When I was in the throes of panic about my G/S essay for [livejournal.com profile] ship_manifesto, I asked for fic recs and Avidrosette very kindly emailed me with a long list that was very useful. She then sent me a detailed reponse to my essay that contained some wonderful Giles discussion and, as she doesn't have an LJ (yet!), I asked if she'd allow me to post it here, as I thought the Giles fans on my friends list would enjoy reading it.

The Darker Side of Giles: Response to Jane Davitt’s “Giles and Spike: The Watcher and the Vampire”

By avidrosette

The next time Giles sees Spike, he’s souled, he’s killed again, under the First’s influence, and Giles is driven, after trying, one final time, to help Spike by determining the root of the trigger the First is using, into plotting to kill him. It’s canon, it can’t be ignored and, looked at objectively, with Spike refusing to cooperate in sharing the details of the trigger, it’s the sort of difficult decision Giles is trained to make – but, like Buffy’s decision to kill Anya in ‘Selfless’ 7.5, it’s made hastily and it seems out of character.

--Jane Davitt, Giles and Spike: The Watcher and the Vampire, ship_manifesto

“Lies My Parents Told Me” is a thorny episode, and in her essay “Giles and Spike: The Watcher and the Vampire,” Jane Davitt raises several excellent questions about it: was Giles is out of character when he plotted to kill Spike? Or put another way, are there any precedents in earlier seasons for his behavior here? Was he forced to make this decision because of Spike’s recalcitrance? Spike aside, would Giles ever really betray, go against, or undermine Buffy, as he did here by attacking someone under her protection? Was there any larger plot function served by taking Giles’ character in this direction that could even vaguely, retroactively, reconcile us to this turn of events? Jane got me thinking about these issues, and I had to take a stab at answering.

The Character Question

Who is Giles, anyway? ME has a history of creating characters with two distinct sides to their personalities, and Giles is no exception. There’s Dark Willow and Light Willow, Angel and Angelus, loyal, dependable Xander and the Xander who abandons his fiancée at the altar, and of course Giles and Ripper. But even within the “Giles” persona, there’s a split: there’s the Giles who defies the Council in “Helpless” because he has “a father’s love for the child,” and, on the other hand, the Giles who can contemplate killing 14-year-old Dawn in cold blood to save the world in “The Gift.” I’m not suggesting some psychotic split in Giles’ personality like there is in Angel’s, just that he has two different operating modes, so to speak. In the first mode, Giles follows his emotions and lets them inform his judgment. He trusts, and takes risks based on that trust. He extends compassion just because someone needs it. He has all sorts of foibles and vulnerabilities, but he also acts willingly as the father-substitute that so many of the BtVS characters crave. There are innumerable examples of Giles in this warm, trusting mode. In the second mode, he’s much colder. He suppresses his emotions in favor of an intellectualized approach to the problems that the Hellmouth throws at him; he expects to have to do some dirty jobs, and he doesn’t let his feelings get in the way. This is the mode he was in when he killed Ben without cracking an expression. Insane Tara says to him, “You’re a killer.” And Giles himself says (to Ben), “[Buffy’s] a hero, you see. She’s not like us.” This is Joss writing, planting a dark seed in the story of Giles that may bear fruit later. (I think the “Ripper” label refers to yet a third aspect of Giles’ personality, one in which Giles allows his darker emotions to lead his actions, such as when he beats Ethan in the S2 Halloween episode, or when, in his youth, he summons Eygon for a supernatural bacchanal. This aspect is often portrayed--with great success--in fanfiction, but I don’t think it’s being referenced in LMPTM. I think the writers of that episode are after ColdFish!Giles rather than Ripper.)

Giles vs. Buffy

In the killing of Ben, there is precedent for cold-blooded decision-making on Giles’s part, even about matters of life and death, and in the absence of consultation with Buffy. But although Giles did not consult with Buffy about Ben, neither did his action specifically betray or undermine her. In “The Yoko Factor” on the other hand, when Buffy needs Giles—just pre-crunch time in S4—she finds him drunk and resentful. He tells her, “You never train with me anymore. [Adam’s] going to kick your ass.” Then he heads up for a nap. It’s played as comedy, of course, but the end result is that Giles denies Buffy help when she needs it. Combined with similar unhelpfulness from Willow and Xander, Buffy’s left on her own to figure out how to defeat Adam. Her mentor and friends effectively abandon her.

