5.15 I Was Made to Love You
Follow along in Bite Me!, pp. 262-266.
This week’s Angel episodes:
2.13 Happy Anniversary
2.14 The Thin Dead Line
Most hardcore fans of long-running television shows can rattle off their favourite seasons, in order, from best to worst. And whenever I’m asked to do that, I always begin, “Season 2, followed by season 5…” And yet, season 5 is the only season of the entire series where I can’t distinguish one episode title from the next. Sure, certain ones stand out, and I could tell you exactly what the plot was in that episode, but much of this season feels like one very long story told in 22 parts, with a few little diversions along the way (and those diversions, the standalone episodes, are the ones that usually stick out). So for me, watching the show each week in season 5 has been an “Ah! It’s THAT episode” kind of experience for me.
“Blood Ties” is where Dawn finds out she’s the key, and she goes through hell. This episode is the one that changes her from annoying childish sister into annoying depressive sister, and yet, the poor kid’s got good reason to be a wee bit miffed. (But I have to admit, a former work colleague and I would use the phrase, “Get out Get Out GET OUT!!” all the time. She was particularly brilliant at it, and the two of us would dissolve into peals of laughter every time. Our boss thought we were high.)
Using Dawn’s non-humanness as a metaphor for adoption, the writers play with a child’s re-evaluation of everything they know, and the standard process of beginning to question everything they thought was true. What I find really interesting in season 5 – something I didn’t really notice until this rewatch – is how Buffy doesn’t play the role of the older daughter, but the role of the father. Joyce frets the way any mother would, while Buffy holds her back and tells her to give Dawn space, normally the father’s role.
And wait… Ben is Glory? Glory is Ben? Yep, somehow Joss found a guy and girl who aren’t related but look EXACTLY alike (like seriously, their eyes are really far apart and they have the same nose and lips… how did he do that?) and now we get the intrigue of figuring out why they’re one and the same, what they have to do with each other, and why no one can remember that Ben is Glory and vice versa.
“Crush” is a showpiece for Spike once again, after the brilliance of “Fool for Love.” I love this episode, for the most part, although I’ve always been annoyed with Spike at the end for the way he treats all the women (which is the point, I get that, but… yeah). He lusts after Buffy, threatens to stake someone he’s spent a century with, and tosses poor Harmony away like she’s garbage. But Spike has always reacted to situations without always thinking, and that’s what he’s doing here.
What might be difficult to grasp now, especially with all the Spike love in this Rewatch (my pro-Spike comments being a big part of that) is that when the series first aired, there was a lot of Spike hate. You’ve probably heard of the Bangels versus the Spuffies, and that was a debate that raged like wildfire at the time. The Bangels – pronounced like Angel with a B on it, not Bangle like a bracelet, which is how many Spuffies purposely mispronounce it – were the ones who thought Buffy was better off with Angel. The Spuffies were the ones who wanted Spike and Buffy to get together. I’ll never forget going to a sci-fi con and attending a panel of Spuffies versus Bangels… I wasn’t on the panel (I wanted to leave the convention with all my teeth, after all), but I knew it would be fun to watch. And it was VICIOUS. The insults being thrown from one side of the room to the other were beyond rude, and it was like all politeness and camaraderie went out the window. I’ve been rather afraid of shippers ever since. When one person on the panel finally pointed to the back of the room and said, “Nikki Stafford is here… which side are YOU on, Nikki?” I thought I was going to pee my pants. I coughed and mumbled something in another language – it may have been elvish – and refused to answer the question.
The BtVS writers KNEW this debate was raging in the Buffyverse, and so they stoked it. They gave us pro-Angel episodes, and pro-Spike ones. They made Spike an evil bastard at times, and charming as hell the rest of the time. I had the pleasure of interviewing David Fury, the man responsible for creating Spike and the one who was brought in to write many of his lines, and I asked him exactly what he thought of the debate. Fury is known for not mincing words, and he told me flat out (I only published part of what he said in my book, because I feared what might happen to him if I published the whole thing!) Unfortunately I can’t say exactly what he said here (there are season 6 spoilers in his response) but the short version is, he saw Spike as a killer, and couldn’t figure out why people loved him as a romantic lead. Um… was he watching the show?
