for all along?

Well, all of what I’ve written here is very compelling evidence. Now, that being said? Spike doing Angel’s job doesn’t end up seeming to go as well as you’d think. He’s a little TOO honest, a little TOO blunt with the people he’s trying to help. It seems like, even when Spike is trying to save someone’s soul, brute force is still what Spike falls back on. So maybe, in a weird way, Angel’s dark side actually makes him a little bit of a more effective guide. This whole thing could just be some kind of cosmic game. After all, it seems like Wolfram and Hart are the ones who arrange for Spike to arrive in Angel Investigations' care. Maybe this is just some other game to throw Angel off the scent of what he really needs to be doing?

Stranger still, this whole thing might just be some kind of cosmic loophole. Maybe this is just one of those things that no one could have seen coming, but Spike could fulfill the prophecy in Angel’s place, whether it was meant to be or not. Still, let’s say Spike is the hero. Maybe one day Spike is even the one who is going to end up with Buffy (lo and behold, I think there’s a good chance Buffy is moving on and has no intention of returning to be with either of these two- but that’s a whole other story). So where does that leave Angel? Spike provides an interesting dilemma for our hero. Angel has been stripped bare so many times on this show, but this one cuts the deepest I think.

What if Spike is the hero? What if he’s the one who’s going to ride off into the sunset with the girl when it’s all over? Will Angel do the right thing? See, a big theme on the show is that doing the right thing is worth doing in and of itself, not purely for any reward. If Angel has to give up the fantasy that there even is a reward waiting for him when this is all over can he keep going? It’s a really painful sacrifice, but I love that Spike’s arrival turns everything on its head and leaves you wondering could you do the same? Would you keep doing the right thing, even if you felt like you weren’t going to get what you wanted?

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