Some Random Reactions:
I love the boots and the shorts. He's such a dork.
The villains are a plot device, but it's useful to have an amphibious demon -- sort of mirroring Spike who also belongs to two different worlds.
I think Sike's pretty clearly going to turn back to the "dark" for a while -- whatever that means for him. But it won't take. The natural order for Spike has him in the light.
I'd love it if he were heading for human. His fantasy of him and Buffy at the beach says he wants it. In addition to the beat of steps will be taken, steps must be taken...to restore the natural order, I thought the last line about jettisoning the dead weight was promising. OTOH, the natural order for Spike could be him coming to terms with his status as a vampire who belongs in the light, even if he can only have it with special windows installed. Still, vampires aren't natural and so I'd rather that the restoration of the natural order for him involve him becoming human. But dark turn first, I'm sure.
I like the way Spike is presented here. I like the way he's self-aware and completely lacking in self-awareness at the same time. I like the way he overhears himself and changes course. It just felt like my Spike. A depressed Spike, to be sure. But still my guy.
I have been moved to meta. Maybe it’s because this comic is all about my guy. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a month to ponder this. But in my head it’s because we finally get some writing that triggers thiky thoughts, and honestly that hasn’t happened to me thus far in season 9. So here goes.
The opening page starts with an image of Spike’s ship sailing past the light side of the moon to get to the dark side of the moon. He’s thinking about Pink Floyd.
“There is no dark side of the moon really, says Pink Floyd. As a matter of fact it’s all dark.”
Spike’s not oblivious to the fact that he’s just sailed past the light side of the moon. He goes on to say that Pink Floyd isn’t exactly scientifically accurate.
“I guess that’s Roger Waters making with the metaphor. Clever wankers, those rock stars.”
Indeed. Dark Side of the Moon, which was a huge album back in the 1970s, is all about mental illness. When you are depressed, everything is black. And even if you know that it’s the depression that skews everything black, it’s still black. You can see that your brain is lying to you and still be absolutely beholding to the lie.
Light/dark. Truth/lie. Real/Image. Spike’s confused about all of it.
Spike in the Solarium
The central business of #1 has to do with the bug’s plan to cheer Spike up. The preview pages gave us a hint of what the bugs had in mind. We saw one of them scuttling by with a cardboard sun in hand. A fake solarium was going to be built so that Spike could sit in fake light rather than brood in the darkness as he’d been doing.
But I was surprised when the bugs hoisted him up and started hauling him into the solarium while pushing the button to raise the blinds. They literally threw him into the sun… as it turns out they’ve fixed the glass with the stuff used at W&H, so Spike can actually bask in the sun in a pleasant non-fatal sort of way. And this is where we get all sorts of delightful complexity.
To back up a minute, let’s start with Spike brooding about Buffy. He goes to sit in the solarium, with the blinds fully down.
“The solarium was going to be her place. A place of light.”
But not some place Spike could go.
“It’ll always be darkness for me, luv. My sort can’t take the light, can they?”
Spike left Buffy because he doesn’t want to be her dark place, but that’s all he can be. He passionately wants something that’s absolutely impossible for him… which trust me is exactly the recipe for a dark brooding depression.
Because depression paints everything black, it’s impossible to see how to make things change. So the bugs take it on themselves, taking steps to make the sun vampire-safe. But they don’t stop there. The cardboard sun is taped to the window, along with cardboard palm trees. They’ve made a fake beach for Spike, and when we first see him in his new vampire-friendly solarium, he’s basking in the sun in a beach chair with an umbrella drink in hand.
Before unpacking all of this, can I just say that I love Spike sunbathing in swimming trunks with his boots still on? That’s almost as great as the white sock panel from #36. He’s such a dork.
Anyway, there’s Spike, basking in the real sun, in a room with a fake sun taped to the wall to give the illusion that Spike’s at the beach. Even better, Spike’s sunbathing with eyeball protectors on his eyes, so he’s not looking at the fake sun or the fake palm trees. He’s basking in the real sun, eyes shut to the props. As we’ll see later on in the issue, he’s probably imaging him and Buffy at a real beach. But he’s not at a real beach, much less at a real beach with the real Buffy. It is an illusion. But he’s still in the real sun. Not looking at it because the brightness would burn his eyes.