But anyway… regardless of how disgusting Spike is at the end of Crush, he’s still brilliant in the rest of the episode, and VERY funny. If you’re not watching Angel, this episode was a carryover from an episode that started over on Angel. See (spoilers for earlier season 2 Angel episodes ahead!), there’s this evil law firm, and they used a spell to bring Darla back from the dead, but she’s no longer a vampire. But then Drusilla shows up and takes care of that, siring Darla. Darla had originally sired Angel, who sired Drusilla, and therefore Darla has been Drusilla’s Grandma Vampy for over a century, but now Drusilla is Darla’s sire… this family tree is getting really confusing. Meanwhile Angel’s becoming dark, like Harry Potter in the fifth book dark, and he no longer has any sympathy for anyone who came before him. He lures Dru and Darla down to an abandoned warehouse that he covers in gasoline, and when they’re standing near it, he flicks a cigarette at them and they go up in flames. Darla manages to whack a hydrant with a sledgehammer and the two women are able to douse the flames, but they’re burned and scarred, and they realize that Angel may be even more soulless than they are. (All good stuff.. you should really be watching Angel!) So that’s where Dru’s at when she comes to town, with just a few scars left over from the attack.
And finally we have “I Was Made to Love You.” With all of the amazing Glory stuff going on, taking a breather to focus on the sexbot storyline seemed a bit off when it first aired, but April is intriguing, and it plays into Buffy’s sense of loss post-Riley and helps unburden her of the idea that maybe, if she’d just been a better girlfriend, she could have kept both Riley and Angel around. And it introduces us to... well, I'll save that for another post.
For me, though, this episode has become almost excruciating to watch ever since the first time I watched the season through. Because I know what’s coming. I know that Joyce is going to spin around in that dress, that Buffy and Dawn will rib her, that she will get out there and find happiness again, that I will absolutely adore her throughout the episode… and then that ending is going to happen. This time, it was worse than before. Just seeing Buffy in the now-infamous red shirt as Xander was fixing the window was enough to make the lump begin to form. And when she walked in the door and you could see Joyce in the background, the sobs just leapt from my chest. I didn’t even feel them coming, I just choked and made this weird noise.
I don’t think it’s much of a secret for the first-timers what is coming next. There’s a reason I put next week’s episode on its own and not ganged with any others. And the title – “The Body” – is a bit of a giveaway. I cannot wait to watch it with you and hear your reactions to it.
But until then, let’s focus on this week’s episodes. First up, returning just a couple of weeks after she last told us about her sister meeting Marc Blucas, is Tanya Cochran!
Some form of the word know is spoken over sixty times in “Blood Ties,” so it’s clearly important. It stands out. In fact, I heard it so often during my rewatch (which led me to count) that I began to wonder if writer Steven DeKnight deliberately repeated the word to send us a message. Early on in the episode, Dawn voices what she’s been feeling for a while now. She’s often out of rather in the know: “Oh. Right. Of course. Can’t let Dawn hear anything. Fine. I’m just gonna go to bed. That way I won’t accidentally get exposed to, like, words.” She knows that there’s something Buffy and the others know that she’s not supposed to know.
Later, unbeknownst to Buffy and Joyce, she climbs out of her bedroom window to pursue answers. And where does she discover what she knows she doesn’t know? In a book. Giles notebook, filled with handwritten language. And what does the notebook say? The scene unfolds with layered significance as Dawn begins to read aloud and Spike takes over. The words on the page, words brought to life by their voices, themselves bring knowledge to light as the sentences and paragraphs narrate the transformation of energy into flesh. Now Dawn knows, understands what she is: a key. But what does that mean? Soon the whole gang also knows that she knows.
Interestingly, this new knowledge does not comfort Dawn—or anyone else. Rather, it threatens to destroy her reality. Is she flesh and blood? Is her family real? Can she even trust what feel like her own memories? No reason to get an education (another form of knowledge); blobs of energy don’t need one, she spits at Joyce. She destroys her journals, the Dawnmeister Chronicles, symbols of what she now perceives to be fantasies and lies. But as Buffy says later, Dawn deserves to know who she is, where she came from, and why she exists. These are the “big” questions we all ask at some point, and not knowing is often worse than whatever reality we discover by asking: “She needs to know. Or it’s just gonna eat away at her,” says Buffy. Eat away at her in more ways than one! On the run, Dawn finds Ben who soon morphs into Glory who asks, “Don’t I know you?” As long as Glory can’t answer that question, the key remains safely tucked away in ignorance.