“The Yoko Factor” also shows that Giles is susceptible to manipulation. Even with all of his intelligence and his native suspicion of Spike, Spike barely has to say anything to him in order to drive a wedge of resentment between him and Buffy. Giles later comments on how stupid he feels to have fallen for it. In this, “The Yoko Factor” foreshadows LMPTM. The similarities in the characters’ situations are striking: in both, Buffy is not following Giles’ suggestions; she’s making decisions independently of him and his resentment is building; the clock is ticking down to the big confrontation with the Big Bad and the pressure is mounting. And sure enough, in LMPTM, Giles falls for it again—he’s manipulated by a wily enemy—The First working through Wood, into undermining Buffy by, in this case, conspiring against Spike.

Does Giles cross Buffy in any episodes other than “The Yoko Factor”? Well, there’s “The Gift.” I think LMPTM consciously reaches back to “The Gift” to pay off* some of the issues that episode raises. One issue it revisits is Giles’ killing of Ben. In the shooting script** for LMPTM, the original dialogue for the scene where Giles is stalling Buffy in the graveyard has Giles confessing to the murder of Ben, and holding it up as an example of correct behavior in a war situation. Buffy then makes the connection to a current threat to Spike. They rewrote that bit, but it shows that the writers intended to invoke the Ben scene when they wrote this episode.

(*In an interview with the BBC, Jane Espenson said that Joss always “pays off” the seeds he plants, even if not until years later.

**The shooting scripts are no longer available online, so no link, but I’ve included the deleted exchange at the end of this essay.)

But perhaps the more pertinent issue from “The Gift” that LMPTM deals with is Giles’ threat to Dawn. The writers draw a clear parallel between Spike in LMPTM and Dawn in “The Gift.” In LMPTM, one of the most shocking aspects of Giles’ behavior, as Jane points out, is that “it involves Giles conspiring with a virtual stranger, who he knows has a personal grudge against Spike, against Buffy. Not Spike, Buffy.” Buffy has promised to help Spike, and explicitly states that she needs him, that he is her strongest second, that he might make the difference between her survival and death, or even between victory and defeat for the good guys. Giles knows this: when Wood approaches him with the idea of getting rid of Spike, Giles responds, “Buffy would never allow it.” As Jane states, “[Buffy had] made it plain that Spike was under her protection and not to be hurt; Giles undermined her authority and ignored her decision.” This seems out of character for warm, trusting Giles, but there are indications earlier in the season that he is operating in his colder mode now: in “First Date,” Giles says to Buffy, “Your feelings for [Spike] are coloring your judgment. I can hear it in your voice…. It doesn’t matter if you’re not physical with each other anymore. There’s a connection. You rely on him; he relies on you. That’s what’s affecting your judgment.” At this point in time, Giles apparently believes that emotions should not inform one’s judgment. (Check out the echo of Quentin Travers’ words from “Helpless” here: Quentin says to Giles, “Your affection for your charge has rendered you incapable of clear and impartial judgment. You have a father’s love for the child, and that is useless to the cause.”) Giles is playing the Quentin role now, and we know that Quentin is one cold bastard.

We learn in “The Gift” that, in this colder mode, Giles may indeed be capable of harming someone that Buffy cares about. Buffy makes it clear that Dawn is under her protection, that no one is even to consider harming her, even if the fate of the world depends on it. Yet Giles insists on raising the possibility that they will have to kill Dawn, even going to the extreme of yelling at Buffy—something we’ve never seen him do before or since—“Yes, we bloody well are [going to talk about it]:”

Giles: (reads from book) “The blood flows, the gates will open. The gates will close when it flows no more.” When Dawn is dead.

Buffy: Pretty simple math here. We stop Glory before she can start the ritual. We still have a couple of hours, right?

Giles: If my calculations are right. But Buffy—

Buffy: I don’t wanna hear it. (turns away)

Giles: I understand that—

Buffy: (whirls back) No! No, you don’t understand. We are not talking about this.

Giles: (jumps up from the table, yells) Yes, we bloody well are!

Giles: (quieter) If Glory begins the ritual… if we can’t stop her…

Buffy: Come on. Say it. We’re bloody well talking about this. Tell me to kill my sister.

Giles: (whispers) She’s not your sister.

Giles: If the ritual starts, then every living creature in this and every other dimension imaginable will suffer unbearable torment and death…(looks up at Buffy) including Dawn.

Buffy: Then the last thing she’ll see is me protecting her.

Giles: I imagine you hate me right now.

Buffy sighs but doesn’t answer.

Giles: I love Dawn.

Buffy: I know.

