I'm here to discuss a little thing I like to call The-Greatest-Forbidden-Love-of-All-Time. That's right, Buffy and Angel. It's a huge topic to cover, of course, one which I will go into extensively at another time (and time, and time...) but right now I just want to pose one question: After Angel, did Buffy ever truly love again?
Many people would automatically say, "Yes, DUH--Riley!" But the whole issue with Riley was that he never really believed that Buffy ever loved him. So.. did she? And yet, I have MANY friends/followers that would argue Buffy loved Spike. But first, for chronological sake, let's focus on Riley.
Buffy was relatively happy with Riley, was she not? He was able to know her secret identity and fight alongside her. They had a good sex life, (Where the Wild Things Are, anyone?) which she could never have with Angel, and let's be honest--Riley ADORED her. He would have done anything for Buffy. During my first ever Buffy-watch-all-the-way-through, I liked Riley. If you can believe it. I might want to point out at this time that I hate Riley--I think he was one of the worst decisions of the show. Yet, my own feelings aside, they seemed like a couple that could work. But then Riley says to Xander: "But she doesn't love me" (The Replacement). Simple as that. "She doesn't love me." At first, I was like umm, okay, RANDOM? But then--especially during my first rewatch--I saw the merit in this statement. Buffy does take Riley for granted, albeit his neediness and insecurities. She jumped into situations without giving him a second thought, only to hastily fill him in afterward. Another thing was that after Riley left, Buffy was sad, of course, but sort of in a funny way ("they have a beautiful love!!" etc). Compare this to the heart-breaking, gut-wrenching pain she felt when she lost Angel to Angelus (I can't breathe, Will...I can't breate) it's almost pathetic. What it really came down to was this: Buffy wanted Riley because he stood for something that she always craved--a normal life. But as we all know, Buffy was not a normal girl. In the end, she had to alienate Riley from her life as a Slayer, especially after The Initiative crumbled and he was no longer macho-man.
He couldn't take the heat.... but Spike could.
Which brings me to our next point--did Buffy ever allow herself to love Spike?
I have recently introduced two of my roommates to Buffy, and it has been a blast watching along with them as they experience the magic for the first time. Sometime last week we came to Spike's grand entrance in season two, "School Hard" (and now they are almost finished with season three--isn't it a beautiful thing?) and it's always fun to see Spike when he's evil, because we all know it doesn't last long. But as I watched this most recent time, I noticed something I never had before. In the episode, Spike sees Buffy for the first time dancing in the Bronze. The way he looks at her... like he's longing for her. Then when he's hunting her down in the school: "Fi Fie Fo Fum, I smell the blood of a nice... ripe... girl." There's something about their first fight... when Buffy says, "No, Spike. It's gonna hurt a lot." It's the way she says his name; it's downright SEXY. There is no doubt of the instant connection between the two (and can we just MENTION the leather trench???). After finally settling into the series in season four, we watch as his feelings deepen for Buffy. I absolutely love the scene when Tara, Willow, and Buffy are walking through the college halls and Tara says, "No, see, it can't, it can't end like that, 'cause all of Quasimodo's actions were selfishly motivated. He had no moral compass, no understanding of right. Everything he did, he did out of love for a woman who would never be able to love him back. Also, you can tell it's not gonna have a happy ending when the main guy's all bumpy." Hilarious.
Anyway, moving on (I get a little excited discussing Spike, sorry.... oh wait, I'm not sorry at all). Buffy is completely repulsed by Spike's love for her, yet... they have their moments. Spike telling her that she makes him feel like a man. Her trusting him with Dawn. It goes on. But of course it all comes down to the infamous first kiss in "Once More, With Feeling." I think the perfect way to sum up their relationship is in the words Joss wrote for them to sing right before that kiss.
Buffy: "I touched the fire and it freezes me...I look into it and it's black."
Spike: "I died... so many years ago."
Buffy: "This isn't real..."
Spike: "You can make me feel..." Buffy: "But I just wanna feel..."
She had to feel something after she was ripped from Heaven, didn't she? And Spike had a knack for treating her just like she wanted to be treated-- anything but delicately. However, a major setback in their "relationship" comes in the form of "Seeing Red." Their scene in the bathroom is still the hardest of any Buffy episode for me to watch. Not the saddest, not the most emotional, but the hardest. Superb acting on James and Sarah's parts.
Alright so I could go on about Buffy and Spike (which I will, extensively, in the future) but I'd like to wrap it up in this post with this final video. It's in "Touched," before Buffy tells Spike a few episodes later that she loves him and he gives her his infamous response--"No, you don't. But thanks for saying it."
Anyway, you all can decide for yourselves if you think Buffy ever truly loved again after Angel. It is my personal opinion that she did not. If you watch seasons one through three... there's NO comparison. And then, well, if you watch "I Will Remember You" ....... but that's another story ;)