Ok, I know I keep writing about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I can’t apologize, and I also can’t promise that this is going to stop anytime soon.
TRIGGER WARNING: mention of self harm, and sexual assault.
Also Spoilers!!! Duh.
Now this article is going to be discussing another one of my favorite character archetypes, “The Broken Man.” But this doesn’t just mean any broken man, well to me. I also want to specify that a broken man can also be a woman.
What I personally mean when I say broken man as my favorite archetype is a character that is initially introduced as having this power (usually a villain) or meant to instill fear in the audience. I love seeing this character being put through the RINGER, and I mean RINGER. First, we see this character all high and mighty but over the course of the story we see them being tested or elements of their power stripped away until they become a shell of their former self.
A perfect example of this is Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also, Birthname William Platt, also referred to as William the Bloody(his poet name from human time). I’m not going to in-depth cover Human-Spike, because we’ll be here all day.
Spike was a greatly renown vampire from the late 1800’s only being passed up by his frenemy (their relationship is complicated) Angelus (Angel, which is another long story). He is known to be cruel; he is especially recognized for successfully killing two slayers. We’re introduced to Spike as such, even without full backstory it’s clear that he’s a villain (we’re also introduced to him when he was with Drusilla, and his love for her is also something I greatly appreciate about his character.). His relationship with Drusilla is definitely where we see glimpses of his vulnerability for the first time, even seeing him fall into a depression after their breakup.
But I think a key moment of his vulnerability is when he was microchipped by the military. As a result of the chip, he was unable to harm humans. Watching him struggle with being essentially nurtured is definitely what I would deem as the first instance of him having his power or status stripped away in any meaningful way. Even going as far to attempt to stake himself. He becomes a sort of bittersweet ally the Scoobies (Buffy’s gang of demon fighting friends) once he realizes he can in fact kill demons, even though he only really did it so he could kill something lol.
As we their relationship continue, we can see hints that Spike is definitely falling for Buffy. After confessing his love for Buffy (which he was abruptly rejected afterwards) he continues to help her and even save her sister Dawn multiple times one of which almost took his life. His love for a slayer was something he struggled with greatly even attempting to kill Buffy after she had humiliated him but being unable to because he wanted to comfort her cause she was sad.
Even though Buffy’s trust in Spike grew greatly after she saw how he behaved with her little sister even rewarding him with a kiss after he risked his life for her. His love remained one sided until Buffy was resurrected, yes from the dead. Buffy’s death hit Spike hard, he even counted the days she was gone before she had been resurrected, “148”. Buffy began opening up to Spike about how her friends ripped her out of what she thought was heaven, something that was later revealed to the whole group during the musical episode. Which also ended in Buffy and Spike kissing.
Their relationship coming to a head when Spike realized that his chip allowed him to harm the resurrected Buffy. Once realizing this a brawl began which incased them fighting while also beginning their physical relationship, if you know what I mean. The morning after this Spike is over the moon meanwhile Buffy is repulse with herself (and him). As this dynamic continued it became clear that Buffy was using relations with Spike as a form of self-harm, which seemed fine with at first but soon began wanting the emotional aspects of a relationship which Buffy denied him. Their physical relationship ended after a visit from her ex Riley, after which Buffy admitted she had been using Spike.
After attempts to make Buffy jealous Spike cornered her in the bathroom and attempted to force himself on her. In regard to this I want to provide the disclaimer that I detest the decision of writers using sexual assault as a device to move a plot further instead of treating the topic with the gravity it deserves. I however find myself fascinated with the writers, Joss Wheadon’s decision to do this. Joss Wheadon was very adamant about portraying vampires as the monsters they were instead of these teeny-bopper heart throbs, one of the only exceptions I’d say being Angel, who we do see sick twisted glimpses of as Angelus, but that’s more nuanced I’d say. But this is why he showed vampires in the show the makeup that he did instead of them just appearing human. I think I remember this being said by an actor in an interview, but I could be wrong, but Joss Wheadon didn’t like how people were beginning to root for Spike as Buffy’s love interest he felt they forgot the origin of his character, so he wanted to reestablish Spike’s roots.
I also want to take a break a preface this by saying that though Spike has one of my favorite character arks this is the reason why I can’t deem him my favorite character, even though I worship the way he was written. Buffy and Spike were a trainwreck as a couple that relationship was essential for his development. He loved Buffy dearly, but his actions were inexcusable which I think lead to him reaching rock-bottom, I’d actually consider this his rock-bottom in a way but I also think he had another, I’ll explain that.
After this Spike is horrified with himself and this is the reason why I believe Spike chose to go fight for his soul. In this series demons have the ability to fight for their souls back. Angel didn’t fight for it he was merely cursed with it. Angel was a vamp, famously called the vampire with a soul, he also had a relationship with Buffy, she was madly in love with him. I think this also played a role in Spike wanting his soul back. After retrieving his soul spike is riddled with guilt, constantly being haunted by the voices of those he killed in the past.
He reveals this to Buffy in what I consider to be one of the most beautiful scenes in television history. The writing, the line delivery, the acting it’s all truly phenomenal. James Masters, the actor who plays Spike ends his monologue by laying his body on a cross. I could do a whole-nother post about this episode alone. I consider the episode not only Spike’s “rock-bottom” as it showed him as a shell of his former bad cool guy self, but the beginning of his redemption.
Spike is able to get past this, help Buffy train potential slayers when “the first evil” threatens to end the world. Spike’s final act of retribution I’d say was him sacrificing his life to save the world in the very last episode.
I believe Spike to be overall considered redeemed villain, him in the beginning versus the end is such a contrast. I believe he got the perfect redemption.