Why Did Spike Go To Africa?
NOTE: This essay was written after season 6. In season 7, Spike's reason for going to Africa was made explicitly clear in the text of the show. Thus, this essay is pretty much irrelevant. But you can still read it if you want. :)
"Spike's quest was, and ALWAYS WAS, to get his soul restored for Buffy, despite any misleading leaks we may have put out that you fell for." - David Fury on the Bronze Beta, 11/19/02
"Spike looked into his soul at that moment [the attempted rape], and saw the demon in him, and that's what made him want to go get a soul .... We did a big ole mislead on you all, where we wanted you to think he gonna go get the chip out. We knew, the whole time, from the very beginning he was gonna go get a soul. And when he says I want Buffy to have what she deserves, he means a lover with a soul." - Jane Espenson, Buffy writer
Radio interview on the Succubus Club, 5/22/02
Moderator: "At the end of the finale, I thought Spike wanted to get the chip out, not get his soul back?"
Joss Whedon: "Noooo.... but you were meant to think that. I personally devised something called a plot twist."
At the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences panel "Behind the Scenes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer," 6/18/02
As the above quotes indicate, Spike went to Africa because he wanted to get a soul. He got exactly what he asked for.
Consider the dialogue
What have I done?
Spike is overwhelmed with remorse because he tried to rape Buffy.
I can feel it. Squirming inside my head ... The chip.
Spike may blame the chip, but what he's really feeling is remorse and guilt. It's easier for him to blame the chip than acknowledge his own internal change.
It won't let me be a monster. And I can't be a man. I'm nothing.
Spike is faced with a choice: monster or man. He's already overwhelmed with guilt and he still loves Buffy: getting the chip out would not solve either of those problems. Becoming a metaphorical "man" would solve those problems: he would no longer risk hurting Buffy, and she has said that the reason she doesn't love him is that he lacks a soul.
[Things change]. If you make them.
Spike decides that he is going to change his current bad situation. Nothing in this quote indicates that he wants the chip out.
Get nice and comfy Slayer. I'll be back. And when I do... things are gonna change.
Again, nothing here indicates that Spike wants the chip out. He just says things will change, which they certainly will if he returns with a soul.
Bitch thinks she's better than me.
Buffy thinks she's better than him. Spike's tone is angry and challenging because he wants to prove her wrong. He wants to show that he can be just as good as she is.
And you want to return. To your former self...
Spike's former self, as in the self that had a soul.
I'm still a warrior.
Note that while the demon says "dark warrior," Spike leaves out the word "dark."
Bitch is going to see a change.
He wants to prove to Buffy that he can be good too. He's angry because Buffy has pushed him to such drastic measures, and because he's challenging her belief that he can never be good. Note that he says "a change," he never says he wants the chip removed.
Yeah yeah - it's not like you haven't been clear about it, oh great mysterious one.
This quote indicates that Spike and the cave demon have been discussing the terms of their agreement. Spike claims to understand the terms, and sounds a bit bored, as if they have already gone over everything repeatedly. If they've clearly covered the terms, it's highly unlikely that the demon would have been able to trick Spike. They must have agreed that Spike would get a soul; the agreement just happened offscreen.
I get what I came for? I passed, right?
The writers are being deliberately vague here. Spike never directly refers to what he wants from the demon. He never says that he wants the chip out.
I'll take anything you throw at me. If it'll get me what I need to take care of the Slayer, give her what's coming to her.
Spike loves Buffy; that hasn't changed. What does he think is coming to her? A lover she can trust: a lover with a soul. When he says he wants to take care of the Slayer, he's being literal: he wants to take care of Buffy, care for her, because he loves her.
Make me what I was... so Buffy can get what she deserves.
What Spike was: a being with a soul. What Buffy deserves: a lover she can trust.
But why was Spike so angry?
- Spike always uses anger as a defense mechanism to cover his pain, vulnerability, and fear.
- He needed the anger to inspire himself to fight and endure the trials. Without anger to motivate him, he would have still been depressed and falling apart.
- He was angry at having to give up his entire identity in order to be good enough for Buffy.
- He was angry at Buffy for treating him horribly all year.
- He was angry at Buffy for not believing in him and for "thinking that she was better than him."
- He was angry at himself for trying to rape Buffy.
- Much of what appeared to be anger can also be interpreted as determination: determination to get a soul and become good.
- The writers were trying to mislead the audience.
Consider Spike's motives
If Spike wanted to hurt Buffy, he didn't need to get the chip out. It already didn't work on her. If Spike wanted to hurt Buffy's friends, he could have just hired some demons to do it. Unlike Angelus, Spike has never been interested in torture.
