Let’s start this off by being honest.
I don’t particularly like Spike. I think he was at his best in season 2 of Buffy. Spike and Drusilla, an evil duo taking pleasure in other people’s misery. I loved the intricate foursome they formed with Angelus and Darla, combining their pasts into something semi-incestuous. After that, I feel like Spike was used as bait; something to draw in viewers, because people loooove Spike. He never really found his place after that, for me. Always hanging around the edges of the Scooby gang, with an inexplicable infatuation for the Slayer (as she leads him on, then drops him ad vitam eternam), not really serving any kind of purpose. I think the goal was to give him a purpose, being the Hero that destroyed the Hellmouth at the series’ conclusion. But it felt a little cheap, tacked on. Overall, I guess he just fits the mold of my Buffyverse experience, though I’m sure it wouldn’t be the same if he weren’t there.
This mini-series kind of makes me think I was onto something.
In APART OF ME, part three (in Buffy, S9), Spike makes a decision.
Spike: (…) You can take some time to figure out what you need, Buffy. Me being here doesn’t help.
Buffy: Don’t tell me what I need.
Spike: Withdrawn. But you tell me. How do you imagine I felt when you said you were thinking of us running off together? (Silence) Come with me now. You’re right. There’s no one here for you. What does this town have to offer? (…) I don’t want to go back. To lurking around the edge of your life. Watching from this far above it all till you’re desperate for someone you can count on. (…) You know what. Forget it, Slayer. And I don’t mean to sound snappish. I love you. You know this. But I can’t get jerked around no more. I’m not even saying I blame you. I can never tell for sure where your heart’s at, so I’m not gonna stand here under a romantic, albeit deadly, sunset lecturing you. I believe in you, Buffy. And I know you’ll do right. That’s how I have your back.
Then he jets off into said deadly sunset on his ship of bugs. This is where his solo arc kicks off for five issues, a journey of self-re-discovery. Who is Spike, without Buffy? Let’s find out.
A DARK PLACE, parts 1 to 5
This starts with Spike in his bug ship wanting to go to the dark side of the mood to brood. I don’t really understand where the ship, or the bugs, come from. According to a wiki (http://buffy.wikia.com/wiki/Spike’s_ship), it’s some sort of escape pod that Wolfram&Hart planned to use when Twilight/Angel created a new world. Regardless, what I do know is that the bugs, lead by Sebastian, are hilarious and talk like robots infected by proper english. Witness:
Basically, the bugs want to make Spike feel better, because if he keeps brooding, he won’t be fit to be their master any longer. They build him a fake beach (based on a picture taken from one of Buffy’s magazines, which Sebastian calls “periodicals”), hoping that the sun will lift his dark mood. It seems to work, at first, but Spike gets a little angry; why find comfort in something that’s fake?
At this moment, a giant frog and some demons take over the ship, pirate-style. Apparently, they need a ship because they were stranded on the moon following the destruction of the Seed. With the bug ship in their possession, they wish to make Spike walk the plank and take control of the navigation. Direction: Sunnydale. They hope they will find shards of the Seed, shards that may contain remnants of magic. Hopefully it will garner enough magic to send them back “home”.
Spike, however emotionally broken, is still very smart, so he offers to be their guide through the tunnels of the hellmouth. However, he hadn’t planned on the feelings that the place brought to him…
Sunnydale is, to Spike, the closest thing he’s had to a home, though he’s not really ready to admit that to himself.
For me, it’s not really the “place” that makes a home. It’s the people that make it up. From the above panel, I can gather that Spike is starting to feel the same way. For better or worse, Spike created long lasting connections to many people in Sunnydale that had nothing to do with the relationships he had with Dru, Darla or Angel. He lived with Giles, he became a brother/father figure to Dawn, he loved Buffy… You can’t just shed those things. It’s part of his identity, now.
When they finally get to the Seed Chamber, the demons feel Spike cheated them; there’s nothing there. In fact, there is something there, or rather, someone. Morgan, who, as it turns out, is a succubus, also wants her share of the shards to go home. I think we’ve got a recurring theme here… After beating up the demons that stand in their way, both Morgan and Spike set off on their quest to find a home; a metaphorical one for Spike, but for Morgan, it takes the shape of another Hellmouth.
