Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6, Episode 13: Dead Things
Written by Steven S. DeKnight; Directed by James A. Contner
This episode isn’t perfect, but it’s a big step up from the ones directly preceeding it. It’s perhaps the darkest episode of the entire season, but it’s handled considerably more competently than many of its brethren. Chiefly, it tips the Trio over the edge from comic book dork villains into actual murderers (actually, manslaughter is a more appropriate label for the crime they commit) who try to pin the blame on Buffy. This may indeed be Buffy at her lowest ebb, not only being bum-raped by Spike (and I can’t think of any other way to describe what happens, given that she quite clearly says “Don’t” and yet he persists in buggering her), but also believing herself to be guilty of murder and being willing to hand herself into the police.
The inconsistent characterisation of Spike is the biggest problem here. One moment he’s a cold-blooded killer who wants to do everything he can to make Buffy feel worthless, pulling her down to his level as it were, and the next moment he’s taking care of her, doing everything he can to persuade her not to turn herself into the police, and even concealing the body. Obviously, this is to some extent appropriate to a character who, despite being devoid of a soul, is clearly capable of doing good deeds, but it’s frustrating nonetheless, and it shows the extent to which the writers are no longer able to stick to the basics of their own mythology. In the past, they’ve clearly stated that a creature without a soul can never be good, because they’re incapable of feeling compassion for others, but Spike’s behaviour continually contradicts this. (He did, after all, stick around and fight alongside the gang all summer when Buffy was, as far as he was aware, dead for good, so such behaviour could hardly be considered an attempt to get into her pants.) It’s amazing to say, but, bum-rape and all, Spike is actually the more appealing character at the moment, and the scene in which Buffy all but beats him to a pulp in an alleyway shows just what a repugnant person she has become.
The best scenes in the episode are those with Tara, who, unlike the rest of the main characters, is still her old self and not a whiny, self-obsessed automaton (of course, this is only so Joss Whedon can manipulate the audience’s emotions further in a few episodes’ time when he needlessly kills her off). Her chance encounter with Willow outside the Magic Box is well-written, and her non-judgemental response when Buffy confesses to her what she and Spike are getting up to reminds me why I like her so much. By the way, the final scene, in which Buffy, unable to believe that there’s nothing wrong with herself, begs Tara not to forgive her, is horrible to watch, but extremely powerful. (She gets Tara to do some tests, because she’s convinced that the reason Spike can hurt her without his chip kicking in is because she’s come back as some sort of demon or creature of darkness. Discovering that she is, in fact, just the same old Buffy only makes things worse for her, because in her eyes it means there’s no “excuse” for what she’s been getting up to with Spike.)
Overall rating: 7/10.
Next time: Older and Far Away.