Redemption: Milton, Dante, and Spike
By Iris

Summer, 2003

Notes from the Author: This is a necessarily narrow view of Spike's redemptive arc.  Every symbol, every scene, every allusion could be developed into a full essay or story, as evidenced by the wealth of literary writings and fan fiction to be found on the subject of BtVS.  It is by no means exhaustive.  There are many excellent points worth examining, and the ideas I raise are certainly debatable.
My purpose here was personal somewhat: to weather the repercussions of the finale and distract myself until the fall premier of Angel and Spike's return.  Further, though, I wanted to take a deeper look into the symbology surrounding Spike's redemption, as a process, within the parameters of accessible and classic writings and theologies that treat the subject with the dignity Spike deserves.  There are other valuable religious and/or mythological frameworks, other than the primarily Christian one which dominates these works, from which to view his redemption, but, alas, this is an essay, albeit a long one, not a book.  I have tried to include enough background and context so that the casual viewer can follow the arc.

James, if you ever read this, forgive me where I cut across the lines of your own interpretations of Spike's actions and motivations.  It was done in love.



Few overt religious references or allusions exist in Joss Whedon's Buffyverse: Willow's Goddess references and Wiccan practice; the cross- and holy-water-as-weapon imagery and action; the scenes set within a church, chapel, or mission; references to heaven and hell.  Sunnydale is home to vampires, demons, gods, goddesses, werewolves, witches, spirits -- but no God, no Goddess.  Its residents wield mystical forces, spells, metaphysical powers, magick, divination, visions, and prophecy -- but not prayers.  Nonetheless, its overriding themes resonate with religious meaning and significance: love, free will, temptation, confession, contrition, sacrifice, redemption.  Moreover, no character illustrates these powerfully archetypal concepts more than Spike, the vampiric, slayer-of-Slayers, bad-boy villain of season two transformed through the development of these very themes to the embodiment of them all.  Dante Alighieri and John Milton offer some insight into just such a process of redemption in their great works, the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, and Paradise Regained.

In a universe devoid of divine representatives, boasting, at best, evil preachers, ancient monks, historically genocidal priests, Knights of Byzantium, and the occasional nun, it is at once ironic and poignant that the character who most powerfully portrays the journey from Evil to Good, man's free choice of what is divine, is a bleached-blonde, leather-wearing vampire with a North London accent and a bantam cock strut who comes to love a young woman with superhuman strength he calls "Slayer!"

She never loves him in return -- or maybe she does -- and that ambiguity provides the crux of his torment as well as the impetus toward and the defining moment of his ultimate redemption.


Becoming a vampire
   is a profound
   and powerful
I could feel
   this new strength
   coursing through me.
Getting killed
   made me feel alive
   for the very first time.
I was through living
   by society's rules.
Decided to make a few
   of my own.
-- Spike, "Fool For Love"

As a human, Spike was William, a "bloody awful" poet, a sensitive, almost effeminate young man spurned by the woman he loved and ridiculed by his own society.  Drusilla sires William "the Bloody" in 1880, turning him at the height of despair over his unrequited love for Cecily.  He will always hunger for love.  The immense capacity to love and the hunger for reciprocation wells within him at just the moment of his death and rebirth as a vampire and shapes who Spike becomes.  Even as he terrorizes Europe and the world for over 120 years, he remains driven by -- compelled by -- his pursuit of love.  His human passion and desire never leave him, are never truly vanquished by the demon inside.

According to his own account and the Watchers' records, he, Angelus, Drusilla, and Darla form an unholy family of sorts, torturing, raping, murdering, feeding, drinking their way from town to town, country to country, continent to continent.  They glory in inflicting pain along the way as much as feeding.  Watcher records indicate that he gains his new name from his propensity to torture his victims with railroad spikes.  Freed of William's soul, of his conscience, and driven by emotional perhaps more than physical hunger, Spike takes to vampiric unlife with bravado, relishing in the fight as much or more than the kill:

ANGELUS: You've got me and my women hiding in the luxury of a mine shaft, all because William the Bloody likes the attention.  This is not a reputation we need.
SPIKE: (taking a deep swig from a wine bottle) Oh, I'm sorry.  Did I sully our good name?  We're vampires.
ANGELUS: All the more reason to use a certain amount of finesse.
SPIKE: Bollocks! That stuff's for the frilly cuffs-and-collars crowd.  I'll take a good brawl any day.
ANGELUS: (approaching Spike menacingly) And every time you do, we become the hunted.
DARLA: (sing-song; to Drusilla) I think our boys are going to fight.
DRUSILLA: (clapping her hands giddily) The King of Cups expects a picnic! But this is not his birthday.
DARLA: (looking at Drusilla like she's crazy) Good point...
SPIKE: (to Angelus) Yeah, you know what I prefer to being hunted? Getting caught.
ANGELUS: That's a brilliant strategy really... pure cunning.
SPIKE: Sod off! (laughs) Come on.  When was the last time you unleashed it?  All out fight in a mob, back against the wall, nothing but fists and fangs?  Don't you ever get tired of fights you know you're going to win?
ANGELUS: No.  A real kill.  A good kill.  It takes pure artistry.  Without that, we're just animals.
SPIKE: Poofter!
Angelus shoves Spike and the fight t is on.  Angelus snaps a metal rod in half, lifts Spike up and slams him down on his back, raising the makeshift stake.  Spike stops it inches from his heart and smiles up at Angelus.
SPIKE: Now you're gettin' it!
ANGELUS: (dropping the rod and backing off) You can't keep this up forever. If I can't teach you, maybe someday an angry crowd will. That... or the Slayer.
SPIKE: (sitting up, suddenly interested) What's a Slayer?

Obsessed and seeking out the Slayer, Spike kills the first of his two Slayer trophies in 1900, during China's Boxer rebellion, and acquires new status -- accepted, even admired, for the first time in his life or unlife:

DARLA: So where have you two been?
DRUSILLA: (to Spike) May I tell?
SPIKE: No need to be humble.
DRUSILLA: (to Darla) My little Spike just killed himself a Slayer.
ANGEL (looking him up and down, his face expressionless) Congratulations. I guess that makes you one of us.
SPIKE: Don't be so glum, mate! The way you tell it, one Slayer snuffs it, another one rises.  I figure there's a new Chosen One getting all chosen as we speak.  I tell you what... when and if this new bird does show up, I'll give you first crack at her.

It is not until 1977, in New York City, that he kills his second Slayer and this time the trophy includes the leather duster he sports for the next twenty-five years.


To Beatrice on my right I bent,
Looking for intimation, or by word
Or act, what next behoved; and did descry
Such mere effulgence in her eyes, such joy,
It pass'd all former wont. And, as by sense
Of new delight, the man, who perseveres
In good deeds, doth perceive, from day to day,
His virtue growing; I e'en thus perceived,
Of my ascent, together with the Heaven,
The circuit widen'd; noting the increase
Of beauty in that wonder.
-- Dante Paradise XVIII, 48-58

So Heav'nly love shal outdoo Hellish hate,
Giving to death, and dying to redeeme,
So dearly to redeem what Hellish hate
So easily destroy'd...
-- John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book III

Before and after the height of his newly acquired status, then, we see into Spike's emotional framework.  He is cocky, unafraid, brash -- even rash -- yet still hungry for acceptance and respect when he and Drusilla descend on Sunnydale to ostensibly kill the current Slayer.  But we also see another facet of his personality, one we recognize: he dotes on Drusilla, having saved her from a mob in Prague, but not before she is substantially weakened and desperately in need of healing.  In "School Hard," his first appearance in the series, we see a solicitous, protective, patient, generous -- loving -- Spike.  He coddles mad Drusilla, attends to her needs and wants with single-minded purpose, even while plotting to kill Buffy and anyone who gets in his way.  No other vampire so personifies the power of love even while practicing evil:

COLLIN:  Who are you?
SPIKE:  Spike. You're that Anointed guy. I read about you. (growls at vampire#2) You've got Slayer problems. That's a bad piece of luck. Do you know what I find works real good with Slayers? Killing them.
COLLIN:  Can you?
SPIKE:  A lot faster than Nancy-boy there. Yeah, I did a couple Slayers in my time. I don't like to brag. (can't keep a straight face) Who am I kidding? I *love* to brag! There was this one Slayer during the Boxer
Rebellion, and...
He senses someone behind him and turns his head to look as he morphs into his human guise.
SPIKE:  Drusilla. (goes to her) You shouldn't be walking around. You're weak.
DRUSILLA:  Look at all the people.  Are these nice people?
SPIKE:  We're getting along.
DRUSILLA:  (stares at Collin) This one has power. I could feel it from the outside.
SPIKE:  Yeah. He's the big noise in these parts. Anointed, and all that.
DRUSILLA:  (to Collin) Do you like daisies? Hmm? I plant them, but they always die. Everything I put in the ground withers and dies. (looks up and off into space) Spike? I'm cold.
SPIKE:  (puts his jacket around her) I've got you.
DRUSILLA:  I'm a princess.
SPIKE:  That's what you are.
She pricks Spike on the cheek with her fingernail, and a bead of blood flows out. She reaches up and licks it off. They move close to kiss but don't, and instead look over at Collin.
SPIKE:  Me and Dru, we're movin' in. (they separate) Now. Any of you want to test who's got the biggest wrinklies 'round here... step on up. (to Collin) I'll do your Slayer for you. But you keep your flunkies from tryin' anything behind my back. Deal? (Collin nods. Drusilla bows her head down and puts her hands to her temples.)
DRUSILLA:  I can't see her. The Slayer. I can't see. (looks back up) It's dark where she is. Kill her. Kill her, Spike. Kill her for me?
SPIKE:  It's done, baby.
DRUSILLA:  Kill her for princess?
SPIKE:  I'll chop her into messes.
DRUSILLA:  You are my sweet... my little Spike.

Perhaps it is his love for Drusilla that begins the process of Spike's redemption.  Indeed, even Drusilla acknowledges their love in "Crush," countering Buffy's assertion that Spike cannot love because he has no soul:  "Oh, we can, you know. We can love quite well. If not wisely."  But one of the best testaments to Spike's love for Drusilla, which marks his first steps on the road to redemption, comes, ironically, just before he offers to kill her for Buffy in the same episode:

SPIKE: This is Drusilla, girl! You have the slightest idea what she means to me? It's the face of my salvation! (looks at Dru, smiles slightly) She delivered me from mediocrity. For over a century we ... cut a swath through continents. A hundred years, she never stopped surprising me.
He caresses Drusilla's cheek as she leans her face into his hand.
SPIKE: (quietly) Never stopped taking me to new depths.  I was a lucky bloke. (Dru smiles) Just to touch such a black beauty.

The love between Spike and Drusilla is more than evident.  They both are vampires; they both are driven by the demon within, yet they both love.  However, Spike and Drusilla are different in one fundamental way: Drusilla wants power and freedom more than love.  Spike wants love more than power or freedom, more than anything.  He would die for it.  Angelus drove Drusilla insane, killing her family and friends and turning her when she was helpless and alone and victimized. She will always hunger for power, companions, and victims of her own.  Perhaps Spike and Drusilla's eventual separation is unavoidable, once Spike has come to know Buffy, although his first alliance with her is ostensibly for Drusilla's sake.  He does the unthinkable -- he teams up with Buffy against Angelus to save the world and regain Drusilla's attentions in "Becoming, Part II":

SPIKE:  We like to talk big. (indicates himself) Vampires do. 'I'm going to destroy the world.' (looks at the officer) That's just tough guy talk. (steps over to the car) Strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood. (sits on the hood) The truth is, I like this world. (pulls the cigarette pack from the officer's shirt pocket) You've got... dog racing, Manchester United. (pulls one out and drops the pack on the officer) And you've got people. (exhales) Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It's all right here. (lights the cigarette and takes a drag) But then someone comes along with a vision. With a real... (exhales) passion for destruction. (takes another drag and looks at Buffy) Angel could pull it off. Goodbye, Picadilly. Farewell, Leicester Bloody Square. You know what I'm saying?
BUFFY:  (nods) Okay, fine. You're not down with Angel. Why would you ever come to me?
SPIKE:  (stands and takes another drag, but doesn't look at her) I want Dru back. I want it like it was before he came back. The way she acts around him...
BUFFY:  You're pathetic.
He punches her in the face. She punches him right back.
BUFFY:  I lost a friend tonight!
SPIKE:  I wasn't in on that raiding party.
BUFFY:  And I may lose more! The whole earth may be sucked into Hell, and you want my help 'cause your girlfriend's a big ho? Well, let me take this opportunity to *not* care.
SPIKE:  I can't fight them both alone, and neither can you!
Buffy punches him hard in the jaw, making him flinch. He straightens back up and feels his jaw, checking for blood.
BUFFY:  I hate you.
SPIKE:  And I'm all you've got....
BUFFY:  ....All right, talk. What's the deal?
SPIKE:  Simple. You let me and Dru skip town, I help you kill Angel.
BUFFY: Forget about Drusilla. She doesn't walk.
SPIKE:  There's no deal without Dru.
BUFFY:  She killed Kendra.
SPIKE:  (surprised) Dru bagged a Slayer? (chuckles) She didn't tell me! (to Joyce, smiling) Hey, good for her! (gets a look from Buffy and loses the smile) Though not from your perspective, I suppose.
BUFFY:  (with contempt) I can't believe I invited you into my house.
SPIKE:  Look. (pulls Buffy aside) This deal works for me one way. Full stop. Me and Dru for Angel...I'll take her out of the country. You'll never hear from us again, I *bloody* well hope.
BUFFY: Fine. Get back to the mansion. Make sure Giles is all right...Be ready to back me up when I make my move. (Spike walks around her toward the door.)  If Giles dies... (Spike stops and faces her) she dies.

Interestingly, Spike's plan backfires; although he and Drusilla actually do safely leave the country, for in "Fool For Love," she sees something he does not -- yet: he has begun to care for the Slayer.

South America, 1998
SPIKE: I haven't said a word about the bloody Slayer since we left California. She's on the other side of the planet, Dru!
DRUSILLA: But you're lying! I can still see her floating all around you, laughing. Why? Why won't you push her away?
SPIKE: But I did, pet. I did it for you. You keep punishing me. Carrying on with creatures like this.
Pull back to reveal a CHAOS DEMON standing nearby, holding a beer. He's tall with antlers that drip and ooze.
CHAOS DEMON: Okay, you guys obviously have a thing going on here.
DRUSILLA: I have to find my pleasures, Spike. You taste like ashes.
SPIKE: (re: demon) So this is my fault now?
CHAOS DEMON: (to Spike) I didn't know she was seeing somebody. (off Spike's look) I should take off.
SPIKE: Yeah, why don't you do that?
The demon blows a kiss to Drusilla, then walks off.
DRUSILLA: You can't blame the ghoul, Spike. You're all covered with her. I look at you... all I see is the Slayer.