Giles: But I’ve sworn to protect this sorry world, and sometimes that means saying and doing what other people can’t. What they shouldn’t have to.

Buffy: You try and hurt her, and you know I’ll stop you.

Giles: I know.

Giles loves Dawn, and he knows that Dawn’s death would destroy Buffy, but he is willing to suppress his emotions in order to consider killing her anyway. At no point in the episode does Giles ever concede that okay, for sure they won’t kill Dawn; he and Buffy merely table the argument. Indeed, Buffy takes Giles’ potential threat to Dawn so seriously that her final words as they go off to battle are not “Go Team” or some such variant, but “I’ll kill anyone who comes near Dawn.” The fact that Giles’ stance regarding Spike in LMPTM mirrors so closely his position vis a vis Dawn in “The Gift” strongly suggests authorial intent. It suggests that this capacity to betray is intended to be an intrinsic part of Giles’ character, dormant perhaps for the most part, but apt to show itself in times of stress: when everything’s coming down to the wire in Season Four, Season Five, and Season Seven.

Spike’s Lack of Cooperation

Did Spike force Giles’ hand by refusing to talk about the memories the prokaryote stone had released? It’s hard to picture anyone opening up and discussing their darkest secrets—the ones that they’d spent the last century actively repressing, about their mom, no less--in a room full of people who range from openly hostile to, at best, indifferent. Not to mention revealing them in the presence of their ex-girlfriend whom they still really love and want to impress. The whole set-up is akin to a psychoanalytic therapy session, but set in front of an audience out of the patient’s nightmares. Given the seriousness of the circumstances, should Spike have just “gotten over it” and talked anyway? He probably should have, but considering the gut-wrenchingly private nature of his memories, it seems unrealistic to expect that he could have. If Giles had a moment of empathy for Spike, he would have asked everyone else to leave—after assuring them that he would not harm Spike in any way—and had a private talk with Spike. Spike might have responded. The elements for “successful transference” were in place: a therapist who’s like a father figure, a subject who has looked for approval from a father figure (Angel) for years. If Giles had assured Spike that whatever he said would not get back to Buffy, that it was said in confidence between the two of them, he probably could have gotten Spike to talk. And Spike would have been de-triggered right there. I strongly feel that it was the lack of empathy, the obvious lack of caring about Spike at all on Giles’ part—he didn’t even reassure Spike that the prokaryote stone wouldn’t hurt him or damage his brain, looking at him instead like he was a disgusting bug, and if he got crushed in the process, well, where’s the harm—that caused the “therapy” session to fail, not irrational stubbornness on Spike’s part. The fact that Giles didn’t show the requisite empathy, in effect setting himself up for what follows, suggests to me that the writers had other purposes here which could not have been achieved if Giles had succeeded in his “therapeutic treatment” of Spike.

Why Take Giles in This Direction?

Taking Giles’ character in this dark direction served an important plot function in the arc of LMPTM and in the arc of the series as a whole. LMPTM was ostensibly about mother issues—Spike’s and Wood’s--but in keeping with its whole psychoanalytic theme, it was also about resolving father issues. Giles is the stand-in for every absent father in the show. As a result, like it or not, an awful lot of characters seem to transfer their father issues onto him: they use him to lean on, to rebel against, and to look to for approval. Wood grew up with an absent father. When his mother was killed, her watcher took him in and served as his surrogate father. Surely Giles the Watcher reminds Wood of his surrogate father; hence a bond forms on his side, even though Giles is a relative stranger. According to psychoanalytic theory, transference often evokes counter-transference. Wood feels a bond with Giles; Giles begins to feel a bond with Wood. Wood loved a slayer who died; Giles knows exactly how that feels. He identifies with Wood, strengthening the bond. So when Wood asks sort-of-Dad Giles for permission to kill Spike—the murderer of Wood’s mother, the guy who messed around with Giles’ almost-daughter, the guy whose relationship with that almost-daughter degenerated into attempted rape, the guy who could turn against that daughter at any time even if not of his free will—Giles is under a fair amount of emotional pressure to say yes.

