"The Gift" as "Transcendence" for Buffy ... And Spike
by LAWard
I almost feel as though this episode could have been titled "The End" or at least had that show up at the end. Then again, Joss Whedon DID finish the episode with a shot of a gravestone. That's a huge honking "The End" if I ever saw one. . .although we know it's not truly the end. It's the end of something though. "The End" may not truly be the best choice. The choice that comes to mind is "Transcendence."
Why? Bear with me. . .


**Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. . .

It wasn't the WB that put together the "Previously on. . ." segment. It was ME. I don't think the fact that they showed 5 years worth of "previously" was just about BtVS leaving the WB. I think there may very well have been a story reason for that choice. "The Gift" was the culmination of the original premise of Buffy. School is hell. Adolescence is hell. The Season 1 clips were the longest and the clips got progressively faster with time. That's sort of like a lot of life. Those years in high school seem to take forever but the older you get the faster time flies. Plus, the premise of Buffy was set in Season 1, and I think the reason the episode could easily have been called "Transcendence" is because with the end of this episode and with Buffy's death that premise has been transcended. Buffy has left her childhood and her adolescence behind.

**Opening sequence. . .
All the events of the first five years fade out to find an adolescent running to what is *literally* the end of the road. There's no where else to go. A vampire (you remember that old enemy, right?) comes into frame.


This opening scene is almost a bit of nostalgia. The old wise cracking Buffy appropriately dressed in black and white is back and she's kicking traditional vampire butt. But the scene ends on a wistful note:

TEEN: You're just a girl!

BUFFY: That's what I keep saying.
But is she? I think her girlhood began crumbling away years ago. Her mother's illness sounded the death knell and her mother's death ended it. It just takes Buffy to "The Gift" to truly accept it.


She leaves the teen in the ally--the straightforward world of good/evil of the first five seasons in the ally and closes the door behind her taking her to. . .

**The Magic Box scene.
In contrast to the clear-cut first scene Buffy walks into the moral quagmire inside the shop. When she referred to the fight with the vampire outside she shrugs it off. It is treated as inconsequential. It was a no-brainer. What's taking place in the Magic Box is something she finds overwhelming.


Buffy left Weight of the World with the knowledge that she had to do *something* the Magic Box scene is to determine what that something should be.

Giles, the Watcher states the situation quite clearly in black and white terms. This is the situation. This is what we must do. Dawn will destroy the world. We must kill Dawn. Buffy resists the simple black and white solution... the white solution. The greater good-- kill Dawn and save the world. The good of the many. . .oh you know the rest. This solution would solve the issue of saving the world, but Buffy's heart and life would be destroyed. This solution is unacceptable.

Xander, perspective guy/vampires are evil we fight evil guy voices the other equally black and white solution . . .the black solution. We could kill Ben. He's an innocent but he's not Dawn innocent. (I actually think Xander is playing devil's advocate here. He doesn't want this solution but he thinks in terms of black and white. If the Gils solution is rejected then only it's exact opposite pops to mind). Of course Xander isn't exactly evil-guy so he rejects this solution before anyone else has a chance to. (SPIKE NOTE: This Xander exchange is significant for Spike because of what Spike did *not* say and was not made to say by Joss. If Spike is truly evil-guy he should be the one to have thought up "We can kill Ben." Spike, as vampire, should have no qualms about killing Ben innocent or not. Kill Ben and problem is done. Spike was *not* the character chosen to make this argument though he is perhaps the one to most logically make it. In fact when Xander puts this solution forward Spike doesn't second it. He sits silently. Of course we aren't privy to *why* Spike doesn't say anything. It could be that he realizes the solution is unacceptable. It could be that he knows that Buffy would find the solution unacceptable. The point is, he knows enough (for whatever reason) to *not* second it. And it's not like he isn't searching desperately for an answer as soon as one is presented he jumps at it.)

It is Willow who finds the solution somewhere in the middle-- All we have to do is delay. Spike *jumps* at that thought and so for that matter does Anya. Willow has been going increasingly gray. It the wake of the black and white solutions proving to be unacceptable solutions the gray option presents itself as the only viable solution and it is the solution immediately seized by the gray characters. Yeah, we *can* delay. Buffy having rejected the "clear cut" solution also chooses the gray (though she doubts it will work).