In many ways, “Blood Ties” (even its title) reminds me of “Family” because Buffy has been wrestling with the questions of Dawn’s origins, her placement in the Summers family, and the nature of the connection between the “sisters.” Buffy, too, has questioned her memories, debated their authenticity. Are false memories really false? Can a very real mystical key also be a very real, annoying baby sister? Apparently so. Just as in “Family” when Tara’s father threatens to take her away, Buffy (and the others) must make a decision and put that decision into words. Clearly, there is power in articulation; words can create reality. When Buffy finds Dawn, knowing what Buffy knows about Glory, she growls, “Get away from my sister.” This declaration of Buffy’s reality, of what she is now certain about in her heart is exactly what Dawn needs to hear. To be sure Dawn and we get the message, after a brief brawl with the “hell-bitch” Buffy takes blood from her own wound and blends it with that of Dawn’s, from the cut Dawn self-inflicted earlier. “It’s Summers blood.” Finally, Dawn believes her when Buffy says that she loves Dawn, that Dawn is her sister. Not unlike two little girls performing a ritual on a grade school playground with straight-pin pricked fingers, Buffy and Dawn declare their sibling relationship, a bond created through blood.
I had the pleasure of watching this week’s trio of episodes with my best friend Wendy while visiting her in San Francisco. After “Blood Ties,” we talked a little bit before moving on to “Crush” and “I Was Made to Love You.” Wendy said something I found worthy of pondering, and I hope you find it worthy also. She said that the relationships among ideas, experiences, and people will always tell us more about reality than considering them separately. In other words, reality manifests in connectedness. I know, maybe that’s not a novel concept. For me, though, Wendy pinpointed anew what any Buffy enthusiast knows: Whedon and his team really, really, really believe in chosen family and investing in deep, meaningful relationships because family is the “real stuff” of life—even if family can be lost or taken away. In “Blood Ties,” I think Buffy finally realizes that she doesn’t have to fear what she doesn’t know or understand about Dawn; they can find out the answers to the big questions together. What’s important is that the energy became flesh, the flesh is Dawn, Dawn is her sister, and they are family. By the end of “I Was Made to Love You” (a title we might read to refer to April and Dawn as the Is, Warren and Buffy as the Yous), I think we all realize that more than ever before Buffy needs all of the family she has—blood and chosen.
And that’s the long shortishness of it.
Thank you, Tanya! Our second guest is Kristen Romanelli! Kristen, who is engaged to another Buffy Rewatcher, David Kociemba, last joined us to discuss “Choices” and “The Prom,” and is the editor of Watcher Junior. This week, she’s here to talk about Robot Sex. ;)
There’s so much awesome spoilage in here that I can’t write this without huge swaths of text getting hidden. Like, many paragraphs worth. I’m just going to not mention any of it, because those of you who know… you know. Those of you who don’t: You’ll see.
Season 5 tends to get a bum rap. I know that it’s probably because of the Dawn-ness of the season, but I’ve always been quite fond of it (Dawn-ness included). Perhaps it’s because of the increased role of Spike (Boo-boo!). The perpetual argument that occurs in the Romanelli-Kociemba household revolves around “Angel or Spike?” You think I’m kidding. Digression aside, I like to think that I enjoy this season because the mature turn it takes. Joyce is facing health problems! The Big Bad is a god! Riley gets all weird and leaves! Robot sex!
Robot sex? Buffy always featured love and loneliness (and being alone) as themes, and it had even touched on the concept of robot sex (and killer robots) in the past (remember “Ted” in Week Eight of the Rewatch?), but the three finally converged in “I Was Made to Love You.”
The two episodes preceding “I Was Made to Love You” — “Blood Ties” and “Crush” — prepare us with the emotional complexities of both love and loneliness (romantic and familial). Dawn, already feeling alienated due to being a “fourteen-year old hormone bomb,” accidentally learns that she is the Key — that “blob of energy” sought by both the Scoobies and Glory. Who is with her during this moment of discovery?
Love’s Bitch, himself. Spike is wrapped in his loneliness, created by his fixation with Buffy. He did this as William with Cecily, and also in his relationship with Drusilla. Spike fiercely romanticizes and idealizes the women he loves. He puts them so far up on a pedestal that he isolates himself.
Outsider and outsider. Spike, who had already found himself, oddly, in a big brother position with Dawn, now has a commonality with the little bit. He now has sympathy for her. When Buffy storms into his crypt and demands why Spike “let [Dawn] find out like that,” he tells her, “You didn't think you could keep the truth from her forever, did you? Maybe if you had been more honest with her in the first place, you wouldn't be trying to make yourself feel better with a round of Kick The Spike.”
He’s not wrong.
Buffy redeems herself and repairs her relationship with Dawn, however, when she shows up just in time to save her sister from getting her brain sucked by Glory. At the end of the battle, Buffy reminds Dawn that she’s still her sister and she loves her regardless of her mystical origin. She tells her that she has “Summers blood.” “It's just like mine. It doesn't matter where you came from, or, or how you got here. You are my sister. There's no way you could annoy me so much if you weren't.”
