This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: School Hard (Season 2 Episode 3 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
This podcast episode covers (1) very strong story structure despite no striking midpoint commitment by Buffy; (2) the concept of the worthy adversary; (3) mother-daughter conflict; (4) embedding story questions; and (5) so much foreshadowing about Spike (in the Spoiler section).
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
Next Up: Inca Mummy Girl S2 E4
Last Week: Some Assembly Required S2 E2
Work On Your Story
- Download the 5-Point Story Structure Template, available free to all on Lisa M. Lilly's Patreon page.
- Become a patron and get (a) a free copy of Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide to Plotting And Writing Your Novel (also available to buy in ebook, audiobook, or workbook form) and (b) access to future bonus episodes and content.
- Visit WritingAsASecondCareer.com.
- Writing a novel? The One-Year Novelist: A Week-By-Week Guide To Writing Your Novel In One Year can help. Available in ebook or workbook form.
Additional Episode Links from School Hard
- Interview of James Marsters on Buffering the Vampire Slayer
- Season 2 Buffy DVDs
- Buffy DVD Complete Box Set
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases made through this site, but that doesn’t change the purchase price to you as the buyer or influence my love for the Buffy DVDs and all things Buffy.
About Lisa M. Lilly
In addition to hosting the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story, Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries, as well as numerous short stories. She also writes non-fiction, including books on writing craft, under L.M. Lilly. She is the founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com.
Episode Transcript for School Hard
Hello and welcome to the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story Season Two. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories – or just taking them apart to see how they work – you’re in the right place.
I am Lisa M Lilly, author of the Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries and founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com
This week we’re talking about Season Two Episode Three School Hard, in which we meet Spike.
Story Elements Discussed
In particular, I'll talk about:
- the story structure, which is very strong despite a subtle Midpoint that I almost missed;
- the concept of the worthy adversary;
- mother-daughter conflict, which is built so well and resolves so dramatically;
- and so much foreshadowing about Spike (if you hang around for the spoiler section).
As always, there will be no Spoilers except at the end to talk about foreshadowing, but I'll give you plenty of warning.
Okay, let's dive into the Hellmouth.
School Hard was written by Joss Whedon and David Greenwalt and directed by John T. Kretchmer.
Opening Conflict In School Hard
Our Opening Conflict starts with Principal Snyder saying that some people say should think of the principal as your pal. He says to think of him as “your judge, jury and executioner.” He is in his office, and he's talking to two students, debating which causes more trouble.
And we see Buffy and Sheila, who we have not met before. Principal Snyder quickly brings us up to speed on her by saying that on the one hand, Buffy has never stabbed a horticulture teacher with a trowel.
Sheila smiles and corrects him that it was with pruning shears.
On the other hand, Principal Snyder says Sheila never burned down the school gym. Buffy tries to protest, saying the fire marshal said it could have been mice. And in my first quote of the week she says, “Mice that were smoking?”
Snyder tells them both that they are in charge of Parent-Teacher Night. The banners, the refreshments, making the student lounge friendly for adults. One of them asks what the winner gets (because they are in competition) and he says the loser gets expelled.
Outside the school Buffy says to Sheila that it won't be so bad. They can start tomorrow. But Sheila is not interested at all. She waves to the this guy she calls meat pie and disappears. Buffy looks after her and tells Xander and Willow that that's what her mom sees when she looks at Buffy.
So here we have the setup of the emotional conflict and the story arc between Buffy and her mom. While that isn't going to be our main plot, I feel that that is really the heart of the story.
We are now at 3 minutes 20 seconds in.
We switch to the Sunnydale Welcome sign. A classic old car runs it down. We’re looking at the ground and we see someone step out. We see boots, a long black leather coat, and we pan up to peroxide hair.
Spike Starts A Spark
This is Spike, although we don't know who he is yet. But it is a vampire who says, “Home Sweet Home,” and we switch to the credits.
This is a bit early. Usually the Inciting Incident – or Story Spark as I think of it – that sets off our main plot happens at 10% in. So this is about a minute early. I could see it as the Story Spark,though, because Spike comes to Sunnydale.
Without that we would still have a story, but not the specific wanted all get. That's why I think this begins what will become the Inciting Incident (or Story Spark). But it will take shape over the next minute or two.
As soon as we get back from the credits, we see the Anointed One in what looks like a warehouse. This child, who was the favorite of the Master and who now seems to be leading the vampires.
A large vampire claims he can kill the Slayer and when he does, it will be so amazing. He compares it to the crucifixion and says he was there.