Buffy is also dealing with father issues in this episode. In “Once More with Feeling,” Giles sings to her, “Wish I could play the father, and take you by the hand…. Wish I could slay your demons, but now that time is past…. I’m just standing in the way.” (Again, written by Joss and prefiguring LMPTM almost eerily.) The writers clearly felt that Buffy as a character could not continue to grow and develop with her father figure still so heavily involved in her life, so they sent Giles out of the country and off the show. But Giles’ departure doesn’t have the desired effect: Buffy’s life falls apart, as do the lives of the other Scoobies, and Giles must come back at the end of S6 to help save the day. This leaves the writers with the problem of how to wean Buffy from Giles/Dad in a more organic manner, in a way that would stick because it’s a psychological resolution, providing real closure. Well, what happens when one’s belief in Dad as an infallible figure is shattered? It’s sort of the definition of growing up, isn’t it? So we get Giles in LMPTM letting Buffy down in every conceivable way. He tries to “take her by the hand,” but when she persists in following her own path, he goes behind her back. He tries to “slay her demons,” only he chooses the wrong one—the one Buffy cares for, is depending on, and is pledged to protect. He allows himself to be manipulated by an unwitting agent of the bad guy when he should have known better. He shows bad judgment in trusting Wood’s instincts over Buffy’s. He is treacherous: he deceives Buffy and lets Spike, who also trusts him, be lured away with lies into a deathtrap. He tries to kill a member of the core group. He betrays Buffy in every possible way aside from putting a sword through her, and in so doing, finally shatters her opinion of him. This is the end of their father/daughter, teacher/student relationship. He’s taught her everything she needs to know. They can close the door on that chapter in their lives. Buffy’s father issues are resolved.

There is a third group whose father issues get engaged in this episode, of course: the viewers. Buffy isn’t ready to let her father figure go? Hell, we’re not ready. We have transference issues, too! We’ve spent seven years investing in Giles as a trustworthy father figure. It’s dreadfully disappointing to see him diminished in this way. It’s appalling to see him turn on Spike—Spike who has tried so hard and come so far over six long years, who so wants to belong, who has slowly and painfully overcome his very nature in order to be a better man, who has endured an incredible amount of torture only now to face an ignominious death by backstab. And for it to be Giles of all people doing this, Giles who’s supposed to be so smart, to see more than the viewer, not less, who’s supposed to be compassionate, forgiving, supportive—it’s just depressing. I don’t think we’re meant to look at this objectively; I think it’s supposed to hurt. This is Joss giving us “what we need, not what we want.”

I’d speculate that the viewer’s own feelings of betrayal by the events of LMPTM account for another significant aspect of the appeal of Giles/Spike fiction—we want to bring GoodFather!Giles back. We long to repaint him in more idealistic terms—the ultimate authority figure whose judgment never fails, whose intellect dwarfs our own, whose control never falters, who sets limits that make us feel safe, who never loses his love for us even when we act out (Behind Closed Doors). We identify with Spike and desperately wish that Giles could finally “see him” and grant him approval (Eyes Only, Tea and Biscuits). We are horrified by and need to grapple with the fact that Giles went after someone from within the family, from within the tight little group that has been together for six years. Spike’s the black sheep of the bunch, no question; but Randy Giles was his son once, wasn’t he? If Dad goes after one of the kids, hey, anyone could be next (Three Lions). My own issues are nowhere near resolved yet, so I plan to look up all the stories on the excellent recommendation list Jane has compiled.

Many thanks to Jane Davitt for her extremely thought-provoking essay on the Giles and Spike relationship. Thanks for challenging me to think about this pairing and about what Giles meant to the series as a whole. I feel some resolution coming on... ;-)

All episode transcripts quoted from Buffy vs Angel.

Deleted Exchange from LMPTM shooting script:

Giles: You want Spike here even after what he’s done to you in the past?

Buffy: It’s different. He has a soul now.

Giles: Yes, and The First seems to be exploiting it to his advantage.

Buffy: Exactly. The First’s doing this. Spike’s innocent.

Giles: So was Ben.

Buffy: Ben?

Giles: (with difficulty) He was a human being, after all. Forced, his whole life, to share his mortal form with a demi-god from a hell-dimension.

Buffy: Glory. I know. What does that have to do—

Giles: Ben was oblivious to the atrocities Glory committed. No more responsible for her crimes than Spike is to his, when triggered. Glory was invincible, impossible to kill… Ben was not. So after you defeated her. After you left Ben lying there. Alive. I made a decision. One that you couldn’t.

Buffy: Giles…

Giles: I put my hand over his mouth. And as he struggled, weakly… I smothered him. Because it had to be done. (looks at Buffy) He was a liability.

Buffy’s eyes go wide as she starts to put it together.

Buffy: Oh god… You’ve been stalling me. Keeping me away—

Giles: Buffy, it’s time to stop playing the role of a general and start being one.

Buffy stares at him in shock, then turns and runs.

Giles: (calls after her) This is the way wars are won.



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