Sebastian tells him they got the idea for the fake beach from a magazine Buffy left behind. Spike doesn’t go all maudlin at the mention of Buffy. Instead, he dismisses the ad they modeled Spike’s beach on as a ploy by Madison Avenue to get people to buy their products as a way of avoiding dealing with the mind-numbing dreariness of their own lives. Seb asks him why people would fall for it, and Spike says:
“That’s an easy one. Because they want to.”
He then settles back in with his eye protectors to keep sunbathing in the real sun with the fake beach in his head. Sebastian then makes his big mistake. He leans in and says that Spike must be too smart to do that sort of thing. Spike observes it can be hard to tell when the bugs are being sarcastic. He then sits up in his chair and looks out at the bleak landscape of the light side of the moon. And decides that he’s not going to be taken in by chicanery.
Spike: “Right, then. It’s got to go. The whole lot. Out with it.”
Sebastian: “But… but.. is not the light warm and comforting.”
Spike: “You’ve got a cardboard sun here, Seb. And a proper beach is near the sea. Splash and frolic. All that.”
Sebastian: “We’re not going back to the dark side, are we, sire?”
Spike: “Yeah, well, it may not be bright and shiny but at least it’s believable.”
What I love about all of this is that in rejecting the illusion, Spike is also rejecting the reality. He wants to be in the light, and he was in the light. He was seeing it in an illusory way, and because he recognizes that was an illusion, he concludes that the only thing that’s believable is something that’s all dark. And so he rejects the real light he was really basking in. This is again exactly right about how depression works. We are so focused on illusions about what we want, that we don’t know that we actually have what we want, right now, in a non-illusory form. Rather than accept what we want in a way we don’t want, we choose to sail back into the dark. That’s more believable. But it’s a lie.
I love how the lie is inescapable. To escape one lie, Spike tells himself another.
Presumably this is also a good mirror for Buffy. She wants normal, and there’s something real in that desire. But it’s also a lie. Spike broods on a strand of her hair and wonders if it’s the hair of a golden girl or synthetic fiber from a robot. Intervention echoes one more time. Buffy has been so detached from her reality she didn’t even notice she was a robot. It’s been an interesting inversion of Intervention. There Spike constructed his own illusion. But came to himself in a real way when he had to put himself on the line for the real deal, Buffy. This time he tried to woo a Buffy!bot, thinking she was Buffy. And while she was, sort of; she also wasn’t… and neither she nor Spike noticed. So what was the attraction? Was it the underlying unreality of the whole thing?
In season 6 Spike and Buffy danced around the light/dark imagery and the real/fake imagery. Buffy came to Spike telling herself she deserved no better than the dark. In doing so she was embracing something of value (her connection to her slayer power, the part of her that dances in the dark). But she did so in a way that was a lie, and so when she rejected the lie (as she had to), she also rejected something real. Season 7 had given us a lot of healing. It seemed like Buffy and Spike had gotten real with each other and themselves.
So is this regression? Or was season 7 one of those false epiphanies? They had a period of clarity, but maybe that was a lie too, masking an underlying unwillingness on both sides to really settle into the real. When the crisis had passed, neither of them could make a move toward each other. We’ll see how things unfold. But remember the basic dilemma. These swings from one illusion to the opposite illusion are born of an unwillingness to settle for what’s real. As long as you can avoid it you can dwell in fantasy, with alternating bouts of longing and despair.
Anyway, back to Spike. He decides the dark is more believable. We can guess he’s heading off to flirt with the dark for a while. And he’s going to figure out what he should be able to figure out now. He doesn’t belong in the dark. He belongs in the harsh light of day.
Steps Must Be Taken
Sebastian repeats that phrase three times. On his fourth iteration of the phrase, he finally completes it: steps must be taken to restore the natural order. He says that as Spike lounges in the solarium. If Spike in the solarium is the destination, what natural order are we talking about? It can’t include a fake beach. Does the natural order have Spike in the sun, but still forced to hide behind necro-tempered glass? Or is it something more? A girl can dream, and hope that the dead weight will, in fact, be jettisoned.
In the meantime, Spike goes to war with amphibian demons. Is his journey aimed at learning how to live when you belong not entirely to the water or to the land? Or is it aimed at finally choosing? Right now he thinks he has to choose, and he thinks he really only has one option. We know life in the dark isn’t going to work out for him. The natural order for Spike has him in the light. But does it have him in the light the only way an amphibious/non-natural being like himself could be in the light? Or will steps be taken for Spike to find a way onto a real beach?