At 5 minutes 8 seconds in from behind the vampire Spike laughs and says if every vampire who claimed to be at the crucifixion was there it would be like Woodstock. And Spike says he was at Woodstock. And says something about feeding on a flower child and how he spent the next however long just looking at his hand moving.
No one knows Spike, so he is the interloper here.
The Story Spark
So this I think is the Spark. Where Spike comes into this group of vampires that is trying to figure out how to kill the Slayer. He just barges in. Then he says he can kill the Slayer, he did a couple of them. In another nice quote, he says, “I don't like to brag…Who am I kidding? I love to brag.”
From behind him, Drusilla walks in. She's in this long flowing dress, she's got her long black hair. She looks haunted I guess would be the best word to use.
Spike turns and says she shouldn't be walking around. Dru says that the little boy (the Anointed One) has power. And she goes up to him and says, “Do you like daisies? I plant them but they always die. Everything I plant in the ground dies.”
Even the Anointed One seems slightly spooked by Drusilla.
A More Nuanced Vampire Character
She's cold, so, Spike gives her his coat and calls her a princess. They put their faces together and turn towards the Anointed One and Spike says, “Me and Dru, we’re moving in.”
This is such a nice moment. This interplay between Spike and Dru. First, we have him breaking into this group. He's the stranger. And he's full of confidence. he's bragging. He seems powerful.
Dru walks in, and he turns and he is so concerned for her. It is a side that we have not seen from vampires before this. What seems like a very human love and concern for another.
Spike asks the Anointed One if the Slayer is tough.
Not-So-Tough Buffy The Vampire Slayer
We cut and we are at Buffy’s house. She’s saying Ow as she combs her hair because her cream rinse is not working. “It's neither creamy nor rinsy,” she says.
Joyce has a flyer about Parent-Teacher Night. She suspects Buffy was not going to tell her about it. And they have a back-and-forth on what the teachers are likely to say. Joyce picks up that it probably will not be positive. And she says to Buffy, “We moved once because you got in trouble. I had to start a whole new life and a whole new business.”
And Buffy says, “And you don't want to do it again.” Then Joyce says, “What I don't want is to be disappointed in you.”
I feel like this is so much worse than if Joyce had yelled at Buffy. Because we know Buffy does not want to disappoint her mom. She says she has a lot of pressure on her, and Joyce is wait till you get a job. Buffy says to herself, “I have one.”
Warning About St. Vigeous
That night at school Buffy, Willow, and Xander are painting banners. Sheila is nowhere to be seen. Giles and Jenny come in and are talking about the night of Saint Vigeous.
Because we are approaching about 11 minutes in, this could be the first major plot point. The one that usually comes one quarter through and spins our story in a new direction. But I think that comes quite a bit later.
Buffy is focused on Parent-Teacher Night. She's worried about getting that done. And Giles chides her about this, saying it's more important that there might be this mystical night coming up. But she points out she can't get expelled from school. And she promises to focus on the night of St. Vigeous after she gets through tonight.
Giles says they'll need a lot of preparation. And Xander says they can all help. They can whittle stakes or get weapons ready or whatever they need.
Principal Snyder comes in. He glares at Xander and Willow and asks if they are helping Buffy. Willow says something like, “No, no helping. They’re hindering.” Buffy covers for Sheila, claiming she went to get paint. And Snyder says everything better be perfect on Thursday.
Sheila appears a couple moments later. She looks really out of it, ma be high, and she thanks Buffy for covering for her. Buffy is clearly irritated with her, but she doesn't say anything.
The One-Quarter Twist: Spike Sees Buffy
At the Bronze later on Willow and Buffy are studying French and talking about how Angel did not show up. Xander persuades them to take a break. All three of them dance. It's a really nice moment. They're having fun together.
At 14 minutes 10 seconds in Spike walks in and sees Buffy. I see this as what really turns the story.
He is studying her. I feel like he is captivated by her. Fascinated. And he tells another vampire with him to go out and get something to eat. Then he loudly says, “Someone call the police. There's a guy biting someone out there.”
Buffy, of course, runs out. She starts fighting the vampire and yells at Xander and Willow to get the girl he was biting away. And says something like, “A stake would be nice.” The vampire says he doesn't need to wait for St. Vigeous, and he says, “Spike, give me a hand.” Xander has tossed Buffy the stake. She dusts the vampire.
Spike comes out and claps. So he does give her a hand, something that I don't think I noticed the first time. He says, “Nice work.” She says, “Who are you?” and he says she'll find out Saturday.
What Happens Saturday?
Buffy asks what happens on Saturday. Spike says, “I kill you.”
This emphasis on the days I'm sure is purposeful. Earlier we had Snyder say this better be ready on Thursday. Now we have Spike talking about Saturday. Which we know from Giles is when the night of St. Vigeous.