It is at this point in Spike's unlife that he, in truth, begins to embody the human journey toward redemption, portrayed in metaphor, in the love of a vampire for the most unlikely of objects -- the Vampire Slayer.  For a while, Spike, in his newfound love for the Slayer, merely relives William's pursuit of and rejection by Cecily.  It is no accident that Buffy mirrors Cecily's very words to him:  "You're beneath me" in "Fool For Love." In its infancy, the idea that he might actually be coming to love the Slayer in "Out Of My Mind" is more than unthinkable, even to Spike:

Cut to Spike's crypt. Spike is sleeping in his chair. Banging noises. Spike opens his eyes and gets up as the door flies open and Buffy walks in.
SPIKE: Should have known it's you. Been nearly six hours.
BUFFY: Well, it would've been less if I wasn't busy cleaning up your mess.
SPIKE: *My* mess? I just *borrowed* the doc. The mess is yours, Slayer. Yours and the boy's.
BUFFY: I'm done.
She takes a stake from her back pocket and walks toward Spike. He looks surprised.
BUFFY: Spike, you're a killer. And I shoulda done this *years* ago.
Spike looks her in the eye.
SPIKE: You know what? Do it. Bloody just do it.
BUFFY: What?
SPIKE: End ... my ... torment. Seeing you, every day, everywhere I go, every time I turn around. Take me ... out of a world ... that has you in it! (Yanks off his shirt and throws it aside)  Just kill me!
Buffy stares at him, then raises her stake and lunges. Spike winces, but she stops at the last minute. They stare into each other's eyes. Suddenly Spike grabs Buffy by the upper arms and kisses her passionately. She returns the kiss.  It goes on for a moment and then Buffy pulls back with a little noise of dismay, bringing her hand to her mouth.  She stares at Spike and he stares back, both panting .  The stake is gone from her hand.  Slowly Buffy drops her hand from her mouth and walks back to Spike, putting both her hands to the back of his head and pulling him down toward her.  They kiss again, very passionately.  Spike brings his hands up to clutch her back, kissing her cheek and the side of her neck.
BUFFY: (panting) Spike ... I want you.
SPIKE: (muffled against her neck) Buffy, I love you.
He pulls back. Closeup of Buffy staring at him.
SPIKE: (OS) God, I love you so much.
Cut to Spike sitting up in bed with a gasp.
Shot of Harmony sleeping in the bed next to him.
Shot of Spike sitting up in the bed, looking horrified, while Harmony continues to sleep.
SPIKE: Oh, god, no.
Closeup of Spike's face.
SPIKE: Please, no.
Blackout.  The sound of Spike panting continues as the producer credit appears.

It is unheard of, unprecedented, unacceptable, impossible to believe for Buffy, her friends, Giles -- for everyone in Buffy's circle -- that Spike, an unsouled vampire, a slayer-of-Slayers, could love Buffy.  Fans couch it in lust or obsession; Xander laughs hysterically before pronouncing it sick; Giles is horrified and fearful for Buffy, and, in "Crush," Joyce and Willow fear Buffy may have led him on:

Joyce: Honey, did you somehow, unintentionally, lead him on in any way?  Send him signals?
Buffy: Well, I do beat him up a lot.  For Spike, that's like third base.

Spike knows, even as he pursues Buffy romantically, that it's the longest shot of his life or unlife.  Spike himself acknowledges how a vampire loving a slayer violates everything he has known and how deeply his "crush" frustrates and crazes him.

SPIKE: (shouting) Bloody right you are!  If you hadn't left me for that chaos demon, I never would have come back here! Never would have had this sodding chip in my skull! And you - (to Buffy) wouldn't be able to touch me, because this, (pointing to Buffy, then to himself) with you, is wrong. I know it. I'm not a complete idiot.
He stomps past Buffy, then turns back.
SPIKE: You think I like having you in here? Destroying everything that was me, until all that's left is you, in a dead shell. (scoffs) You say you hate it, but you won't leave. You know, what I should just do, is get rid of both of you. Burn you. Cut you into little pieces (makes scissor gesture with his fingers) so there won't be any more bints to cock up things for Spi-

It is almost two full seasons before we get the proof that they are all wrong, we are all wrong.  Spike loves her, indeed -- and that love grows into a love beyond life, beyond death.

Dante's immortalizing Beatrice in the Divine Comedy is a tribute to his unrequited love for a lady in his own lifetime.  She becomes, both literally and figuratively, his muse, his inspiration, his symbol of man's quest for redemption.  In The Divine Comedy, Virgil uses Dante's aspiration toward Beatrice to urge him forward to a more divine love that can be seen only beyond her yet realized through love for her.  Such redemptive love parallels divine salvation available in the Christian religion only through the Christ figure and beginning in acceptance of Him.  Spike's love for Buffy serves just such a purpose: to impel him forward on the road to redemption.

We see that Spike loves, and loves far beyond what some humans ever experience or feel.  Only now do we begin to see evidence of that love's transforming power. If love for Drusilla is, by his own estimation, the "face of [his] salvation," his love for Buffy ultimately manifests what his love for Drusilla began: his redemption.

Free will

I made him just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall.
Such I created all the ethereal Powers
And Spirits, both them who stood, and them who fail'd;
Freely they stood who stood, and fell who fell.
Not free, what proof could they have given sincere
Of true allegiance, constant faith or love,
Where only what they needs must do appear'd,
Not what they would?
-- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book III

Supreme of gifts, which God creating gave
Of his free bounty, sign most evident
Of goodness, and in his account most priz'd,
Was liberty of will, the boon wherewith
All intellectual creatures, and them sole
He hath endow'd.  Hence now thou mayst infer
Of what high worth the vow, which so is fram'd
That when man offers, God well-pleas'd accepts...
--Dante, Paradise, Book XIII

During season five and season six, despite unsouled Spike's pronunciations that he's "bad," we see him repeatedly and consistently choose to resist his demon and history and invariably return to his love for Buffy.  He even, to a strong but lesser degree, proves his desire to preserve humanity and the world.  In "Crush," his love for Buffy, despite flawed logic and inexperience regarding how love is reciprocated, provides the impetus for a shift, a fundamental change, presaging his eventual soul quest.

Spike: Something's happening to me. I can't stop thinking about you. And if that means turning my back on the whole evil--

Despite Buffy's rejection and condemnation, in "Intervention" Spike protects Buffy's sister Dawn.  He submits to torture at Glory's hands and powers, actually battling a hell-god, rather than reveal that she is the "key," the energy needed to open a hell dimension, in human form.

SPIKE: No!  (coughs as she turns back) You can't ever.  Glory never finds out.
SPIKE: (quietly) 'Cause Buffy ... the other, not so pleasant Buffy ... anything happened to Dawn, it'd destroy her. I couldn't live, her bein' in that much pain. Let Glory kill me first. Nearly bloody did.

He offers his service and strength, even his potential death, to try to save Dawn once Glory discovers the truth and takes her.  He sobs openly at Buffy's death, and in her absence, we see that his love for Buffy has transformed into an active desire to aid the forces of Good.  He fights alongside the Scoobie gang against the vampires and demons although she is not there to witness it and there is no hope of earning her love.  He cannot hunt and feed on humans due to the chip the Initiative implanted in his brain, but the chip does not dictate his behavior.  He chooses to stay in Sunnydale, chooses to look after Dawn, chooses to battle Evil although there is nothing really to hold a vampire -- who cannot feed -- who has no soul -- there.  He is undeniably turning to the Good, demonstrating the power and doctrine of free will. In "After Life" we see that, although he has no hope of Buffy's return, his love for her has not diminished during the time before Willow's resurrection spell.

Spike follows Buffy into the living room. She sits on the sofa and he sits on the coffee-table facing her. He takes her hands in his and looks at them. Then he looks up at her face and their eyes meet.
BUFFY: How long was I gone?
SPIKE: Hundred forty-seven days yesterday. Uh ... hundred forty-eight today. (smiles a little) 'Cept today doesn't count, does it?