(Also to be noted in the scene is Spike's feelings about "the blood." Unlike the rest of the scene which can be cast into something of a metaphor I think the "it's about the blood" thing was truly more about 1) Plot advancement. Spike needed to make that statement so that the connection was made so that the denouement of the episode makes sense. 2) On a more personal level it advances Spike's own character arc. This is the guy who has stolen lifeblood and who now sees it as the unacceptable solution. He cannot bear the thought of Dawn being sacrificed for her blood and his solemn attitude implies that he's well aware that he's now on the other end of the situation. It's doubtful he'll ever look at bloodlust in quite the same way again. If he does ever revert some part of him will still always know it's a repugnant thing. . .something a pre-chip Spike never really considered.)

**The Relationship Sequences


After a course has been chosen (delay the ritual as long as possible) motivations and loyalties are explored. We find Buffy in the danger room with Giles. Giles is well aware of the fact that Buffy has rejected the black and white, straightforward solution. He knows and understands why but he also has to defend his worldview.

GILES: I love Dawn [...]But I have sworn to protect this sorry world.

It's the pure choice of the "greater good." Personal sacrifices can and must be endured for the greater good because it *is* the greater good. That may seem cold and impersonal. . .perhaps it *is* cold and impersonal when taken to this extreme. But on a purely abstract moralistic basis the greater good is more important than a single life. It's the black/white... good/evil solution where things are segmented into simple clear-cut choices.

Buffy (still dressed in black and white) sits on the sofa. This is the creed she has lived these last five years.

BUFFY: I sacrificed Angel to save the world. I loved him so much... but I knew what was right.

But now she has reached the end of that road. The black/white solutions no longer seem acceptable. She no longer knows that those solutions are truly "right" or simply more expedient.

BUFFY: I don't have that any more. [...] I don't know how to live in this world, if these are the choices.

The childhood/adolescent viewpoint is dying or dead and she longs for a simpler time.

BUFFY: I wish my mom was here.

But then she realizes that the old solutions as comforting as they were can no longer suffice.

BUFFY: I guess that means a Slayer really is just a killer after all. [...] If Dawn dies,

then I'm done with it. I'm quitting.
We leave Buffy and Giles and go to Xander and Anya. Giles was committed to the greater good above personal need. Xander and Anya's scene reflects the opposite view.


ANYA: Usually, when there's an apocalypse, I skedaddle. But now I love you so much that instead I have inappropriately timed sex and try to think of ways to fight a god and worry terribly that something might happen to you, and also worry that something'll happen to me and then I have guilt that I'm not more worried about everyone else but I just don't have enough.

Theirs is not a battle for the "greater good" theirs is a personal battle. I fight for you. For who I love, for whom you love. Of course Buffy isn't in this scene which perhaps is why this sentiment it is repeated in a way in the Buffy/Willow scene. However, since I think the B/W scene also serves another purpose I place the B/G scene and the X/A scene as the two extremes of the personal versus public good debate.

I know there have been comments about Buffy saying it was okay that Willow's priority was Tara. I took that comment to mean something slightly different in that scene. I don't think Buffy and Willow were speaking of this in context of "saving the world." I viewed that scene as a continuation of the scene in "Tough Love":


BUFFY: This is not the time.
WILLOW: When, Buffy? When is? When you feel like it? When it's someone you love like I love Tara? When it's Dawn, is that it Buffy?


I thought the moment between B/W in "The Gift" was the definitive answer to that scene and showing that both Buffy and Willow had learned something.


WILLOW: I've mostly been looking into ways to help Tara. I know that shouldn't be my priority --
BUFFY: Of course it should.