We flip to Sheila. She's walking in an alley with two guys saying she hopes they really have a Cadillac. They disappear one at a time. She's looking for them and Spike appears. She asks who he is, and Spike says, “Who do you want me to be?” She starts to ask if he’s seen the guys. And he says, “Those two guys who aren't good enough for you?” He tells her with a laugh that they got sleepy and she got something a whole lot better.
Buffy, Angel, Spike
In the library Giles says, “Spike? That's what the other vampires called him?” He and the others are researching in the books. Giles says he can't be worse than other creatures Buffy has faced. Angel comes in through the library door. As is often the case, no one heard him walk in. Angel says he's worse. Once Spike starts something he doesn't stop until everything in his path is dead,
Buffy, though, asks Angel why he wasn't at the Bronze. And he says well, she only said maybe she'd show. Buffy says he's been dating for two hundred years and he doesn't know what it means when a girl says maybe she'll show?
Willow says something like, “Wow two centuries of dating. Even if that's only two dates per year, that’s – ”
Buffy shoots her look and she stops.
More On Drusilla
Back at the warehouse, in what seems to be an underground room that Spike and Dru have moved into, Dru has a number of dolls. She's got them blindfolded and she turns one of them around. She's talking to them.
Spike urges her to eat something. And she says she's not hungry and she misses Prague. He says the mob nearly killed her there, and this is the place.
The Hellmouth will restore her.
Exposition And Story Questions
So we get some exposition through conflict, as so often is the case in Buffy. Before I started this podcast, I always admired the writing in Buffy and the dialogue. The structure of the story and the characters. I hadn't really focused at how good the writers are at getting that exposition out there for the most part without just downloading a bunch of information to us in a way that's boring. It almost always is coming through some kind of conflict like this.
Also, this dialogue is intriguing because it raises a story question that will continue about what happened to Drusilla. What is wrong with her? What are they trying to fix?
And it raises a more general question. Before this, I don't think we had any sense that a vampire could somehow be ill. My idea was wherever you were when you became a vampire, you were kind of frozen there. So it seems that that's not true. That something happened to Drusilla that affected her either mentally or physically or both.
Spike Gets Chanty
In the background, we hear the other vampires chanting. Dru tells Spike to go, that the boy doesn't trust him and the other vampires all follow the boy. Spike says, in another quote I enjoy, “All right. I'll go up and get chanty with the fellows.” If Dru will eat something,
Then we see that Sheila is tied up and gagged. Dru bites her after telling her doll Miss Edith that if she'd been good, she could've watched.
The Nature Of Vampires Evolves
This whole relationship is such a character shift for the vampires. Even Darla. She wanted Angel back, and we knew they had this history. But I didn't get that feeling of her really having that concern for Angel.
Spike and Dru have this connection. Spike has so much emotional vulnerability. We can see the way that he loves Dru, the concern for her. And Drusilla has both physical and mental vulnerability. She’s not weak, but she is somehow not right, somehow impaired. She gets cold. Spike is worried about her walking around.
And yet she is also very powerful. She seems to have these insights and visions.
Spike is powerful as well. Though he is not as big as the other vampires, and we haven't yet seen him fight, his very confidence tells us that he is a formidable fighter. I don’t mean confidence in swaggering around or saying he doesn’t like to brag then admitting he does. But the fact that he can have fun.
He is playful and joking and it tells us is not worried. He's not worried about any of these other vampires taking him down. He's not worried about Buffy winning the fight. He can afford to have fun.
So they are both very powerful and vulnerable, which makes them fascinating characters to me.
About 21 minutes in we are at the library again. Giles is reading up about the night of St. Vigeous. Buffy has a weapon, this giant cleaver, and we see her swing it. But she's chopping vegetables and stressing about Parent-Teacher Night not getting ready for a fight, though her friends around her are whittling stakes.
A Subtle Midpoint Commitment
This is the Midpoint of the episode in terms of time. And usually at the Midpoint we see some sort of major reversal for the protagonist. Or a strong commitment to the quest. Or both.
Here I had to go back and really look to see was Buffy committing to anything here.
What I think we have is a very subtle commitment. In the midst of Giles doing this research and Buffy, now knowing there is a specific vampires but take out there who plans to kill her on the night of Saint the edges. Also, he worked out a plan. He sent this other vampire out to lure her out. He watched her fight to study her. We also have what Angel told us about Spike and Buffy knows that too.
So despite knowing all this that she is up against, she is committing to Parent-Teacher Night. First take care of that, and then deal with this threat. And while that was her plan earlier, she didn't have all the information. Now she does. So I see this as her commitment.