Spike wants to belong. He cared about Joyce because she was the only person who never treated him "like a freak." In Afterlife, he's hurt that the Scoobies left him out of the resurrection spell, and points out to Xander "I worked beside you. All summer." When Spike loses his memory in Tabula Rasa, he creates imaginary relationships between himself and the Scoobies (Giles' son, Buffy's fighting partner), more evidence of his need to belong. In Older and Far Away, he refers to himself as "part of the team." His relationship with the Scoobies is important to him, but they've made it clear that they won't accept him as long as he doesn't have a soul. So he goes out and gets one.
Spike wants to be "a man" rather than "a thing." In The Gift, he tells Buffy that he loves her because she treats him "like a man." In Once More, with Feeling he sings "I died so many years ago/But you can make me feel like it isn't so." Later he tells Buffy, "You have to go on living/So one of us is living." Buffy makes him feel alive, and he wants that feeling. When Spike loses his memory in Tabula Rasa, he immediately assumes that he is a good guy. He believes that he has a soul, and announces that he is a "noble vampire on a mission of redemption." With no memories holding him back, we see Spike's inherent desire to be good. He tells Buffy in Smashed that "a man can change," identifying himself as a man, but Buffy tells him that he is a thing. By Seeing Red, he has become convinced that he "can't be a man" as he is. So, in order to become a man, Spike gets a soul.
All season, Buffy and Xander have been using the word "soulless" as an insult. "You don't have a soul, there is nothing good or clean in you." (Buffy in Dead Things) "You're a thing, an evil, disgusting thing." (Buffy in Smashed) "You let that evil, soulless thing touch you." (Xander in Entropy) "I'm an 'evil, soulless thing,' according to some people." (Spike in Entropy)
The Scoobies managed to convince Spike that he could never be good enough without a soul (I disagree). So, rather than give up and accept that he could never be good enough, he decided to go out and win a soul for himself.
Consider Spike's character
The decision to seek a soul was completely in character for Spike. Although he often ridiculed Angel's soulfulness, much of that ridicule came from envy. Angel, after all, captured the hearts of the two women Spike loved most more than Spike ever could.
Spike has always been portrayed as a character who would do anything for love, even give up evil. Even when he was dating Drusilla, he preferred loving her to committing evil (although he certainly loved both at the time). In Lie to Me, Spike's third appearance on the series, he chooses love over evil: he stops the massacre so that he can save Drusilla from Buffy. In Becoming, he goes so far as to help save the world so that he can get Drusilla back. Clearly, love is more important to him than evil.
This becomes Spike's dominant character trait in season 5, starting with Fool For Love. In that episode, he put the shotgun down and comforted Buffy instead of killing her, symbolically rejecting evil in favor of good. He could have done the evil thing and turned Dawn over to Glory, but instead he allowed Glory to torture him nearly to death so that he could protect the people he loved. Spike has repeatedly chosen love over evil, so it's really not surprising that he chose to obtain a soul, symbolically giving up evil in favor of love.
Rather than give up and succumb to everyone else's worst expectations of him, Spike made an incredibly noble choice to get a soul so that he can be "what Buffy deserves."
This is the most redemptive thing he could do in Mutant Enemy's universe.
Spoilers for Season Seven:
For those who are still in doubt, please note that the reason for Spike's soul quest has been made explicitly clear in the text of the show. At this point, anyone who reads that "Spike was duped into the soul" is blatantly ignoring canon. It's not "a different interpretation," it's willful misinterpretation.
First Evil: So what'd you think? You'd get your soul back and everything'd be Jim Dandy? Soul's slipperier than a greased weasel. Why do you think I sold mine? (laughs) Well, you probably thought that you'd be your own man, and I respect that, but...
First Evil: Look at you. Trying to do what's right, just like her.
From "Beneath You":
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.
Spike: The spark. I wanted to give you what you deserve, and I got it.
Spike: It's what you wanted, right?
Spike: 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.
Buffy: For the record? Spike knew how wrong it was. That's why he went away.
Dawn: To get a soul? Like that's going to make him a better man?
Spike: Not the chip, dammit. You honestly think I'd go to the end of the underworld and back to get my soul and then— (sighs, shakes head) Buffy, I can barely live with what I did. It haunts me. All of it.
Spike: This chip—they did to me. I couldn't help it. But the soul, I got on my own—for you.
From "Never Leave Me":
Buffy: How did you do it? How'd you get your soul back?
Spike: Saw a man about a girl. 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.
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.
Buffy: You faced the monster inside of you and you fought back. You risked everything to be a better man.
From "Get it Done":
Spike: Yeah, I went to great lengths. Lots of trouble, and now I'm unique. Well, more or less. Got myself a soul, whatever that means.
Spike: I did this for you. The soul, the changes—it's what you wanted.
I'll give you that a lot of these can be dismissed if you assume that Spike was lying. However, the first quote, from the First Evil, is unambiguous. The First was speaking to Spike alone and had no reason to lie.
Joss and Marti Pull A Fast One: The Mutant Enemy Crew Slips Spike's Soul Past Their Viewers by Kimberly A.
Of Course Spike Would Get A Soul! by Serina