Again, I didn't see this as being about the fate of the world. This was a personal moment. Tara is to Willow what Dawn is to Buffy. The final scene of Tough Love where Willow refers to Tara as "her girl" and Buffy does the same to Dawn reinforced that. This was about love on a personal level. Willow's first loyalty is to the person she loves -- Tara. That *should* be her personal loyalty. I don't doubt that Willow cares deeply for Dawn but the person first in Willow's life is (understandably) Tara. For Buffy. . .it's Dawn. .. which brings us to the last of the relationship vignettes. Buffy and Spike.

Unlike the vignette showing that Willow's first love is Tara and that Buffy fully understand and even agrees with that, Buffy turns to Spike. This is incredibly significant. Just as I found the Willow/Buffy scene to be the partner to "Tough Love" the Buffy/Spike scene was the partner to "Crush" in so many ways.


BUFFY: Stop. You don't mean this. You don't even know what feelings are.
SPIKE: (pained) I damn well do.


Buffy has just acknowledged that Willow's first love and loyalty is to Tara. The simple fact that Buffy turns to Spike says a great deal. She *knows* where Spike's *first* loyalty lies. . .with her and Dawn. That is a galactic leap from Crush. In contrast to where she reassures Willow that it's okay that Willow's first loyalty is to Tara, Buffy knows on a deep, unquestioning level where Spike's loyalty lies. It isn't presented to him as a question. There's no doubt in her just the simple acknowledgment.


BUFFY: I'm counting on you, Spike. To help protect her.
There's an implied bond there. Buffy's top priority is Dawn and Buffy *knows* that unlike Willow{Tara}, Giles{World}, Xander {Anya} Spike shares Buffy's personal priority. . . she recognizing his feelings and that they are real. . .and even to be depended upon.


Of course it would be remiss not to note that darn near everything in the Spike/Buffy vignette. In Crush (prior to her mother's {and her childhood's?} death) Buffy was still clinging to the old rules, the old order. Good is good. Evil is evil. There is no gray, if there is gray go into full denial mode. Reject it. Crush ended with the de-invite (after Spike screwed up in truly spectacular fashion so I agreed with Buffy about the de-invite). Still the fact that Buffy was justified didn't lessen the truth in Spike's words as he followed her


SPIKE: It's not that easy. We have something, Buffy. It's not pretty, but it's real.
[...] Like it or not, I'm in your life. You can't just shut me out.
Of course she damn well tried. She slammed the door in his face, rejecting anything that threatened the old order.
In the weeks and months that followed the old order fell away. Buffy was stripped of that world. She lost her mother and her girlhood.



BUFFY: . I have to do these things, 'cause when I stop, then she's really gone. And I'm trying, really trying to take care of things! But I don't even know what I'm doing. Mom, she always knew-
DAWN: Nobody's asking you to be Mom.


BUFFY: Well, who's going to be if I'm not? Huh, Dawn? Have you thought about that? Who's going to make things better? Who's going to take care of us?

Buffy's clear-cut world view fallen in the wake of pending adulthood. It's impossible for things to stay so clearly black and white. In The Gift she again opens the door to the gray.

BUFFY: Come in, Spike.

SPIKE: Presto. No barrier.
Buffy has relinquished her desperate grip on the adolescent belief that there are always clear cut answers and she goes upstairs shedding her black and white clothing where it is replaced with pale gray.


And... before I leave this wonderful vignette of course I can't skip the whole "monster/man" thing. In fact let me backtrack a little to the Dawn/Glory/Ben scenes as well.


DAWN Be Glory! I Glory! GLORY! GLORY!
BEN: Will you just stop --



GLORY -- shouting already? Jeez! What's the hubbub, bub? What do you got against old Benjy?

DAWN: He's a monster.

{of note, as has been stressed -- Ben is the HUMAN}

DAWN:At least you're up front about it.

GLORY: Don't be so hard on the boy. He just wants to live -- most guys'd do the same.

Contrast this to the Buffy/Spike vignette:

BUFFY: We're not all gonna make it. You know that.

SPIKE: Yeah. Hey, I always knew I'd go down fighting.