And later, in the same episode, we are left with absolutely no doubt regarding the degree of his grief and self-recrimination surrounding Buffy's death:

SPIKE: Uh ... I do remember what I said. The promise. To protect her. (pause) If I had done that ... even if I didn't make it ... you wouldn't have had to jump.
Beat. Buffy still doesn't react, just sits there looking at him.
SPIKE: But I want you to know I did save you. Not when it counted, of course, but ... after that. Every night after that. I'd see it all again ... do something different. Faster or more clever, you know? Dozens of times, lots of different ways ... (softly) Every night I save you.

Interestingly, although Spike loves Buffy, he alone, of all the characters present at her return, alludes to the moral high ground that Willow's dark magick resurrection spell is dangerous at best.  Only Giles will as strongly denounce Willow's action:

SPIKE: Willow knew there was a chance that she'd come back wrong. So wrong that you'd have ... that she would have to get rid of what came back. And I wouldn't let her. If any part of that was Buffy, I wouldn't let her. And that's why she shut me out.
XANDER: What are you talking about? Willow wouldn't do that.
SPIKE: (sarcastic) Oh. Is that right.
XANDER: Look. You're just covering. Don't tell me you're not happy. (Spike scoffs) Look me in the eyes, and tell me when you saw Buffy alive, that wasn't the happiest moment of your entire existence.
Spike gives Xander a "you just don't get it" scowl, turns and walks off.
SPIKE: (as he walks) That's the thing about magic. There's always consequences.
We see the motorcycle that Spike acquired in "Bargaining" sitting on the street in front of the house. Spike gets on it.
SPIKE: Always!

Spike chooses the Good for the sake of choosing the Good -- not because he has no choice, not because of Buffy, not because of the chip, not because of predestination, or fate, or prophecy, or anything else but desire, hunger, and the fight to win, to battle for Good against Evil all the way to an eventual showdown, a final battle against the ultimate Evil and for the ultimate Good.  Because the chip does restrain any impulse to feed or harm humans, he cannot yet claim full, free will.  Spike must in one great moment, renounce all the evil he desired and hungered for and fought to maintain.  It cannot be merely a display of desperate need for Buffy on his part, some hope that maybe now she will love him, for she is not the Divine.  It has to be more, an act of free will, and a desire for Good beyond his love for Buffy.  All the little battles of these last three seasons are leading to a final one.

Once Buffy is brought back from death in "Afterlife," Spike's journey doesn't resume -- it continues.  Further, Spike keeps her secret: that she had been in a dimension akin to heaven, not hell, and was called out of it by Willow's spell.  She hates life, hates that she hates it, cannot express her pain and anger to her friends because the revelation would devastate them.  Spike is the only person she can turn to, the only person she will not hurt by the admission -- or about whose feelings she does not care:

SPIKE: Buff? ... Slayer? Are you okay?
She isn't, but she composes herself and nods at him.
BUFFY: I'm here. I'm good.
SPIKE: (walks back to her) Buffy, if you're in ... if you're in pain ... or if you need anything... or if I can do anything for you...
BUFFY: (looks down at her lap) You can't.
SPIKE: Well, I haven't been to a hell dimension just of late, but I do know a thing or two about torment.
He sits beside her.
BUFFY: (still looking down) I was happy.
Spike looks at her in confusion.
BUFFY: Wherever I ... was ... I was happy. At peace.
Spike stares, shocked.
BUFFY: I knew that everyone I cared about was all right. I knew it. Time ... didn't mean anything ... nothing had form ... but I was still me, you know? (glances at him, then away) And I was warm ... and I was loved ... and I was finished. Complete. I don't understand about theology or dimensions, or ... any of it, really ... but I think I was in heaven.
Spike continues to stare at her in dismay.
BUFFY: And now I'm not. (almost tearful) I was torn out of there. Pulled out ... by my friends. (Spike continues staring, listening) Everything here is ... hard, and bright, and violent. Everything I feel, everything I touch ... this is Hell. Just getting through the next moment, and the one after that ... (softly) knowing what I've lost...
She looks up, realizes Spike is still there. She looks uncomfortable, gets up.
She walks just to the line where the shadows become sunlight, and pauses, but doesn't turn back to face Spike.
BUFFY: They can never know. Never.

It is Spike, and only Spike, to whom Buffy can turn.  He loves her, but he knows she will never love him in return.  He knows that, to her, he is a monster, an evil, soulless thing that cannot love and is unworthy of being loved.  Still, he lives for her crumbs.  He chooses to remain her whipping boy, a ready target for her violence and it is not until "Smashed" that he realizes he can even defend himself:

SPIKE: A man can change.
She again stops walking and faces him.
BUFFY: You're not a man. You're a thing.
She turns away again. Spike frowns, grabs her shoulder.
SPIKE: Stop walking away.
BUFFY: Don't touch me!
As Spike turns her around,  she punches him with her other hand. He pulls back and backhands her.  Buffy falls to the ground. Spike looks surprised, puts his hand tentatively to his head  expecting  searing  pain, and feeling none, with the beginning of a smile. Looks at Buffy, who is still getting to her feet and has her back to him.
SPIKE: Ahh, ahh, ohh! (grabs his head)
Buffy gets up, backhands Spike and he goes down.  He gets up to a kneeling position with his back to Buffy and stays there, looking at the ground. She speaks to his back.
BUFFY: You're a thing. An evil, disgusting, thing.

Once he can defend himself, the violence that is their relationship only doubles and redoubles.  The change in dynamics culminates in the loveless sex that is her crippled connection to the life to which she has been forced to return.  She needs him to love her, but she does not love him in return.

Finally, after Buffy tells him that their sexual relationship is over, that she is "using him" and it is "killing her," Spike follows her, tries to regain the connection, any connection to her, but she refuses him.  Finally, he seeks her out yet again, and the violence that has been their relationship intensifies, Spike desperate to connect with her, Buffy desperate to break away from him.  For the first time, Buffy is really through with him, but he does not believe her, and his desperation to make her admit that she does have feelings for him takes on the parameters of a rape attempt.  When she finally kicks him away, he leaves Sunnydale, horrified with himself.

When he commits acts which compromise his choice for Good, he takes steps to ensure such a thing does not happen again, and this is the worst of the former and best of the latter.  In "Grave," he seeks out a demon in Africa who can return his soul, should he survive a series of tests, and survive them he does, so that he can be the man she needs and wants, not the monster she claims he is, the monster he sees through her eyes.

A shadow moves across Spike's face
DEMON VOICE: You have endured the required trials.
SPIKE: Bloody right I have.
Slowly, painfully, Spike rolls onto his side and pushes himself up onto his knees. His face is swollen and bruised, more bruising and injuries on his chest and arms.
SPIKE: So you'll give me what I want. Make me what I was. So Buffy can get what she deserves.
Close on the demon's glowing green eyes.
DEMON: Very well.
Spike watches the demon nervously.
DEMON: We will return...
The demon's hand reaches out toward Spike's chest.
DEMON: ...your soul.
The hand touches his chest and it glows fiery yellow-orange.  Spike's eyes glow the same color.  He throws back his head, screaming..

Again, unprecedented, Spike's redemptive arc takes him well beyond the norm for vampires.  That he sought his soul, fought to regain it, and willingly assumed it is unheard of for a vampire.  Spike's free will, his freely chosen pursuit of and battle to regain his soul symbolizes and exalts the exercise of man's free will, but also reasserts the redemptive power of love, in the final scene of "Beneath You."