Spike doesn’t get so touching a resolution. Not even in Buffy’s Valentine’s Day episode. He tries. He really does. He tries pleasantly chatting with Buffy at the Grand Re-Opening of the Bronze; he buddies up with Dawn and Joyce; he even takes Buffy on a slay-date! Okay, sure, she didn’t know it at the time…
BUFFY: What ... is this? The late-night stakeout, the bogus suspects, the flask? Is this a date?
SPIKE: A d- Please! A date? You are completely off your bird! I mean— Do you want it to be?
BUFFY: Oh, my god.
As Buffy wigs, Spike spills his guts to her (as he may have some trouble baring his soul). The honesty he, himself, had recommended in the prior episode backfires terribly and he finds himself alone again. Until Drusilla emerges from the shadows, still showing the burns from her encounter with Angel in L.A.
The series of events that follow are so misguided and desperate of Spike, that I can barely write about it without stopping to headdesk. In fact, his ruse to cajole Buffy into admitting love for him by sacrificing Dru for her backfires even more tremendously than the slay-date. Buffy rejects him (and has his “invitation” blocked from her home), Harmony grows a spine and beats him up (“I gave you the best ... bunch of months of my life!” ::crossbow slam!::), and even Drusilla leaves, telling him, “Even I can't help you now.”
What’s a guy this lonely to do?
Meet April! April is perky, and happy, and programmed to be a perfect girlfriend. Or at least Warren Mears’s idea of the perfect girlfriend, which seems to be a blank slate, devoid of agency, that he can fill with phone numbers, 13 sex-related programs, and the desire to please and praise him. When she first appeared, I turned to David and said, “This poor girl was obviously dressed by a guy.”
In very little time, April’s single-minded, persistent mission to find her boyfriend Warren, combined with her incredible display of strength when she throws a naughty-mouthed Spike through a window, causes the Scooby gang to come to a conclusion:
BUFFY: So, what do you guys think she is? I mean, this may sound nuts, but I kinda got the impression that she was a—
XANDER: Oh yeah, robot.
BUFFY: Yeah, I was gonna say robot.
In all fairness, they’ve had robot (and cyborg) experience in the past. However, Katrina, Warren’s human girlfriend, doesn’t hesitate to jump to the “that’s a robot” conclusion after as she watches April take on Buffy. She immediately rejects Warren and runs away in disgust.
I think this exchange summarizes it nicely:
ANYA: Why would anyone do that if they could have a real live person?
WILLOW: Maybe he couldn't. Find a real person.
BUFFY: Oh, come on. The guy's just a big wedge of sleaze, don't make excuses for him.
WILLOW: I'm not, I'm just saying, people get lonely, and maybe having someone around, even someone you made up ... maybe it's easier.
TARA: But it's so weird. I mean, everyone wants a nice normal person to share with, but this guy, if he couldn't find that, I guess it's ... kinda sad.
Of course Spike places an order. He’s the epitome of lovesick, depraved, and lonely.
I can’t leave this without mentioning Joyce. Poor Joyce. In these episodes, she was recovering from her health scare and being the supportive mom, even after finding out that her youngest daughter is a “glowy key thing.” In “I Was Made to Love You,” Joyce, long past her own robotic experience, has a date with the unseen Brian. Joyce fusses about preparing for the date, and when she comes home, she’s practically giddy — to the point where she teases Buffy about leaving her bra in Brian’s car (no, in the restaurant… on the desert cart!). It seems like everything is finally coming up Joyce.
I told David that I wasn’t planning on quoting him, but I think that, after all, I’ll have to mention something he wrote in his chapter of Buffy Goes Dark (“Understanding the Espensode”): “Buffy helplessly watches April the robot girlfriend ‘die’ just moments before she walks in on her mother’s own dead body. … Buffy promises to stay by April’s side as she dies, while Buffy’s mother dies alone.”
Even after an episode of zany sexbot antics, it’s all about being alone.
Whew… thank you, Kristen! (I can feel that lump growing some more now!)
Next week: Joss Whedon’s masterpiece, “The Body.” I will be talking about the episode along with husband-and-wife academic team Dale and Ensley Guffey, and a featured appearance from my best friend, who will bring a personal story to the episode. Prepare yourself… we only have one episode next week, so that will allow you to watch it three times. ;)
And if you’re watching Angel, next week’s episode is “Epiphany.” See you then!