The man (Ben) can be the monster. The monster (Spike) can behave on the most human of motivations -- love. Glory (the 'up front' monster) excuses Ben's selfish choices because "he only wants to live" and yet Spike makes the clear choice to "go down fighting" even though he *knows* they aren't "all going to make it." Dawn sees the monstrous motivation in the man. Even though Glory points out he's only a boy Dawn notes that no, he behaves like a monster and therefore she treats him accordingly. On the other hand Spike (ostensibly the monster) is treated as though he is a man. Buffy sees and understands his loyalties to Dawn. She acknowledges them. It's a human love that motivates Spike. There is man in that monster.

**The Pending Battle
Spike and Buffy return to the Magic Box. Words are few. Whatever we speculate on what Giles may or may not have meant in the St. Crispin's day speech, SPIKE knew what he was referring to. He's including himself in the "Band of buggered." This is a quantum leap from the guy who not so many moons ago was quoted saying, "I hate you lot." And "Why should I help you? Out of the evilness of my heart?" This is a guy willing to "go down fighting" the good fight because he *does* care. Spike has at the very least grouped himself in the "band of buggered." (Small side note: as Tara exits she stops and points to Giles and states: Killer! It has all been set down. When Tara points and shouts "Killer!" Spike turns very likely assuming Tara is referring to him. While certainly the line is to foreshadow Giles' choice as to what to do about Ben, still it has to be a surprise to Spike that he is not deemed "killer" at this point in time.) Finally in the approach to the tower Spike and Willow head up the SG's alternately assuming lead. First up, Will, what do you need. "Courage" she says.


This may mean some slight foreshadowing. Spike is pretty much your insane courage guy. Certainly he charges up the tower at Willow's behest, to be the protector. Also there is the offer of the flask and the fact that Willow stops to acknowledge the gesture. In season 5 very few of Spike's offers have been acknowledged as genuine offers of help. Willow's pause to say, "thank you." may be the only "thank you" he got the entire year. Not only is it an acknowledgment of his gesture, it's another acknowledgment that Spike does have feelings. In Crush Anya suggests, "I think you hurt Spike's feelings." And Xander responded snipingly, "And you should never hurt the feelings of a brutal killer." . . .How very different that response is to Willow's rejection of Spike's Dutch courage with that look on her face and saying "Thank you though." He has feelings that can be hurt when a genuine gesture is rebuffed. Also... note the lack of black nail polish of evil.

**The Battle
Probably the most significant part of the battle sequence was Spike's faith in Willow when she sent him to charge the tower. He had to place faith in Willow. He did not have a clear path to the tower and had just been noted, the SG charge of the tower had failed and they had lost ground. For him to follow Willow's order meant that he placed trust (and his life) in her hands. Also the fact that Willow sent Spike while being a logical choice may also be an acknowledgment that she knows his priorities just as Buffy did (however this is a purely speculative thing. We don't have many clues as to what she was thinking or why she specifically chose Spike.)

**The Catwalk Revisited.
One of the most striking things about the staging of the Doc/Dawn/Spike scene was that in many ways it was staged very similarly to the catwalk scene in Crush. Spike ascends walking in his slow, cool, predatory manner. . .that we probably hadn't seen since that moment in Crush. Everything else about the scene is dramatically different. Spike had ascended the catwalk in Crush bent on destruction. Dru sacrificed an "innocent" human and while Spike seemed torn in that moment he did nothing to stop it and in fact took the blood at Dru's silent urging. Contrast to The Gift. Again he has ascended to the catwalk only this time to protect the innocent from bloodletting and instead of partaking of blood. .. he shed it.


Also interesting about the scene is its juxtaposition with Buffy's battle with Glory. In Weight of the World Glory speaks of how immortality removes the pain and conscience. "It melts away like ice cream."

While Spike stands on the catwalk in this strangely similar image to Crush. He is stabbed in the back. Glory and Buffy provide dialog.

Glory (Conscienceless): You're only mortal. You don't understand my pain. Buffy (human conscience): Guess I'll just have to settle for causing it. Glory (Conscienceless): You can't kill me.

Buffy (human conscience): My arm's not even tired yet.
Spike in a replay of his battle with humanity and consciencelessness from Crush is above this time acts on humanity.


SPIKE: You don't come near the girl (the innocent).