An oval painting on the wall is lit with moonlight streaming into the small chapel.  It appears to be a medieval painting of Mary holding baby Jesus and standing in front of a fringed white drape.  Zoom down to Buffy walking through the front door.  The chapel is set up with a dozen wooden pews arranged on either side of a central aisle.  There is a large, simple, gothic crucifix at the front of the chapel that can be seen by looking directly down the central aisle.  Buffy looks around. There are three stained glass arched windows on each sidewall of the chapel.  She walks forward and jumps when Spike speaks to her from the shadows behind her.
SPIKE: Hello.
BUFFY: What the hell are you--?
Spike is bare-chested, holding his shirt out to her.
SPIKE: It didn't work.  Costume.  Didn't help.  Couldn't hide.
BUFFY: No more mind games, Spike.
Spike is looking down at the ground even though he is standing right in front of her.
SPIKE: No more mind games.  No more mind.
Buffy reaches for his chest, where the scars seen in episode 7x01 "Lessons" are healing.
BUFFY: Tell me what happened to you.
Spike flinches, recoils violently, and looks her into her eyes.
SPIKE: Hey, hey, hey!  No touching.  Am I flesh?  Am I flesh to you?  Feed on flesh.  My flesh.  Nothing else. Not a spark.  (nods) Oh, fine.  Flesh then.  Solid through.  (starts unzipping his pants) Get it hard; service the girl.
Buffy is disgusted and smacks his hands away from his pants.
BUFFY: Stop it!
Spike reflexively reaches up and grabs her by the throat. Buffy grabs his shoulder and throws him across the room.  Spike lands on top of some pews, breaking them into pieces. He sits up a little, propped on his elbows behind him.
SPIKE: Right.  Girl doesn't want to be serviced. Because there's no spark. Ain't we in a soddin' engine?
Spike's looking around the room. Buffy walks over to him.
BUFFY: Spike, have you completely lost your mind?
SPIKE: (lucidly) Well, yes. Where've you been all night?
BUFFY: You thought you would just come back here and... be with me?
SPIKE: First time for everything.
BUFFY: This is all you get. I'm listening. Tell me what happened.
SPIKE: I tried to find it, of course.
BUFFY: Find what?
SPIKE: The spark. The missing... the piece that fit. That would make me fit. Because you didn't want... (starts to cry) God, I can't... Not with you looking.
Spike stands and walks away to a nearby window. He stands there, mostly in shadow, his body directed away from her. He looks back over his shoulder at her.
SPIKE: I dreamed of killing you.
Keeping an eye on him, Buffy bends down to pick up a large splinter from the broken pews at her feet to use as a stake, if necessary. Spike starts pacing.
SPIKE: I think they were dreams. So weak. Did you make me weak, thinking of you, holding myself, and spilling useless buckets of salt over your... ending? Angel--he should've warned me. He makes a good show of forgetting, but it's here, in me, all the time. (walks around toward her from behind) The spark. I wanted to give you what you deserve, and I got it. They put the spark in me and now all it does is burn.
Buffy's face shows shock, disbelief and, finally, comprehension.
BUFFY: Your soul.
SPIKE: (laughs) Bit worse for lack of use.
Buffy turns to face him.
BUFFY: You got your soul back. How?
SPIKE: It's what you wanted, right? (looking at the ceiling) It's what you wanted, right? (presses his fingers to his temples, looks down, and walks toward the altar). And--and now everybody's in here, talking. Everything I did...everyone I-- and him... and it... the other, the thing beneath--beneath you. It's here too. Everybody. They all just tell me go... go... (looks back over his shoulder to Buffy) to hell.
BUFFY: Why? Why would you do that--
SPIKE: Buffy, shame on you. Why does a man do what he mustn't? For her. To be hers. To be the kind of man who would nev-- (looks away) to be a kind of man.
Spike walks toward the 6-foot-tall crucifix altarpiece at the front of the chapel. Sounds like he's quoting something.
SPIKE: She shall look on him with forgiveness, and everybody will forgive and love. He will be loved.
Spike's standing only a foot away from the crucifix, staring at it.
SPIKE: So everything's OK, right? (sighs)
Spike embraces the crucifix, resting one arm over each side of the cross bar, and resting his head in the corner of the vertex. His body is sizzling and smoke is rising from where it touches the cross.
SPIKE: Can--can we rest now? Buffy...can we rest?
A close-up of Buffy's face shows that she is crying now. From where she stands, Spike's exhausted body hanging limply on the cross resembles Jesus (except the view is of Spike's back).

As Spike turns his tear-streaked face away, his anguish, desperation, even his insanity, is so poignant and so powerful that, coupled with his confession to the highest measure of love he can offer and to the depths to which his self-loathing has plunged him, even hitherto unmoved Buffy must weep.

Unfortunately, however, when newly-souled Spike returns to Sunnydale, the First Evil has already begun its conquest of Sunnydale, the Hellmouth, and the Slayer line, and its first line of offense is Spike.  The knowledge of how evilly he has acted, guilt and pain over the deaths he has caused, and the self-loathing over how he has hurt Buffy are a large part of what threatens his sanity.  His newly regained soul tortures his psyche with the full weight of over a century of evil.

However, recalling the Biblical temptation in the wilderness, the First Evil further torments, tempts, and manipulates him at this, the most vulnerable point in his journey toward redemption.

Temptation thou hast avenged
Supplanted Adam, and, by vanquishing
Temptation, hast regained lost Paradise,
And frustrated the conquest fraudulent.
He never more henceforth will dare set foot
In paradise to tempt; his snares are broke.
For, though that seat of earthly bliss be failed,
A fairer Paradise is founded now
For Adam and his chosen sons...
-- Milton, Paradise Regained, Book IV

Newly ensouled, lost, hurting, Spike is like an abandoned child.  He desperately wants to quell the love that has brought him so much pain, the love that led him to seek out the instrument of his torture -- his soul.  In "Lessons," it is evident that he has gone quite mad:

Buffy pauses, looks taken aback. We see that Spike's black shirt is unbuttoned and there are cuts on his chest.
SPIKE: (backing away from Buffy) I'm not fast. Not a quick study. (tearfully) I dropped my board in the water and the chalk all ran. (more calmly) Sure to be caned. (laughs) Shoulda seen that coming.
He backs up against a wall. Buffy frowns, walks toward him. Spike looks nervous, pulls his shirt around him and edges away along the wall.  Buffy comes right up to him and slowly puts out her hand and pulls his shirt aside, revealing red scratch marks criss-crossing the skin over Spike's heart.
BUFFY: What did you do?
SPIKE: (not looking at her, whispering) I tried ... I tried to cut it out.

Spike struggles to regain or maintain some semblance of sanity, to recreate some form of relationship with Buffy, to be of service to the Good, to love, yet to be free of the pain of rejection, the pain of love.  Further, he struggles to resist the First Evil's ability to manipulate him through the pain of his past.  In Religious Psychology:  "Redemption," redemption is presented as just such a struggle:

Redemption is presented in all Religions as the reversal of the Fall, the retracing by man of the steps back to his ontological perfection as a soul, an "Image" of the Divine.  Redemption's starts when the Ego begins to question the ability of all its titles and possessions to provide permanent Security, Health and Happiness.  Redemption is a "Conversion" of the human will away from ego-gratifications to soul enjoyment.  This Conversion usually triggers a prolonged fight between the pull of the soul and the resistance of the forces of selfishness.  In many Religions, this struggle is symbolically depicted as a titanic battle between the Forces of Goodness and the Forces of Evil, such as the battle of Kurukshetra in the Gita, of Armageddon in the New Testament (Book of Revelation of St.John), and of the Jihad in Islam. . . .

The concept of Redemption as a struggle appears in many natural Religions also, in numerous tales of battles between Gods and Demons. For instance, in the Celtic tradition of Ireland, a fable is recounted of a battle between the malevolent "Fomhoire" (demonic beings) and the "Tribes of the Goddess Dana." In that battle, named Magh Tuiredh, the good tribes, led by the God Lugh defeated forever and banned from Ireland the Fomhoire.

It is no accident that the Big Bad that surfaced this season is the First Evil itself and that it torments Spike. Reminiscent of Christ's temptation in the wilderness, the torment is both precursor and setup for the coming battle between Good and Evil, both a larger symbol of the struggle within Spike and the opportunity for his ultimate redemption.

