so i was just talking to kate about ats vs. btvs and their hero/antihero arcs
and it’s really interesting to me that ats’s arcs tend to be much more about deconstructing the hero and conveying the attitude that bad people can do good things and good people can do bad…
I don’t particulary agree with this analysis of Spike. If his character journey was really complete by the end of BtVS, then Whedon and co. wouldn’t have brought him back at all. Joss Whedon has no problem writing off characters who he believes have served their purpose, and Spike is no different. Whedon obviously felt there was (and is) more of Spike’s story to tell.
In fact, Spike got off somewhat easy at the end of BtVS (IMO). Yes, his actions were heroic, but dying is easier than redemption. That’s why he was brought back to life in AtS. His presence was necessary for both his AND Angel’s character development. For example, the discovery that The Shanshu Prophecy might refer to Spike caused both characters to really question their actions and motivations. Angel sulked in the notion that all his work may be for nothing while Spike realized that he might be able to have a happy ending after all (something he had all but given up on at the end of BUFFY). It sort of reversed their roles.
I do agree that Spike’s presence in season 5 of AtS feels ‘awkward’ at times, but that is kind of the intent. He doesn’t belong there because Angel is there. The two characters have always been foils for eachother who don’t really mesh well for long periods of time (same with Buffy and Faith). The Shanshu Prophecy just made that fact worse. I think that factor is more important than the fact that he came from BtVS.
Actually, from what I’ve heard (though I can’t confirm for sure- it might be fandom urban legend), the network demanded Spike back or they weren’t going to renew AtS for a fifth season at all.
And I completely agree with your speculation here and I think it’d have been great to see all of that. Spike dealing with his own development! Spike contemplating the Shanshu (beyond just one-upping Angel)! Spike learning about going on living in a mirror of Buffy’s arc in S6! Unfortunately, none of those things actually happened in AtS S5, so they’re only a pipe dream for fans who’d wanted more to the character. And my analysis here is specifically geared toward that- because he doesn’t fit in with this show, because it’s written its characters differently to the point that Angel’s arc would be bastardized to make way for Spike’s arc (because they’re on those two separate paths to “redemption” that I discussed in the original post) so to keep Angel consistent, Spike’s story is minimized and twisted into something else entirely.
And I actually think Angel and Spike have a great dynamic in S5 and I love it wholeheartedly and I do think there’s definitely space here to fanwank all of Spike’s character reversion in S5 as a result of being ~back with family~, plus there are plenty of foils who remain on the shows together without it destroying their characters because of the dynamic (Buffy/Spike, Willow/Buffy, Lilah/Wesley, even Buffy/Faith for their full season together and all that followed). I think instead it has a lot more to do with two very different visions for two very different shows.
Regarding the network forcing Whedon to write Spike into ANGEL, I have a hard time believing that is more than an urban legend. After The WB cancelled BUFFY and it moved to UPN, they weren’t keen on Whedon using ANY BtVS characters on AtS- mostly because UPN was one of their competitors prior to The CW merger. He had to fight to do many of the crossovers he managed to do.
I agree with you that there was definitely more of Spike’s story to be told, but that fact alone proves that his story arc was far from complete at the end of BtVS. He was a supporting character on both shows, and thus his character struggles were always secondary to Buffy and Angel’s. That’s just the way it had to be, and that’s why he has since received his own comics to rectify that somewhat. I think his presence on AtS was more than just one-upping Angel though. When Lindsay approached him (pretending to be Doyle), he agreed to help because he genuinely felt it was the right thing to do. One-upping Angel was not his primary goal- though it was a factor, sure.
Aside from Buffy/Faith, I don’t really view the others you listed as direct foils. Buffy and Faith are direct foils because their co-existence is a paradox (two slayers when there should only be one). They learn throughout season 3 that they can’t be together peacefully for that reason (and others). The same thing happens with Angel and Spike- especially in season 5. They are the only two ensouled vampires in the world (who happen to be in love with the same girl and possibly share a destiny via The Shanshu Prophecy). Being together will always cause conflict for that reason (though I agree it often amusing to watch).
I don’t view BtVS and AtS in completely different lights. They’re two halves of a coin, and I think their stylistic and aesthetic differences tend to cloud their overwhelming thematic similarities. There certainly are some thematic differences- I guess I just disagree that they differ to the extent that you’ve made them out to be. Just my opinion though- thank you for the discussion in any case.