But as I mentioned in the opening, it is very subtle. Yet I think it works really well.
If you had asked me before I sat down and looked at this episode whether you could have a Midpoint Commitment that was almost unobtrusive (though not soft because it's serious for Buffy) and have it still drive a strong story I might've been a little skeptical. But I think it really works here.
Comic Relief In Buffy The Vampire Slayer
We get a little comic relief where Cordelia says she is tired of whittling stakes. And Xander says she's only been at it for a couple minutes. But she says, “If this Spike is as mean as you all say it'll be over really quick anyway.”
Everyone glares at her and she says of course she's rooting for Buffy. And she would help on Saturday if she didn't have a leg wax.
Buffy goes out. She remembered she needs to make punch. Later Willow joins her and Buffy says she made lemonade. Willow says, “How much sugar did you put in?” Buffy says, “Sugar?”
Willow, who has just sipped it, makes a face, kind of holds back choking, and says, “It's very good.”
The Lemonade Three-Beat
This is the start of a joke about the lemonade. A three beat. I mentioned this before. It's where you have the same line or the same theme coming back three different times in three different ways.
Buffy tells Willow she has to keep Snyder and Joyce apart. Joyce walks in, and Buffy offers her the punch. Behind her, Willow looks at Joyce and shakes her head, which is the second beat of the joke – warning Joyce.
Snyder is in the background so Buffy has Willow hurry Joyce away. Snyder comes up. Buffy pretends her mother doesn't speak English anyway and she accidentally spills lemonade on Snyder. Truly accidentally.
Cordelia walks in, criticizes how oily Buffy's face looks, and later Joyce and Willow come back. Joyce comments that all the teachers magically have gone as soon as she gets into the classroom.
Despite all Willow’s and Buffy's best efforts Snyder finds them. He tells Joyce, “We need to talk.” They go off to his office. Cordelia tells Buffy that when that talk is over, by the time they get to their tenth high school reunion she'll still be grounded.
And Willow says to Cordelia, “Cordelia, have some punch,” which pays off the joke. The end of the three beat.
Snyder Turns Out The Lights
In the library, Giles tells us that Spike, who is also known as William the Bloody, got his nickname by driving railroad spikes through his victims’ heads. He also says that Spike fought two Slayers and killed both. So now we know that Spike’s bragging to the Anointed One was true.
Snyder and Joyce return to the student lounge. Joyce tells Buffy to get in the car. She is not happy. Snyder starts turning off the lights, which is really weird because there are still people milling around the lounge. Clearly this, as we see, is for plot purposes. Because Spike bursts through the window a couple seconds after that with a group of vampires.
I think we didn't want people to see all the vamp faces directly.
But I also like to think Snyder accomplished his purpose. He got Buffy in trouble, and in his view it’s time for everyone to go home.
Another Turn In School Hard
Spike says he couldn't wait for Saturday. This is all about 26 minutes in, and it could be the next major plot point. That usually comes at the three-quarter mark through the story, spinning the story in yet another new direction. It should grow out of the protagonist’s commitment at the Midpoint.
And here in a way it does because Buffy is so committed to Parent-Teacher Night that she is here. She's not out of the way in the library preparing. She hasn't ducked out of the parent-teacher thing. So it is why she's there and why Spike comes looking for her in this spot.
But I do think the Three-Quarter Turn comes a little bit later, though this is the beginning of it. It clearly brings the story to a new place.
Willow and Cordelia run one way. I love that we get a moment where vampires chase them, and Willow grabs this bust of some old guy and swings it at the vampire and knocks him over. She and Cordelia lock themselves in a closet and hide.
The Three-Quarter Turn In School Hard
Buffy directs the others, including Snyder and Joyce, into a classroom and barricades the door.
So this I see as really that plot turn, the Three-Quarter Turn, because Buffy is now taking charge. She is the one directing her mom and directing Principal Snyder despite that up to this point you she's been struggling to keep them apart.
They in a way have been running the show in terms of the Parent-Teacher Night. Buffy’s been reacting to their demands. But now she is the one who knows how to handle this.
She says, “Get in here,” and people listen. Because she has that authority of seeming like she knows what to do.
A vampire tells Spike he doesn't know where the Slayer went. Spike is angry and he says – because Spike is a bit of a showman – he says to the vampire that he’s too old to eat. But he twists the vampire’s neck and says, “But not to kill. I feel better.”
Giles, Joyce, Snyder
In the library, Giles tells Xander to go out, there's an exit behind the stacks, and find Angel.
In that barricaded classroom someone comments on, “Did you see those guys’ faces who broke in?”