In "Sleeper," The First tempts and torments Spike, assuming different forms including Buffy and Spike himself, and uses a psychological trigger to control him and his actions.  It is not until Buffy confronts him with Holden's revelation about Spike's siring him that he begins to realize, remember, and resist:

SPIKE: (to phone) Hello? It's me. I'm seeing-- I think I'm remembering. I think I've done some very bad things.
BUFFY: (on cell phone) Where are you?
SPIKE: I need--I need to see you. There's a house. 634 Hoffman Terrace.
BUFFY: I'll meet you.
Buffy and Spike hang up their phones. When Spike turns around, there's another Spike standing there, talking to him.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: You shouldn't have done that. It's not time yet. Not nearly. You're going against the plan, but we can make it work.
Spike looks scared and confused.
Fade to black.
This is an enormous brick Tudor style home. Spike's walking into the basement, followed by Buffy.
SPIKE: Down here. (Buffy hesitates at the top of the stairs) You won't come down? I understand. It's a risky proposition.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: (blocking Spike's way) There's an order. The slayer's not in order.  But it can't hurt to play.  Get your claws in the mouse, you know?
SPIKE: You are not here.
BUFFY: (comes down the stairs) All right.  What do you want to show me?
SPIKE: I've been remembering.  The girl.  I walked her home.  The one you saw. And the one before that. And I think I killed her.  And I think I--I think I killed the lady who lived here.  And there might be others.
BUFFY: Oh, my God.
SPIKE: (walks to center of the room, Buffy follows) Here.  I-I think I buried them here.
BUFFY: Spike, why?
SPIKE: Well, I don't know, do I?  I don't even know how.  Shouldn't be able--
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL seems to be visible only to Spike.  He's pacing in the background, and starts to sing the same song Spike was humming at the beginning of the episode and that the harmonica guy played.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: (singing) Early one morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard the fair maid sing in the valley down below.  Oh, don't deceive me.  Oh never leave me.  (sits on stairs) How could you use a poor maid so?
As SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL sings, Spike is distracted, mesmerized by the song, unable to respond to Buffy, who's trying to get his attention.
BUFFY: What? What is it? Spike!
Spike vamps out and attacks Buffy. She had a stake pointed at him, but he wrenches it out of her hand and throws it away behind him, shattering nearby bottles. Buffy throws him across the room.
BUFFY: What are you doing?
He grabs a shard of glass and swings it at her, cutting her shoulder.
Buffy fights with him, and pushes him to the ground.
BUFFY: Spike, listen to me, you don't want to do this. (he pushes her away)
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: And it's just about to get fun.
Vampires start rising from the basement floor, coming for Buffy.
BUFFY: Oh, God!
Buffy fights the vampires, who have taken tools from the basement to fight her with. SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL is talking to Spike.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: You know what I want you to do.
Buffy continues to fight the vampires, but they manage to get a hold on her, one on each arm, holding her up for Spike.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: They're waiting for you. Take her, taste her, make her weak.
Spike stands, and walks toward Buffy menacingly.
BUFFY: Spike, no!
Spike puts his face near hers, on each side of her neck, but opts to suck from her open shoulder wound he created earlier by cutting her with the glass. As he mouths her, he flashes back to all the things he's done--killing, burying, and all the rest.
SPIKE: (in human face) I remember.
Spike's horrified. His face is one of complete shock and disbelief that he could have actually done those things. He recoils from Buffy, staggering back to the far end of the room. Buffy fights her way free of the vampires' grip. She uses the wooden handle of a garden tool to stake the vampires. Meanwhile, Spike's hiding in a cubbyhole at the back end of the basement, covering his head with his hands. SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL is crouched near him, talking to him.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL: You failed them. Now she's gonna kill you. You lose, mate.
An elderly vampire is having difficulty rising from the grave, only able to get her hand out of the dirt. Buffy grabs her hand, pulls her up, and stakes her.
BUFFY: Sorry, ma'am, but it's my job.
Buffy walks over to Spike, still carrying the wooden handle. She stands in front of him. He looks at her, knowing his fate, and scoots out of the cubbyhole he was hiding in. He holds open his shirt. He's crying.
SPIKE: Do it fast, OK? He said you'd do it.
BUFFY: Who said?
SPIKE: Me. It was me. I saw it. I was here the whole time, talking and singing. (sobs) There was a song.
BUFFY: What are you talking about?
SPIKE: I don't know. Please, I don't remember. Don't make me remember. (to invisible person) Make it so I forget again! I did what you wanted!
BUFFY: There's something here. (throws away the wooden tool handle)
SPIKE: Oh, God, no, please. I need that. I can't cry the soul out of me. It won't come. I killed, and I can feel 'em. I can feel every one of them.
BUFFY: There's something playing with us. All of us.
SPIKE: What is it? Why is it doing this to me?
BUFFY: I don't know.
SPIKE: Will you... Help me. Can you help me?
BUFFY: I'll help you.
SPIKE-2/FIRST EVIL is still watching from the staircase. He sighs and sneers, seeming disappointed.

 Rather than risk harming anyone, Spike asks Buffy to stake him, citing The First's assertion that she would do exactly that, but she refuses.  He settles for Buffy's tying him up, and finally chaining him, unsure whether The First can still control him.

Buffy's tying Spike's wrists to a chair he's sitting in.
BUFFY: (sighs) We're gonna get to the bottom of this.  We just can't take any chances.
SPIKE: Don't... Make it tighter--the knots'll give.  I get free, someone's gonna die.

Interestingly, it is Buffy herself who best verifies the First Evil's role as tempter.  In the finale battle scene, she retorts, "Have you ever considered a cool name?  I mean, since you're incorporeal and basically powerless.  How about `the taunter'?"

Confession and Contrition

...they forthwith to the place
Repairing where he judged them prostrate fell
Before him reverent, and both confessed
Humbly their faults, and pardon begged, with tears
Watering the ground, and with their sighs the air
Frequenting, sent from hearts contrite, in sign
Of sorrow unfeigned, and humiliation meek.
-- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book X

O conscience! into what abyss of fears
And horrors hast thou driven me; out of which
I find no way, from deep to deeper plunged!
--Milton, Paradise Lost, Book X

In "Never Leave Me," we see Spike's realization that he is being manipulated by The First, and with the realization comes more confession and deeper contrition from Spike throughout the episode.  We also gain insight into the exact nature of Buffy's violence and his unsouled relationship with her.  We realize the extent of The First's efforts to drive Spike mad, to prey on his vulnerability, to control him:

BUFFY: Better? (Spike nods) Good. (Buffy sits on edge of bed)
SPIKE: I don't remember anything.
BUFFY: Well, you were having pretty bad withdrawal.
SPIKE: No, not that. I don't remember... what I did. (sighs)
BUFFY: Nothing?
SPIKE: It's all flashes here and there. It's like I'm watching someone it, kill people. I've been losing time for a while now, waking up in strange places.
BUFFY: When did your chip stop working?
SPIKE: I wasn't aware that it had, you know. Not 'til now.
BUFFY: And the losing time? How long has that been going on?
SPIKE: Oh, things have been wonky since I got back, ever since--
BUFFY: You got your soul.
SPIKE: (chuckles) Figured that's what it was like, it'd been so long since I had one.
BUFFY: How did you do it? How'd you get your soul back?
SPIKE: Saw a man about a girl. (sighs) I went to seek a legend out. Traveled to the other side of the world, made a deal with a demon.
BUFFY: Just like that?
SPIKE: No, not just like that. There was a price. There were trials, torture, pain and suffering... of sorts.
BUFFY: Of sorts?
SPIKE: Well, it's all relative, isn't it?
BUFFY: Meaning?
SPIKE: Meaning I have come to redefine the words pain and suffering since I fell in love with you.
BUFFY: (sighs) How can you say that?
SPIKE: Apparently, I just slaughtered half of Sunnydale, pet. I'm not really worried about being polite anymore.
BUFFY: (nods) So, that's what this is about. (stands, crosses arms) You feeling sorry for yourself, Spike?
SPIKE: I'm feeling honest with myself. You used me.
SPIKE: You told me that, of course. I never understood it though. Not until now. You hated yourself, and you took it out on me.
BUFFY: You figured that out just now?
SPIKE: Soul's not all about moonbeams and pennywhistles, luv. It's about self-loathing. I get it. Had to travel 'round the world, but I understand you now. I understand the violence inside.
BUFFY: Violence? William the Bloody now has insight into violence?
SPIKE: Not the same. As bad as I was, as evil and as wretched as I was, I never truly hated myself back then. Not like I do now.

