Many believe that the future of Spike is inexorably tied to that of Buffy. This is, of course, the predominant opinion of those known as Spike and Buffy (S/B) Shippers. Obviously that feeling isn't entirely shared by the B/A Shippers, who will forever hope for the reuniting of Buffy and Angel. As it will become obvious further into this oration, let me clarify that I am a member of the latter group. As a firm devotee of the show from its inception, I have always believed that the love shared by Buffy and Angel is infinite and unbreakable. For this reason, my earlier addresses have suggested the necessity of a new character to which Spike can convey his affections. I would like to illuminate the reasons behind this, and to explain why IMO Buffy and Spike's relationship is not viable.
It is a commonly held feeling that the longevity of Buffy (the character not the show) is directly tied to those she holds dear. As has been stated and displayed numerous times, Slayer's don't have a history of endurance. I believe that Buffy once stated that the average life expectancy of a Slayer is 25. That number even seems a bit high, from what little we know of the past slayers. Buffy herself died twice by the time reached 21. Both of her deaths were rescinded (for lack of a better word) by her friends. Xander brought life back to a drowned Buffy, and the Scoobies worked some serious magick to restore her life again.
Combine that with the many times where their assistance might've hastened the demise of our beloved heroine, and you see why Buffy's friends are responsible for her ability to beat the odds. Even after his departure from Sunnydale, Angel's assistance has been invaluable as well. Without his help, Xander might never have found Buffy to revive her the first time. Her deep commitment to her friends and family is one of the things that make her so special. In fact, it's her inability to feel as much for them now that's contributing to her current state, that of a hollow person searching to find new meaning in her life. This includes Angel, although his presence isn't of as immediate importance just now.
Through the past and present of the show, the love of Buffy for her friends, her mother, sister, and Angel is of paramount importance to her work and efforts to repeatedly save the world. This is where her drive comes from, and it's one of the factors that have kept us glued to our teles for 6 years. That, and the fact that she kicks serious ass. Her romance with Angel was another thing that kept us around, exhibiting our desire to believe in true devotion. Even with him gone, we still feel and see his influence. Even with him gone, we miss and love them together. Even with him gone, he and Buffy are eternal.
The brilliant Joss Whedon created a love story that could transcend time, distance, and a network gap. Angel loved Buffy before she grew to be the wonderful woman we know, and he continues to love her despite mistakes she's made. Her, apparently final, death ripped his heart open for all to see. When she needed him most, after the loss of her mother, he came to her without reservation. When she returned to the world, he rushed again to be by her side. I've little doubt that, barring the behavior of the WB network, his presence would be of vital importance in restoring her drive and lust for life in the near future.
The power of their affection goes both ways. Buffy can see the man in Angel, overlooking the demon that haunts him. Even through the atrocities committed by Angelus, Buffy was initially unable to kill him knowing her Angel was somewhere inside. When the world wanted Angel gone, Buffy held him to her, and refused to let him leave us. The strength of her love, symbolized by her Claddagh ring, induced Angel's return from a hell dimension. Once she realized that Angel's caring was legitimate, due to the gypsies curse, she loved him wholly even with the demon's face present.
Angel's one chance at humanity might have coincided with Buffy's presence by chance, but there's no doubt he would've gone straight to her if she hadn't already been in Los Angeles. And it was only his desire to protect and help her that caused him to give up his newfound humanity.
It's always been made clear that Buffy and Angel's love was eternal. Through all their struggles and pains, they've never even pretended they didn't love one another. It was for this reason that we were forced to say goodbye to Riley. He knew, as all of us know, that she could never love him as she had loved in the past. For Spike and Buffy to truly fall in love would corrupt that in a way that even Riley never did.
Angel isn't dead, and he is never far from Buffy's mind and heart. It has been foretold that one day he will be a man again, and it's clear he'll go to Buffy when that time comes. When the hardest work is over, when Buffy won't be forced to protect him instead of the other way around, they will be together. Even if we never see this onscreen, it must come to be in our minds and hearts. If it doesn't, forever means nothing anymore.
Beyond personal desires of those in love with the Whedonverse, there is yet another barrier between a true relationship for Buffy and Spike.
Spike's love for Buffy is a manifestation of his current ambiguity of emotion. He is caught between what he was and what he will be. As Buffy stated in "Smashed", he can't be a human or a vampire, so he's lost somewhere in the limbo of in between. He implied his true ache in "Once More, with Feeling", telling Buffy that she had to live so that one of them was.
Similarly, the attraction Buffy now feels for Spike is rooted in her own confusion between her past and future. She no longer feels like the Buffy of old, and she has no idea where she will go from here. The only thing she can feel is distorted passion, and that lends itself well to a physical relationship with Spike. He represents a dark part of her that she can't quell, the desire to die.
Now that Buffy knows the peace that can be found in death, she craves it. But her sense of duty and responsibility to those she loves prevents her from seeking that escape. Spike said he was in her blood, but it was more a desire for oblivion that surges through her veins. Spike, as no longer a live man, represents that desire. It's this that draws her to him, wrong as she might know it to be.
This creates a sad co-dependency that is unhealthy for both of their futures. Spike's desire to live and Buffy's desire to die create a strange symbiosis, but it cannot lead to any lasting happiness. If either of them gained what they really want, it would break that bond. Buffy must find a will to live beyond duty and the protection of those she loves. She must discover how to feel again, and to regain the joy in life she once had. Spike must discover what he wants for his future, and which path he intends to take. He cannot use Buffy as an excuse to be good, but find his own reasons and a new focus for his destiny.
I sound contradictory, since I've claimed earlier that a new love would give him a desire to be good. But I feel that Spike is trying to be good to impress upon Buffy that he is worthy of her. My suggestions for someone else to turn his affections to would not be for those reasons. She would be someone for whom he wanted to be a better man. Not solely to impress her, but because he can see his own reflection in her eyes, and he aches to achieve the good she sees in him. Buffy doesn't see good in him, only darkness. She recognizes his motivations, and thusly could never trust him with her heart.
It's for all these reasons that I cannot imagine Joss allowing a positive relationship to blossom for Spike and Buffy. For the time, their struggle is purposeful and useful to the development of both characters. And perhaps, after a time of Spike fully embracing the possibility of being a good man, a true friendship could be established. But for now, all I can see in their relationship is dysfunction and disaster.
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