We finished watching the televised seasons of Buffy a few weeks ago, and I haven’t yet found the time to pick up the first issue of Season 8, so I guess this is as good a time as any to reflect back on the series as a whole.

The thing that sticks with me most is Spike. That character resonates with me, especially in the last three seasons. There was a lot in the UPN seasons that just wasn’t any good. I told the Kid from the beginning that there were five good seasons that come to an end, and when we got to that point, I reminded her that whatever we got after that was bonus, not the real show.

But there were some moments of excellence in those two seasons, and most of them revolved around Spike.

More interesting to me, though, was watching the character of Spike develop while knowing what he was to become. From the beginning, Spike was different from other vampires. Buffy discovers very quickly that his love for Drucilla is his biggest weakness, and she uses it against him, attacking Dru to manipulate Spike into surrendering. Later in the first season, he collaborates with Buffy to get Drucilla away from Angelus, and when he returns to Sunnydale after that, he takes Harmony in and helps her survive.

Sure, all this time he’s a soulless monster whose priorities include food, sex and trying to kill Buffy, but he’s got some key qualities–loyalty, the ability to love, and compassion–that are never found in any other vampires or demons except for Angel. Angel’s compassion is, of course, explained by the fact that he’s had a soul for over 100 years. When the soul is removed, he becomes truly evil again. He’s smarter than other vampires, more well-rounded as a character, and clearly draws on centuries of experience, but his interests include food, sex, and watching others suffer. That’s it. No compassion, no love of any kind, and very little loyalty except inasmuch as he’s able to make an alliance with Drucilla (and Spike).

Spike’s personality is sometimes expanded upon via flashbacks, but those are mostly of William before he was turned. When we see him immediately after Drucilla turns him (in Season 7) his personality is largely unchanged, except that he seems to be enjoying his newfound bloodlust. What spurs his personality change, we are told, is the rejection by his mother when he turns her. A rejection that can be explained by the occupation of her body by a demon. It was not her, Spike realizes at last, but the demon who rejected him. Later, after Spike and Angelus parted company, Spike took on the Billy Idol-like persona that we see on the show.

I just watched an interview with James Marsters, and he said that the reason the character was so good is that the show was about outcasts, and Spike was the outcast of the outcasts. That made a lot of sense. But there’s more. And it’s most obvious in the musical episode.

If you watch the video starting at about 3:35 you’ll see Spike’s part. And if you combine it with the songs he’s already sung, you see that Spike is conflicted about his relationship with Buffy, but he’s been around for a very long time, and he’s gained wisdom in that time. Most vampire’s in Whedon’s world don’t live very long at all. Those that do–Angel, Drucilla, Spike and Darla–and also Anya, who’s not a vampire, but is a thousand years old–have a deep wisdom about them.

But they’re still…human? Or whatever. They are flawed, and the wisdom doesn’t cure that. So Spike knows that Buffy is using him, but he’s in love with her, and he’s always been a bit of a victim to love, first with his mother, then the girl he wrote poetry about, whose name is not important, then Drucilla, whose insanity required constant maintenance and sacrifice on his part, and finally Buffy, who is willing to confide in him and sleep with him but not tell anyone about it. That’s all true, and he knows it’s his flaw, but he also knows a lot about the world because he’s older than any human has ever been.

So it’s only he who can save Buffy’s life at this moment. And all of that comes together in a freaking musical episode. It’s brilliant.

And I just found out today that Spike was brought back to life on Angel and is in the comics, so that’s some joyful news.