DOC: I don't smell a soul anywhere on you. Why do you care?
Why does he? He is acting *because* he cares. That's acknowledged yet again. Buffy, (Willow?), and now Doc acknowledge he is acting out of feeling. Why?


SPIKE: I made a promise to a lady.

My reaction? Wrong answer. He is shifting responsibility for his choice. It's like saying the chip has made him take these actions and it hasn't. The truth is Spike *is* there because he cares. He wouldn't have *made* the promise to the lady if he didn't care in the first place. Spike is there because he chose to be. HE chose it, unless or until he can accept the responsibility for his choice he is doomed.

He gave the wrong answer. Spike's there because he loves Dawn (and Buffy). Doc turns him to face Dawn. And it is while Spike faces Dawn that Doc says, "Send the lady your regrets."

Dawn is the lady.

**The End

BtVS started with a premise of Evil is evil. Good is good. It's black and white and clear cut. With the climax of "The Gift" this concept is dead.

Spike-- the vampire.. the "evil" lands broken and battered, hurt and he weeps for his failure.

Again Glory/Buffy provide the dialog.

Glory (conscienceless): Stop it (the pain)

Buffy: You're a god (conscienceless). You make it stop.
The fact that Spike "weeps for his failure" is his humanity weeping. An inhuman monster would feel no regret, no failure. Spike does. His pain *is* there. So much for the clear-cut divide. He has indeed violated canon and I argue that was *exactly* the point.


Buffy then leaves and Giles approaches Ben, the human. Giles points out the 'heroic" thing would be not to kill Ben. This is no longer about "saving the world." Ben/Glory are not going to make it up the tower. That battle is over. But the voice of the Watchers, the sheer blunt, pragmatic stance dictates Giles' next actions. Ben poses no immediate threat but on the logistics of a potential future threat, he kills Ben. As Tara had accused, Giles is a "killer."

Buffy had earlier said, "Maybe the slayer *is* just a killer."

Pragmatic "evil is evil" is not necessarily heroic (Giles acknowledges that. Buffy is the "hero"). Giles is holding to the "greater good" philosophy but in the same moment points out that it is not heroic. It is simply pragmatism. . .and kills some of your humanity. The black/white philosophy serves its purpose but there is a loss of some humanity involved . . . it is however, efficient.

Buffy reaches the catwalk. Doc is inconsequential. Doc was a test for Spike (one he did not pass because of not acknowledging his ability to care was responsible for his actions). Doc was no threat to Buffy. Her focus was clear. Her purpose clear to her. Doc was simply brushed aside.

Buffy abandoned the black/white philosophy. She embraced both the gray and her humanity. She saved both the world and Dawn.

The ending of The Gift was inevitable.

BUFFY: Dawn, I love you. I will always love you.

Dawn. Buffy's humanity. Her heart. Her personal priority.

FY: But this is the work I have to do.
The greater good of the world.


BUFFY: Tell Giles I figured it out.

The answer does not lie fully in personal concerns. And fulfillment is never found purely in the greater good. . . you only grow hard, cold, and either resentful of the personal sacrifices made or cold to any personal feeling. Neither of which is good for one's own being. A balance must be achieved. There must be some of both. The world is not clear-cut. It is not black and white. It's somewhere in the gray.

BUFFY: And I'm okay. Give my love to my friends. You have to take care of them

now -- you have to take care of each other. Be strong.
All you can do when faced with it and all the impossible choices it presents is try to find a solution that balances the good of the many and the good of self. The good for the world and for those you love.
Buffy left the known world and dove into the unknown. She transcended her adolescent viewpoint. The first five years of Buffy reached their inevitable conclusion. She left the world of girlhood, or black and white reasoning behind. She's transcended to something more complex and less clear cut. Next year will be her 21st birthday and she will officially be an adult but the last vestiges of that adolescent "high school is hell" girl is gone. She is *not* "Just a girl." She is a woman.


And if they needed an anvil to make the point. . . there's the headstone saying "The end" and spelling it all out. Devoted friend. Devoted sister. Saved the world. . .a lot.

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