FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Lover's Walk
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Spike left town with Dru after double-crossing Angel back in Season 2. Xander and Willow have been secretly kissing behind their respective other halves' backs and Buffy and Angel are finding it equally difficult to be friends. The gang have also taken their SATs.
And, ladies and gentlemen, the talent has returned. Not that the others aren't talented, but which other character could make an entrance quite so spectacular as crashing into the Welcome to Sunnydale sign, mirroring his initial arrival, but instead of getting out and being all badass, he falls out the car because he's drunk? Ah Spike. How I've missed you.
Spike's return to Sunnydale is a direct result of his alliance with Buffy in Becoming; after stealing Dru away, she bemoans the manner of their departure, calls Spike soft and makes out with a chaos demon. Spike decides the best way to cope with this is to return to Sunnydale (though this seems a little illogical come to think of it - do they not have magic shops in Brazil?) and work out a way to get Dru back. When he spies Willow in the magic shop, he promptly kills the sales assistant (Magic Shop Death #2 for those keeping track) and kidnaps both Willow and Xander. He soon runs into Buffy and Angel though, willing to offer them both insults and home truths.
Like Band Candy, Lover's Walk is one of the more memorable standalones of the third season, primarily thanks to the presence of James Marsters, back with bleached blond hair and leather trenchcoat in tow. It's the start of the softer side of Spike, more concerned with the woman he loves than he is about being a fearsome vampire (Holy Foreshadowing Batman #1).
He's the unwitting voice of reason in the Buffy and Angel saga, pointing out that this whole friends thing is just a bit ridiculous. The interactions between the three of them as they begrudgingly team up is one of the best things about this episode, especially Spike's taunting of Angel behind Joyce's back. Yet Spike becomes the voice of honesty, declaring that Buffy and Angel will fight, shag and hate each other, but they'll never just be friends. And so it proves.
Spike also serves to disrupt the status quo in more ways than one, causing chaos amidst the various romantic entanglements of the Scooby Gang. Not only does he lecture Buffy and Angel about their ridiculous pact to remain friends, but he also manages to inadvertently destroy the two stable relationships of the group. As Willow attempts to cast an anti-love spell to solve her problems (Holy Foreshadowing Batman #2), Spike kidnaps them both. The threat of impending death offers the opportunity for a final, lustful clinch... only for Cordelia and Oz to discover them in the act. After the hilarity of the earlier scenes, it's an abrupt but necessary dramatic shift into a more sombre mood.
It's the episode that really starts to introduce the themes of change and the inevitability of growing up that start to ramp up as we approach Graduation Day and what better way to show that than through the break up of relationships. There is nothing so transient when you're a teenager as that first flush of romance; relationships break up with ease over the smallest of things and there's nothing quite like getting over one. It feels monumental, as if the world will end (and in Buffy and Angel's case, it very nearly did).
These break-ups go on to define much of the Scoobies' interactions moving forward, particularly in Cordelia's case. It's a big sign that times are a'changing like Buffy's newfound possible college-based future, alongside the smaller signs regarding the Mayor. The scene in which he attempts to putt whilst sorting out the newly arrived Spike problem in Sunnydale reminds us once again that he's been pulling strings the entire time. What makes the Mayor such a great villain is just how banal he is; he's afraid of germs, likes golf and being organised. Hardly the stuff of nightmares.
It'll be a while before we see Spike back in Sunnydale again, but it's a lot of fun to check back in with everyone's Billy Idol-a-like (even though we all know Billy stole his look from the vampire). Next week, it's The Wish which is just about one of the best alternative world episodes ever.
Quote of the Week:
Spike: I may be love's bitch, but at least I'm man enough to admit it.
Let's Get Trivial: Angel is sat reading a book by Sartre, La Nausee to be precise. All about one man's interaction with the world around him, the consequences of living alone and a lost lover, who has changed too much to love him still.
You can check out Becky's look at previous episode Revelations here