Snyder says he seen it before. It's a gang on PCP. They have to get out. And Buffy says, “No, you can't do that. You’ll get killed if you leave here.”
Snyder says, “Who do you think you are?” And she says, “I'm the one who knows stop them.” And she tells Joyce, “Don't worry, Mom.” She climbs up into that drop ceiling (where we found Marcy's things back in Out Of Mind Out Of Sight).
Spike is out in the hall. He's calling out to her. Another vampire hears her in the ceiling. They figure out that she's somewhere up in the ceiling, but she crashes down into the library just as Giles was about to go out and help fight. She tells him No. She wants him to stay in the school because she has to go fight, and if she doesn't make it she knows he'll make sure her mom gets out.
Back in that classroom, another man wants to go out the window. He's panicking. Joyce tells him not to be an idiot. And Snyder says something like he’s starting to see where Buffy gets it.
More Vampires Attack
Vampires are using an ax to break through the door. The guy who was panicking goes out the window. Immediately, a vampire grabs him. Joyce barricades the window again.
Outside the school we see Angel vamp out and grab Xander. Then quickly we are back inside. Buffy kills a vampire in the hallway. The one who was trying to get into the classroom.
Joyce only sees part of it. She doesn't see that he's a vampire.
Dramatic Irony In Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Sheila appears. She’s not in vamp face. She pretty much looks like when Buffy last saw her. And it's not strange to Buffy that she just turns up because that's what she did before.
So she says there’s these weird guys outside. And Buffy says, “Yeah I know. They're trying to kill everyone.” Sheila grabs the ax and says, “Oh, this should be fun.” And she's behind Buffy.
So we have here dramatic irony. Where we as the audience knows something that Buffy does not. We know she's in danger immediately from Sheila.
Spike Has A History With Angelus
Angel drags Xander into the school and brings him to Spike. And Spike says, “Angelus. I'll be damned.” And Angel kind of scolds him for not guarding his perimeter and says he taught them better.
So again were getting that bit of conflict that tells us exposition. Tells us Angel and Spike know each other, and Angel somehow mentored Spike.
Spike asks him about the new Slayer. Angel says she's cute but not too bright. She fell for the tortured puppy dog act, and he says it keeps her off his back when he feeds. And Spike laughs and says, “People still fall for that Anne Rice routine?”
This back-and-forth also raises some great story questions. Because yes, we know there's a connection between these two, but we don't know what it is. Also, there is a tension. Because we don't know for sure that Angel is just trying to fool Spike.
I feel like when I first watched this, I felt fairly certain about that. I don't think that I thought that Angel was truly evil and had been hiding it all this time, but I truly can't remember from the first time I watched.
Xander, though, definitely believes and he is. And he’s saying, “I knew it. I knew it.” And he says “Undead liar guy,” another nice quote.
Angel offers Spike a bite, says they can drink together.
We switch back to Buffy. Sheila is about to attack, but through that hole in the door Joyce sees it and warns Buffy. Buffy fights Sheila and slays her. Then she gets everyone out of that classroom.
She's herding them out of the building, but she won't go. She still has to help other people.
Back to Spike and Angel. Spike is asking why is Angel scared of the Slayer? Is the tortured thing really an act. And Angel says he saw her kill the Master. That's why he's afraid of her or would rather avoid her.
Spike pretends he's going to drink. They both lean in, and Spike punches Angel. He says something like, “You think you can fool me? You were my sire. My Yoda.” And I love that Spike knows that Angel is conning him even though it seems really clear that Spike and Angel have not seen each other forever. Probably for a hundred years.
So we see that Spike has a lot of insight into people.
Spike sends the other vampires after Angel and Xander. They run out of the school. Later we will see them fighting on the lawn. So Angel is not available to help Buffy.
Buffy Faces Spike
Spike says, “Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, I smell the blood of a nice ripe girl.”
Buffy is behind him. She has the ax, and he has some kind of weapon. And Buffy says, “Do we really need weapons for this?” Spike kind of laughs and says, No, but he likes them, they make them, they make him feel all manly.
And again Spike is fun, and he's kind of poking fun at himself and at the other vampires. He throws down his weapon. So does Buffy. Which tells us something else – that Buffy has rules when she fights. If she says we don't really need weapons and he throws his down, she doesn't then go ahead and use her. She throws her weapon down as well.
Spike says the last Slayer begged for her life, but Buffy doesn't seem like the begging type. Buffy says, “You shouldn't have come here.” And Spike again kind of laughs and says, “No, I messed up your doilies and stuff.”
I also like this about Spike. I feel like the vampires we've seen to this point don't really pay that much attention to what humans are doing in terms of knowing what's happening in their lives.
