Thursday, April 28, 2011

Possibly Contentious Buffy/Angel Question of the Day

Would Spike have been a better character if they'd moved him to "Angel" right away with Season One, rather than waiting for Season Five?

My logic for asking is this: Spike's character began as a foil for Angel, an unrepentant (and in fact, downright gleeful) vampire who contrasts with Angel's "I am so tormented over my former evil and I has a soul now and it hurts hurts hurts!" demeanor. The twist at the end of Season Two works because Spike is so unrepentantly sadistic and evil--once Angel loses his soul, he becomes so utterly mad and destructive that even Spike has to change sides. If Spike thinks you've gone too far, you've gone too far.

But instead of making him a recurring foil and comic-relief figure in "Angel", they kept him in "Buffy" for the next four seasons, where he slowly transformed from a contrast to Angel into an Angel wannabe. He stopped being threatening to the Scoobies, then he became their ally, then he fell in love with Buffy, then he got back his soul. By the end of Season Seven, he was basically a blond version of Angel in Season Three.

Then he went over to "Angel", where they quickly realized that having a blond Angel and a dark and spiky-haired Angel was one Angel too many, so they had to go to great lengths to suddenly and wrenchingly turn Spike back into Spike. Which seems like a lot of work to go through, hence the question: Would they have been better off putting him in "Angel" right from the get-go, thus keeping the character more consistent and avoiding the pitfalls of giving him a soul, a chip, et cetera?

I'm leaning vaguely towards yes-ish, but I'm mostly interested in what others have to say.


LurkerWithout said...

Nah, because then you miss out on brain-chipped Spike which was great...

RichardAK said...

You make an interesting point. I would have to say I'm not certain, but I do want to add something. Spike's function within the story of season 2 of Buffy is as more than just a contrast to Angel in the way you've described.

When Spike allies with Buffy, he essentially does away with Buffy's excuse for not killing Angel. Up until that time, Buffy had repeatedly insisted that nothing Angel had done was his fault, because he had been deprived of his soul, whatever that's supposed to mean (I infer that what he's really been deprived of is his conscience). Spike shows that whatever they may lack, vampires have free will and the intellectual ability to understand the difference between right and wrong, and are therefore responsible for their actions.

So I think that what makes the Spike-Angel dynamic useful and interesting is that it demonstrates that Angel really is responsible for every bad thing he ever did.

I would also add that Angel was only any good for the first season. After that, it was just an example of Joss Whedon's creative bankruptcy, since all he could think to do was recreate the Scooby gang in the Hyperion hotel. (Later, he would recreate the Scooby gang in space! With six-shooters!) So I don't know that adding Spike into that mess would have been any good for anyone.

John Seavey said...

I don't really know that adding a supporting cast to the series counts as "creative bankruptcy", or otherwise NewsRadio would be "the Scoobies in a radio station" and Mary Tyler Moore would be "the Scoobies in Minneapolis" and Spaced would be "the Scoobies in a flat in Britain".

Yes, Whedon has had nerdy girls in a couple of his series. Yes, he's had smart British guys in a couple of his series. I don't think you could really accuse him of "creative bankruptcy" on those grounds.

RichardAK said...

Except he didn't add a supporting cast in season 2. Most of the characters in question were already part of the cast. They just weren't all living together as a quasi-family. Gunn, for example, was a major character in season one (arguably, he had more of an impact on the plot in season one than in season two or afterwards), but he also had his own group of friends; the character was a part of Angel's story, but he also had his own life.

In fact, Whedon reduced the size of the supporting cast in season two in at least one critical respect: he wrote Kate Lockley out of the show. She was the last member of the ensemble who was not living in the Hyperion hotel, totally within Angel's orbit.

That's what I meant by referring to Whedon's recreation of the Scoobies in the Hyperion hotel. Angel was an ensemble show from the very beginning, but it originally had a very different dynamic from Buffy. Angel had several allies, but only one or two really close friends (even Cordelia and Wesley had more independent existences in season one). Later on, the ensemble dynamics became much more like those on Buffy.

The shows you listed were all ensembles, but NewsRadio and MTM (I haven't watched Spaced) were rather different kinds of ensembles. It seems to me that Whedon has serious trouble writing a different kind of ensemble, with different interpersonal dynamics, from the one he's most comfortable with.

Jim S said...

Actually there is something to be said with Joss repeating himself. I have read interiews where they said they turned Wes dark because they didn't want him to be Giles Jr. My problem with Joss is that he can't write good people who stick to a moral center despite the cost.

I have a theory that David Greenwalt was a hidden force in the Jossverse. Without him, Joss' stories lost a moral cohesion. In Angel, under David Greenwalt, Faith repents. She's sorry and delivers herself to the proper legal authorities to face the music.

Compare that to Angel without Greenwalt - Gunn, Wes and Fred consipire to kill evil Prof. That's premeditated murder. No consequences. Willow kills Warren, no consequences after she says she's sorry. Joss is all about letting themselves off the hook. Betray a friend, kill someone who wronged you, bring forth a musical demon that kills innocent people, no problem as long as you promise not to do it again. It's a learning experience. It's all about you, the rest of world doesn't matter.

So my problem with Spike was that before he got his soul, a move that negated the entire premise of the Buffy world, he killed or watched with no problem people being killed and Buffy let that happen. The chip excuse was weak sauce, and was just the writers not follwing through on something because they fell in love with the character. David Fury agrees with me, Marti Noxon doesn't, we had episodes with Spike being written wildly different depending on the writer.

That was bad. Plus I hate the trope of women falling in love with psycho killers. Fury was right when he compared that to women who write to Ted bundy. It's sick and a sign of unhealthy psyches.

comixkid2099 said...

Can we really say that Gunn was a major character in Angel Season 1? He was introduced...what, 3 episodes before the Season finale? He was an important character in his debut episode, and then in the next 2 episodes, he's assisting Angel, but i would hesitate to call him an important character at that point. In the last 2 episodes of Angel Season 1, he has less screen time than Willy the Snitch did in some episodes of Buffy.

As for the question of this topic, you definitely raise a good point. It's somethng i never really thought of. I always considered Spike in Season 4 til the end of Buffy a problem, i just never really could put my finger on why.