In the past, Spike either gloried in his evilness or, when confronted with the separation from others that evil necessitates, struck back, acting out and exacerbating that separation with violence.  Now, however, he confronts it, confesses it, and while he knows he cannot apologize or ask forgiveness, asks for help to overcome it.  As Buffy turned to him at the height of her spiritual despair, so he now turns to Buffy.  She symbolizes everything to which he aspires even as she embodies everything of which he believes himself unworthy.

Spike's chip begins misfiring after Buffy rescues him from the First, and she contacts the government to find out what can be done about it.  She is given the choice of doing nothing, resulting in Spike's certain death; having the chip repaired, so that he will remain relatively harmless to humans; or having the chip removed, which will restore his free will.  In one of Buffy's most profound insights into Spike's psyche and potential, she explains her decision to have the chip removed to Giles: "He can be a good man, Giles.  I feel it.  But he's never gonna get there if we don't give him the chance."  Indeed, her decision removes the last obstacle to his further redemption.  Through the season's remainder, we see that decision rewarded repeatedly.  Spike becomes more and more integral to the preparations for the final battle even as the love he bears Buffy grows more and more into a vital force for the Good.

Spike realizes that his love for Buffy has taken on a new dimension, new expression, new depth.  He is more vulnerable than he has ever been before as he moves from being "love's bitch" to something beyond anything he has ever experienced -- a man who loves unconditionally.  He has loved Buffy without encouragement, hope, or even dignity for years.  She has used him, battered him, rejected him.  Still, he loves.  Still, he remains.  Still, he offers himself.  He has quested beyond life, beyond death, beyond this earthly dimension for the fullest expressions of that love.  As his love grows to its fullness, he is exhilarated yet terrified at its power.  In "Touched" and "End of Days," we are taken back to the beginning, to Spike's love for Buffy, with an echo of his account of his first Slayer kill, the "best night of his life," layered now with new meaning:

He reaches up to touch her face but she turns away.
SPIKE: Hey, look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I say I love you, it's not because I want you, or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You are a hell of a woman.
Tears stream down her cheeks as she stares down at him kneeling before her.
SPIKE: You're the one, Buffy.
BUFFY: I don't want to be the one.
SPIKE: I don't want to be this good-looking and athletic. We all have crosses to bear.
She smiles a little in spite of herself.
SPIKE: You get some rest now.
He stands and heads for the door.
SPIKE: I'll check in before first light. You can decide how you want--
BUFFY: Spike?
He stops and turns back.
BUFFY: Could you stay here?
SPIKE: Sure.

The next morning

SPIKE: Last night was... (beat) God, I'm such a jerk. I can't do this.
BUFFY: Spike...
SPIKE: It was the best night of my life. If you poke fun at me, you bloody well better use that (nodding at the scythe) 'cause I couldn't bear it.  It may not mean that much to you but--
BUFFY: I just told you it did.
SPIKE: Yeah, I hear you say it but... I've lived for soddin' ever, Buffy. I've done everything. I've done things with you I can't spell... but I've never been close... to anyone. Least of all you. Until last night. All I did was hold you, watch you sleep... and it was the best night of my life. So yeah, I'm terrified.


What is "sacrificed" is the Ego pride, the very root of the human fall. The deep symbolic meaning of the Christian Cross is the "Crucifixion" of the Ego on the cross of its own passions, to share in the glory of soul-resurrection in the Christ. Actually, the cross is an ancient religious symbol that predates Christianity: its vertical line symbolizes the Infinite Reality and its horizontal line the finite Universe; man stands right at the Crossroad, free to choose to ascend toward the Reality of divine Wisdom and Love or to walk forever the horizontal paths of Egoity.
-- Religious Psychology: "Redemption"

Sacrifice is a common theme in mythology especially when associated with the spirit's travel to the afterlife.  In Goddess mythology, as She encounters each gate to the Underworld, She must give up something to be allowed passage.  One cannot receive unless one sacrifices something.  One by one, She surrenders Her jewels, regalia, and finally Her clothing.  At last She stands naked before the Lord of the Underworld, and her journey is complete.

Spike's many sacrifices over the course of his pre- and post-ensouling path culminate in his final act of redemption in "Chosen."  It is not a cross that is the instrument of his sacrifice, but an amulet.  It is upon Buffy's choosing him to wear it that we witness yet another choice on his part to sacrifice his ego, his pride, and the foreshadowing of his ultimate sacrifice: life.  The episode title takes on a deeply symbolic meaning: Buffy, the "chosen one," as well as his "chosen," raises him to the highest possible status -- her champion, the world's champion, humanity's champion.  He becomes the "Chosen."

SPIKE : Where's the trinket ?
BUFFY: The who-ket ?
SPIKE : The pretty necklace your sweetie-bear gave you. The one with all the power. I believe it's mine now.
BUFFY: How do you figure ?
SPIKE : Someone with a soul, but more than human... Angel meant to wear it, that means I'm the qualified party.
BUFFY: It's volatile. We don't know...
SPIKE : You need someone strong to bear it then. You were planning on giving it to Andrew ?
BUFFY:  Angel said... this amulet is meant to be worn by a champion.
A beat, as he deflates. Then Buffy holds it out to him, and he understands her meaning.
Slowly takes it.
SPIKE: Been called a lot of things in my time...
BUFFY: I want you to be careful.
SPIKE: You're talking to the wrong guy, love. (feeling it) This is powerful.
A beat, as he turns it over in his hand.

Even here, at the critical moment of Buffy's choosing her and the world's champion, Spike further demonstrates his willingness to sacrifice self and ego for the greater Good.  It is obvious that he will not insist, will not fight for the opportunity to wear the amulet, will not assume his worth.  It's interesting that in describing the responsibility associated with the amulet, he uses the words "bear it," an echo of the Christ bearing his own cross to his crucifixion.


Thus they in lowliest plight repentant stood
Praying, for from the mercy-seat above
Prevenient grace descending had removed
The stony from their hearts, and made new flesh
Regenerate . . . .
--Milton, Paradise Lost, Book XI

Supreme of gifts, which God creating gave
Of his free bounty, sign most evident
Of goodness, and in his account most priz'd,
Was liberty of will, the boon wherewith
All intellectual creatures, and them sole
He hath endow'd.  Hence now thou mayst infer
Of what high worth the vow, which so is fram'd
That when man offers, God well-pleas'd accepts...
--Dante, Paradise, Book V

Redemption is a process of Purification, a slow turning of the ego from disobedience to obedience, from pride to humility, from the puffed-up complexity of titles and possesssions to the sacred simplicity of the "I AM ." The word "pu-rification" derives from a Sanskrit root "Pu," meaning "sacrifice." This word is derived from the Latin "sacrum faciere" ( to become holy ). Purification is therefore that particular process which leads man toward holiness.

