My favourite Spuffy scene
I have been trying for weeks to write about this. I’m starting to think that if I keep trying to find the words I will never say anything at all.
Suffice to say that to me this is the most romantic thing that has ever happened. Nothing in television history compares. Nothing in movies. Nothing in literature. Nothing in real life, that’s for sure.
Buffy, recently returned from the dead, full of secrets too guilty and miserable to spill, longing, no trying to long for something - anything - to make her feel alive, connected, in the world, goes to Spike’s crypt.
Why does she go there? Nobody ever tells us. That’s the genius of Buffy: the show knew how not to spell things out when it counts. We all wonder, we always will. Was she pulled in this direction from the moment Spike told her he understood what had happened to her hands because it had happened to his - or even before, when he told her she had a death wish and turned out to be right? Or was she just wandering through the cemetery and wound up at Spike’s door? Did her fists remember the feeling of pummelling him like she was falling off a log? Did she hope that if she’s near to him she will feel vicious and vital again?
Is what she gets what she expects? Maybe not. But it’s as much of what she wants as she’s going to get anytime soon: kinship, kindness, and above all quiet.
Buffy says five words in the whole scene.
(Five words or less.)
“Your hand is hurt,” she remarks, innocent, toneless. Spike replies “Same to you.” “Right,” Buffy says guiltily, hiding her hand away as best she can, because it’s not what breaks her heart.
Spike tries to continue with the small-talk but it all goes inexorably, like you gulp for air under water, to places Buffy can’t follow. “Hard to get a good night’s death around here,” he says, and he doesn’t have any idea how the words shake through Buffy, how urgently she feels the truth of them when everything else is lost and faraway.
If she could say anything she would say “Yes,” and mean it. But there is only silence Spike tries to fill with his posh new furniture and how Buffy should see the downstairs, and how she can sit down if she likes.
She does. She doesn’t do anything else. She doesn’t say anything else. And all that’s left for Spike is to sit down too, opposite her, and confess.
He tells her he remembers the promise, no, he assures her of that. “I do remember the promise,” he says, as though that is the reason she came here - for him to explain himself - as though that is the reason she is silent - because there is nothing to say unless he is sorry. Spike thinks Buffy has come here to lay blame on him, because he wasn’t quick enough or clever enough, because he didn’t protect Dawn, because if he had she would never have had to jump.
Buffy would never blame him for failure where he tried. She knows he would give his life for Dawn - for her. He proved that when he let a God go to town on him about it. And since hell was, in fact, heaven to her, recriminations are the furthest thing from her mind. If she could say anything it would be that she only wishes Willow could have failed her half as well as he did.
But Spike’s spent the whole summer self-flagellating. He’s spent the whole summer protecting Dawn because he should have protected her when it counted. And every summer night…
“I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course. But after that. Every night after that. I’d see it all again, do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways … Every night I save you.”
How. Honestly? Just. How.
I remember reading an interview with Jane Espenson in which she spoke about how usually when there’s a killer line that everybody loves it’s something Joss has come and inserted into your episode and so you can’t even take credit for it. But she said she was proud of this line, this quiet, unforgettable, bowled-over, brilliant “Every night I save you,” because it was all hers.
She should be proud. And James Marsters should be proud of his delivery because it was just exquisite. The way he smiled at his own incompetence, at his own silliness in trying to fix something the fractured parts of which are well beyond his reach, the way he struggled to meet Buffy’s gaze throughout, looking up and then ducking his head like a naughty schoolboy, the way that finally, when he was done saying all the things he needed to say that didn’t mean a thing, he could look her in the eye and find there nothing to comfort him - only blankness - only inscrutability - only empty space in which self-hate thrives.
By the end of the episode Buffy will let Spike in. Because he won’t judge her. Because he can’t judge her. Because he is a soulless monster and she likes him. Because she can be alone with him there. She will share with him the deepest secret she has ever had all to herself.
But for now there is only terror and adoration, there is only a mad fumbling to be worthy, there is only uselessness and love, split-seconds you can’t get back, Dawn’s face before Spike fell down to the ground, and Buffy’s now - the loneliness of it - the ways he never wanted to let her down.
This, my friends, is vintage Spuffy. This is why I will never ship anything harder as long as I live.