Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 5, Episode 7: Fool for LoveWritten by Douglas Petrie; Directed by Nick Marck
Here we go with the first 10/10 episode of the season, and for once it's not a Joss Whedon episode. Fool for Love, which Douglas Petrie admits he wrote over a long weekend at the last minute, is surprisingly assured for a rush job. This is essentially the origin story of Spike, which serves as a two-parter with the Angel episode Darla which immediately follows it (and which, therefore, I'll be reviewing next), but despite the focus on Captain Peroxide, it's really more about the essence of the Slayer and the death wish that goes with it. Spike claims that, deep down, a part of every Slayer actually wants to die. Buffy denies this, of course, but it's interesting that, in the final episode of the season, she willingly chooses death in order to save Dawn's life.
Most of the regular gang - Willow, Xander, Anya, Dawn, Giles, Riley, Joyce - all get a couple of scenes, but this is undoubtedly a Buffy/Spike episode. It's also noteworthy in that it's the last time that Spike makes any attempt to kill Buffy (after she tells him that he's beneath her). The scene at the end, where she's crying on the porch and he tries to comfort her, is a clear indicator of how their relationship will progress over the course of the next two seasons, as Buffy grows closer to him and drifts away from her friends.
On a side note, this episode is extremely well directed. Nick Marck had done one other episode of Buffy (Something Blue), but it's odd that one of the "regular" directors wasn't chosen to handle such a key episode. In any event, the fact that someone relatively inexperienced (at least in terms of the Buffy style) was being the camera, because it gives a lot of the material a slightly off-kilter feel that is completely appropriate. The stand-outs are, of course, the flashbacks showing Spike killing his two Slayers (although I believe that the material from the Boxer rebellion, in which the first one dies, was shot by Tim Minear for Angel), especially the second, which takes place in a New York subway carriage and cuts back and forth with present-day material featuring Spike and Buffy "dancing" (i.e. going through the motions of the fight) in a highly effective way. The way in which the fourth wall is broken, with 1970s Spike addressing the camera/audience, is also very effective and further marks this episode as different from the usual fare.
Overall rating: 10/10.
Next time: Shadow.