Purification includes two movements: one from God toward man and an other of man toward God, like two friends greeting each other.
-- Religious Psychology, "Redemption"

The amulet in "Chosen" contains just such purifying powers.  Angel offers to wear it, but Buffy sends him away, ostensibly to prepare a "second front" in case she, the Potentials, and the Scoobies are defeated.  She admits that Spike is "in her heart."  There is little discussion of the amulet's power to cleanse and purify; indeed, we know very little else except that prophecy says it will be worn by a champion who has a soul but is stronger than a human:

ANGEL: I don't know everything. It's very powerful and probably very dangerous. It has a purifying power... cleansing power... possibly scrubbing bubbles. The translation is...anyway, it bestows strength to the right person who wears it.
BUFFY: And the right person is?
ANGEL: Someone ensouled but stronger than human. A champion.

The entire group arrives at the high school and disperses to their various battle stations.  Their positions recall the enjoining spell in "Primeval" as the same core members center on Buffy's location first in the basement and then in the Hellmouth.  Willow begins the spell which, rather than joining them with Buffy, will tap into the Scythe's energy and spread it around the world to empower all potential slayers.  Spike battles by the Slayer's side against the gathering forces of darkness.  He has been guided by this very love, through the power of free will, victorious over the First Evil's temptations, empowered by his own confession and contrition, toward this very fulfillment.  He calls out for Buffy when the amulet's magick begins and he feels the energy building within him.  His ultimate sacrifice begins.  Words become inadequate as we watch this, his last redemptive act, through the lens of reflection, looking back over his long, anguished journey as light streams from his soul:

Spike: Oh, bollocks.
And energy SHOOTS up from him, straight through INT. SUNNYDALE HIGH - SEAL CHAMBER - CONTINUING AND UP INTO INT. SUNNYDALE HIGH - PRINCIPAL WOOD'S OFFICE - CONTINUING bursting through the floor, narrowly missing the still-prone Willow, and continuing  through the ceiling, from whence light  pours straight back down.  The light hits Spike and he is pinned, pain and something else building in him.
SPIKE: Buffy...
She sees, racing to him --
BUFFY: Spike !
And has to dive out of the way as a prismed ray of pure, soulful light blasts out of the amulet and into the cavern. It wipes out the vamps instantly -- and even starts tearing apart the cavern.   Spike is pinned in place, energy still blasting from him.
SPIKE: I can feel it, Buffy.
BUFFY: What ?
SPIKE: My soul. It's really there. Kinda stings.
Stuff is falling around Buffy and Spike as well.
SPIKE: Gotta move, lamb. I think it's fair to say school's out for the bloody summer.
ANGLE : THE CAVERN is collapsing at the top and bottom -- the actual school falling in on the vamps.
BUFFY: Spike...
SPIKE: I mean it. I gotta do this.

This is the defining moment of Spike's long process of redemption.  He does not act, finally, for Buffy's sake.  He has chosen and been chosen for this moment.  He does not act for an audience -- only he and Buffy remain in the Hellmouth.  No-one will witness his sacrifice, his heroism.  He does not act out of hope that she may one day love him, for he feels his soul tingling and knows it is the end.  Bathed within and without with light, the ancient and archetypal symbol of divinity, he stands, glowing, as the personification of that which is divine in man's quest for redemption, as a symbol of God's compact with man.  He is not beheaded, staked, or burned, does not fall to dust instantaneously, as vampires do when they are slain.  More reminiscent of Elijah, he is transported, transformed, translated out of his earthly existence.

There is no God to step toward him as he opens his arms to the Divine.  There is only the light, Dante's divine "effulgence," shining first from his soul toward the heavens and then, reciprocated, flowing back from above into Spike and out through the amulet to destroy the forces of Evil.  His soul steps, streams as light, toward the Good and it streams its steps toward him, meeting in the primal covenant.  He is not destroyed, not consumed by the light -- he is slowly transfigured from the soul out, into the very essence of light and the Divine.  He is purified, and where the amulet's energy, the divine soul-light, touches Buffy, where her hand clasps his, cleansing fire burns, consuming neither, purifying both.

In "Once More With Feeling," fire imagery and symbolism abounds.  Buffy is "drawn to the fire," can't feel even the flames, isn't burned by it, wants the fire back, must "walk through the fire" to save Dawn.  Spike alludes to the "torch he bears" her "scorching" him and hopes that she "fries."  Giles wonders what it will take to "strike a spark" in her.  The entire group is then "caught in the fire, the point of no return."  All of the symbolism is applicable to this scene.  The fire symbolizes Spike's love for Buffy, Buffy's lost passion for life, the danger to which she is drawn, the imminent destruction, the soul itself as a "spark", and the deciding moment from which one cannot return.  Most significantly, however, this is its highest form, divine fire, both cleansing and revelatory, as is the fire that burns but doesn't consume Moses's burning bush, or the fire through which God's servants, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, walk unharmed.

Spike is sacrificing himself yet again.  However, this time, he is indeed at the point of no return.  He must choose to go with Buffy or stay and die, and the choice is so much more.

The one thing on which he has never given up, the only thing, by his own words, of which he has been sure, is Buffy and his love for her.  Along this road to redemption, he has sacrificed self, ego, pride, hope, his former nature, Drusilla, all ties to the past, everything for which he has ever lived or loved -- everything -- except her.  His commitment to her, his love for her, is the last and best thing living within him, and it is the final mortal trapping he must sacrifice before he achieves redemption.  As Whistler told Buffy in "Becoming II," "Wrong, kid.  You got one more thing."  He has to give her up.

As their hands meet, the fire as a revelatory symbol is critical.  Their fingers lace, and their hands are one.  The divine fire flames upward from their fingers.  Buffy knows, in this moment, perhaps for the first time, the essence of love itself, and it compels her to express it to him.  Spike is bathed in divine light, though, the light that so often symbolizes Truth.  Whether that truth is that she does not love him or that, ultimately, she does, we do not know.  We only know that he sees her "I love you" and the love he bears her for what they truly are, and he must decide in this beat, what his choice will be.  He can cling to her, to loving her, and perhaps to the thing he has most yearned for, her reciprocated love, or he can look to what lies beyond her and make his final redemptive sacrifice.  The purifying fire burns on. It is all clear to him.  He makes his choice, gently, kindly, denies her words, thanks her and releases her in the highest possible expression of love possible, his last and best gift, to the life and the world that is hers.

He can now realize that which lies beyond her: redemption and the soul's ecstasy, man's union with the Divine.  At their physical union, the laced fingers which symbolize their love, the cleansing continues as it purifies him of the last vestiges of his lower self and prepares his higher self for translation.  Another beat, yet another jarring quake, and their fingers are torn apart, the physical representation of his spiritual decision. He has only to send her away, ensure her safety, and his journey is finished.  He has given up everything he possesses or ever dreamed of possessing, and he passes the final gate.

His hand is held up, frozen in his rictus of revelatory pain. Buffy takes her own hand, interlocks it with his. A moment, and both hands burst into flames. We hold close on the two of them, ignoring the flames, looking at each other.
BUFFY: I love you.
A moment. He smiles kindly.
SPIKE: No you don't. But thanks for saying it.
A big quake rocks them. Spike pushes her away.
SPIKE (CONT'D): It's your world up there. Now GO !
She looks at him -- and bolts.
He looks back at the destruction in front of him, smiles wickedly.
SPIKE (CONT'D): I wanna see how it ends.
INT. CAVERN - DAY Spike is still smiling as he is eaten from inside by the power, and the world falls away from beneath him as he dies.

He is free.  He can rest.  He is redeemed.

***Thanks to Psyche's Transcript and Fan Fiction site (, Buffy Maniac's transcripts (for at for the transcript excerpts, and the International Agency for Pain Study and Research® ( psychology) for the commentary on redemption and world religion.***