They pay attention so they can hunt the humans and kill them. The Master certainly focused a lot on Buffy. But we don't get a feeling that they have an appreciation for what day-to-day human life is like or that they care.
And I find it interesting and fun that Spike is also kind of saying, though he’s going to kill her, messing up her little Parent-Teacher Night was kind of mean of him. And he says as a favor, he'll make it quick. It won't hurt.
And Buffy says, “No, Spike, it's going to hurt a lot.”
The Worthy Adversary
Watching this made me think of the concept of the worthy adversary (or adversary to pinning how you want to say it). I couldn't recall exactly the definition or where I had heard the phrase. And if I could remember where I would give credit on that. But it is not a unique phrase to Buffy and Spike. I looked around and I did find on TV tropes.org a definition of the Worthy Opponent:
“When the hero and the villain clash repeatedly over time they may develop respect for their opponent's abilities. After all, their adversary is able to keep rising to oppose them battle after battle. In the heat of battle the hero or villain's true capabilities and determination could be revealed. Or perhaps one of them was simply looking for a challenge. For whatever reason, the battles have created a sense of respect.”
And later it goes on to say:
“What matters is that the character in question acknowledges and respects their opponent for their skill. Should one side actually come out on top or find the other has fallen, it may lead to sympathy for the devil or sympathy for the hero.”
I feel like that is what we are starting to see here with Buffy and Spike. This respect for one another.
Learning About Writing From Buffy The Vampire Slayer
While I did not think of it when I was writing my Awakening series, I suspect this is part of where one of the adversaries for my main character Tara started developing and became a worthy adversary. He was barely a character in the first book. And then each book after that he became more and more interesting to me and more and more of a focal point. He is the one person who truly treats Tara with respect when sometimes even her family and her allies don't.
So was interesting to see this with Spike in Buffy and think about how much that might've influenced my own writing. What I wanted to do with my characters.
The Climax: Joyce Joins The Fight
So we have some great fighting between Buffy and Spike. We see Joyce, and she is about to leave the school, but she hesitates.
We flip back to Spike and Buffy. She has been getting the better of the fight. At least I think so. Maybe some it is I’m rooting for her. Spike then grabs a board and hits her and she slams into the wall and down on the floor. He is on the upswing with this board when from behind Joyce clocks with that ax and says, “You get the hell away from my daughter.”
Spike says, “Women,” and storms off.
I remember him saying something much cooler than that. I feel like as Spike develops more as a character, he would have something maybe wittier to say. But we’ll leave that where it is.
Falling Action: Joyce As Protector
What's important is Joyce then says to Buffy, “Nobody lays a hand on my little girl.”
And I love this moment. It's so rare that we get to see Buffy being protected by anybody. In particular, we’re so aware that Joyce really cannot protect Buffy. She is trying to figure out how to guide her daughter who has all these issues. She doesn't understand that the reality is that nearly all the time she cannot do anything about what is truly plaguing Buffy.
And it's so wonderful to me that here she is able to truly and directly help Buffy with them.
We have Falling Action at 29 minutes 47 seconds.
I skipped right over the Climax, which is our last major plot point, I see the Climax as the confrontation with Buffy and Spike at the start of it. But I feel like the real resolution is Joyce hitting Spike. She gets to be that pinnacle of the story and protect her daughter.
So we resolve both the main plot of Spike trying to kill Buffy, and the main emotional plot – I’ll call it that rather than trying to call it a subplot – of Buffy and Joyce.
More Falling Action
In our Falling Action we have Snyder outside. There are cup cars everywhere. So remember I said that the cops would start showing up? Here we see them in force.
There's a guy, Bob. I think that he's a detective because he's wearing a suit. He and Snyder are talking about their bodies all over.
Bob says one guy was pulled out a window and killed. And Snyder says, “I told him not to go up that window,” which gives us even more insight about Principal Snyder. He does not hesitate to pretend he took a different position to make himself look better. I guess that didn’t surprise me. We could have guessed that about him.
But here we have it explicit.
Giles and Jenny are coming out of the school. And he tells her he would understand if she started avoiding him. But she takes his hand instead.
Xander and Angel are kind of bickering. Xander says why didn't Angel hit Spike first. Angel says he needed to know if Spike bought his act. Xander says, well, what if Spike had bitten him? Angel says, “We would've known he bought it.”
Dialogue Snippet Raises Story Questions
Back to Snyder and Bob. They're talking about what to tell the press. And this is probably my favorite series of quotes or dialogue snippet:
Bob: “The usual? Gang-related? PCP?”
Snyder: “What did you have in mind? The truth?”
Bob: “The usual. Gang-related. PCP.”