Before they can set off, though, they get interrupted by Nash and Pearl, the recurring villains in Angel & Faith. Here, we learn that Spike and the twins know each other; Spike “saved” Pearl from a Black Widower demon in Rome in 1953. The haven’t seen each other since, and seeing her, completely different from that cowering girl-demon he saved years ago, is a catalyst for Spike to think about how he’s changed.
Later, aboard the ship, he’ll tell Morgan that “there was something very direct about the person [he] used to be. At least [he] knew what he wanted most of the time”. Does he want that again? Is he regretting getting a soul, and all these mixed feelings that came with it? I don’t think he does. These lines come off without the nostalgia that one would expect. It’s like he’s looking through an old yearbook, completely disconnected from the person he was. Essentially, he knows he has another purpose, but he can’t quite put his finger on it yet…
But how did they get on the ship in the first place? Spike knocked the twins out with timing (as they were lunging at him all super-charged, they crashed in a wall), and the bugs grabbed Morgan as they all went into the ship. Morgan asked them to set the course for Easter Island, another hellmouth. At this point, the bugs are worried, though; they don’t know this succubus. Maybe she’ll put Spike under her charm? Maybe she has a shard and wants to open the hellmouth? But Spike ignores this and decides to trust her. As they talk, he learns that she used to be a “courtesan demon”. These demons were women that used to hang around and advise ancient rulers. Soon, though, the conversation comes back to the shards; she needs them. Spike tells her that Buffy asked him to shoot the shards into the sun, to obliterate them. So, he asks her, what’s the purpose of going to a Hellmouth without a key to open it? She still wants to go, so the bugs, listening in, decide that Spike is “under her spell” (ha! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61Wzo2dlIC8) and promise each other that “steps will be taken”.
When they get to the island, there’s a slight shift that happens with Morgan, a shift that mirrors what Spike has been going through.
Sensing that Spike is a powerful man, she wants to become his courtesan demon.
Once he realizes that he’s more talking to Buffy than he is Morgan, he reconsiders. Maybe it would be different with Morgan? Maybe she really could give him a purpose, where he would be the leader and she the follower. I’m thinking that her plan does appeal to his former self, the one that would do anything for action, excitement, and, let’s be honest, a shag. But when they start kissing, he sees the picture of the fake beach from the magazine laying on the ground, and he pushes her away.
This is an important moment for Spike. He realizes that he can’t just “substitute” Buffy. Maybe for the first time, he’s admitting to himself that everything that happened with her defines a bit of himself. If he is to reclaim, or redefine, that bit, he needs to heal by himself, without the help of a succubus.
Morgan is furious; who dares reject her? She changes her mind and decides to go home by herself. Spike tries to reason with her again but, a little too late, he realizes that she already has a shard of the seed. Fighting ensues; the bugs try to capture Morgan with a net to help, but it doesn’t do much good. she crashes out of the ship, lands on the island and vomits up the shard, ready to “crack open” the hellmouth.
In the final issue, Morgan tries to open the Hellmouth by awakening the Easter Island statues; problem is, they don’t answer to her, or anyone. Spike joins her in an attempt to fight them off, but it’s ultimately the bug ship that saves the day. At first, they use the ship’s guns in a scene that is reminiscent of Captain Adama in his Battlestar Galactica (or maybe they were Star Trek references? I wouldn’t know about those). Since that effort isn’t enough, Sebastian commands the bugs to abandon ship and he decides to crash it in the giant statues in a grand gesture of self-sacrifice.
With the ship destroyed and their leader dead, the bugs decide to stay on the island and Morgan, after trying and miserably failing one last time to seduce Spike, leaves in a flap of wings.
After this arc, Spike is effectively unburdened of anything that ties him to his past. He has fled from Buffy, he is no longer the captain of a spaceship, he has no other girl. It’s him, alone, on an island. Yet, the first thing he says when this realization sinks in, is: “I wouldn’t say no to a familiar face”. We know this thought isn’t fake, because it’s devoid of an exterior influence. And it’s here that we understand who Spike really is, without Buffy. He’s a social being. He needs others’ needs to define his life. What he had to discover on this journey was that the “others” don’t have to be “Buffy”. That’s why he’ll take a little detour before returning to San Francisco; we’ll see him next month in Angel&Faith.
What did you all think about Spike: A Dark Place? Do you like that Dark Horse is publishing side stories with specific characters? Are you angry that I haven’t used the term “Spuffy” in my article? Let me know in the comments.