I like this so much because it's that repetition of that line. The “usual gang-related PCP” but with that different inflection. It also tells us so much about what at least some people in the police know and don't. And about Snyder's communication with the police and the authorities in Sunnydale.
At the same time it raises story questions: Do they know it's vampires? Is there a plan for dealing with this more so than just on a one-off basis?
These are interesting questions to keep us going through the series.
Cordelia and Willow are still stuck in the closet. They weren’t able to see what happened. They concluded all they could do was pray. Cordelia is saying out loud a long-winded prayer, kind of rambling on tangents. Willow says, “Ask for some aspirin.” Cordelia starts to include that and then says, “Hey!”
Spike Has Enough Of The Anointed One
Then we see Spike and Dru. She asks if the Slayer hurt him. And he says, “A Slayer with family and friends. That sure wasn't in the brochure.”
Dru drew reassures him. Spike says how is the Annoying One, which I also like because again we get that irreverence from Spike. And Dru says he doesn't want to play.
Spike says he better go in make nice. So he goes and he gets on one knee and says he couldn't kill the Slayer. And the Anointed One, says he failed. Spike says he offers penance.
One of the other vamps goes into this rant, saying Spike should forfeit his life. Spike starts to say that he was brash and if he had to have it to do again –and then he stops and laughs and says, “Who my kidding? I would do exactly the same, only I would do this.” And he grabs the Anointed One, puts him in this cage (that is just conveniently, there – I don't know what it was supposed to be for), and locks it. And the cage is on a pulley system.
Spike pulls the cage up into the sunlight. And he says, “From now on we’ll have a little less ritual and a little more fun around here.” And we pan up to this smoking cage.
The first time I saw this episode I did not understand what happened. Because I didn't realize the Anointed One was a vampire. Maybe that sounds like how could I have missed it? But even as I rewatch, we never see the Anointed One, I’m pretty sure, in vamp face. I thought he was just as know this supernatural chosen little kid. It took me a while to figure out.
It must've been when I was able to watch in the DVD and replay it that I got that Spike brought the cage into the sunlight and dusted the kid.
Dru smiles at the end of the Anointed One. And Spike says let's see what's on TV. And there is where we end on that smoking cage.
A Game Changer Ends School Hard
This is a game changer at the end of the episode. I talked in a previous episode about cliffhangers versus game changers. A cliffhanger is where you don't resolve your main plot. But you end anyway. So the audience or reader is left hanging and has to come back to find the resolution.
With a game changer, the main plot has resolved.
So here the plot of Spike trying to kill Buffy resolved, but everything changes because Spike kills the Anointed One. And he and Dru take over.
I really like this because we've introduced this different type of vampire. Two different types of vampires. Spike with his kind of freewheeling fun. Not about the ritual. And Dru who is both somehow not well and has some sort of second sight or visions. And they have this passion for each other.
Different Types Of Villains
These are very different kinds of leaders than the Master or the Anointed One who, though he was a child, was very serious all the time. I think this was a good choice for the writers. It got them into a new place where maybe on the vampire side we will have even more interesting stories.
Other than Spoilers, which I hope you will hang around for, that is it for the breakdown of the episode.
Monday I'll be talking about Inca Mummy Girl. It's a one-off episode, and I always really enjoy it. Despite that, there are a few things I don't love. But we get a lot of Xander, a lot of Willow, and for one-off episode there are a number of things that will echo throughout the series.
Support Buffy And The Art Of Story
If you would like to support the show and get a free copy of Super Simple Story Structure: A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel, please visit and sign up on Patreon.
Thank you so much for listening.
Spoilers And School Hard
And we’re back.
For the first spoiler, Snyder is saying whoever loses gets expelled. I had not realized how much that is foreshadowed in the beginning. And that is Buffy's worry as she is preparing for Parent-Teacher Night. One, she really wants her mom to not be disappointed in her. But, two, she does not want to get expelled.
The Tortured Puppy
We also have Angel, when he is trying to con Spike, referring to the tortured puppy act. It made me wonder if the writers already were thinking ahead to the episode The Wish.
In that alternate universe episode a demon grants a wish that Buffy never came to Sunnydale. So when she does get there, Angel is locked up. The Master still exists. And Angel is referred to as the puppy and he’s being tortured. Later on, probably just because they like this language, when they're trying to talk in code about getting bitten in front of someone who doesn't know about vampires, Willow says she got bit by an angry puppy. So it’s just kind of a fun use of language.
Who Sired Whom?
Going to the more serious foreshadowing, here we have the whole Spike-Angel-Drusilla relationship. It will be retconned a bit. Here, Spike says that Angel was his sire. And I forgot to mention, Xander asks Angel in their back-and-forth what's a sire? It’s something else the audience doesn't know. And I feel like having Xander ask it is purposeful. It's a way of telling the audience, you didn't miss something. We haven't explained that yet.
At the same time it raises a nice story question: What is a sire? You could probably guess based on the conversation Spike and Angel have what it might mean.
We get more details later, but we find out that Dru actually sired Spike. Turned him into a vampire. I'm thinking that the writers didn't know that part of the history et.
Which is interesting because we will hear a fair amount about Angel and Dru in this season. But maybe they hadn't quite figured out all the interlocking parts yet.
Spike And Spikes
I love the reference to Spike driving spikes through the heads of his victims. Because we will find out that the night that Spike is turned into a vampire, he had been reading poetry. And it was made fun of. One of the guys who made fun of it said he'd rather have a spike driven through his head. So filling in the blanks, I'm assuming that he is one of the first people Spike sought out, and that's why he drove a railroad spikes through his head.
That doesn't come until season five. I would love to know if maybe they just came up with that nickname and that bit of history to make Spike seem fierce. And then they created that back story later. Or whether they always knew that that was part of Spike’s origins story as a vampire.
That Angel couldn't fool Spike – we will see in the coming seasons how Spike is able to read people. And how he uses that to manipulate people often. But also how it helps him just survive by picking up on what is going on around him, including in a way that many humans in the show don't.
Future Deals With Spike
The throwing down of weapons between Buffy and Spike foreshadows their dealings going into the future. When Buffy makes a deal was Spike she keeps her side of the deal and he keeps his side of it. We’ll see that so many different times. Including in the finale in Season Two when they make this pact to help each other for different reasons.
We’ll also see, though, that Spike doesn’t go overboard with that. As here. He's losing the fight. He threw down his weapon earlier, but he picks up a board later. And in the finale, he does what he says he'll do, but he doesn't go in to try to help Buffy fight or survive or not get killed. His view is “not my problem” and he leaves.
Also, not a foreshadowing of the finale, but just something fun that that the finale will call back to. We will see that great scene at the end of the season where Joyce sees Spike again there sitting in her living room and she says, “Have we met?” And he says, “Yeah, you know, get the hell away from my daughter.”
What’s On TV
Also, you have that last line Spike has: “Let's see what's on TV.” It really foreshadows that Spike and TV will be an ongoing – theme is probably too strong – an ongoing aspect of his character. When he eventually moves into his crypt in a cave, somehow he gets power because he has a TV, and he likes to watch his stories on the telly.
He and Joyce bond at one point over that. I think it's Passions. Something like, “Oh, do you think Timmy will get out of the well?” This so fit Spikes character to me. He understands people. He watches people. Their relationships and their interplay with one another.
And he is a very dramatic character. He plays for the audience. Whether it's an audience of vampires, whether it's just for his own entertainment, Spike likes a good story.
More On Worthy Adversaries
A little further on the worthy adversary concept. Buffy and Spike so much are in that category for one another that throughout the show over and over they will not kill each other. They will try, but they won't do it.
And eventually they have this relationship. You can see part of that even from here. From that first moment Spike sees her. And from Buffy saying, “We don't need weapons do we?”
There is a great interview with James Marsters, the actor who plays Spike, on Buffering the Vampire Slayer. ( I will put a link to it in the show notes._ If you are not spoiler sensitive, this is such a great interview with James. He talks about how Spike was supposed to die. I think I think it says in Season Two, fairly early. He was supposed to come on just be a villain and get killed off pretty quickly. And he was told to play it just like that.
Just be a villain.
Tnd he says that he figured out that if he was to not get killed off his character had to be something more than just the bad guy. So he did his best to make Spike come across even more vulnerable than he was written and have even more personality.
The whole interview is really fascinating.
Jenny And Giles
My last little foreshadowing, very small. But we have Jenny and Giles, and he's saying, “I would understand if you started avoiding me.”
Of course we will see that when we get to the episode about Giles’ past when Jenny herself is taken over by a demon, she does avoid Giles for some time. And it will be so traumatic and so difficult for both of them.
I was surprised to see that was very much foreshadowed here. We have relatively little about Jenny and Giles in each of these episodes, but the writers make such great use of the moments that we have.
So that is it for this Monday.
If you’d like to connect or send me your thoughts about Buffy or the podcast you can tweet me@LisaMLilly # BuffyStory.
You can also find my fiction, including mysteries and supernatural thrillers at Lisalilly.com or visit WritingAsASecond Career.com for articles on writing, time management, and publishing. T
I hope you will come back next Monday for Inca Mummy Girl.
The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC copyright 2020.