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Discussion of 4.07 "The Initiative" - Aired 11/16/99 (WB-US)

DeadlyDuo

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Considering the Initiative are supposed to have been operating in Sunnydale for at least a few years before Buffy meets them, their capture count is really not all that high if Spike is only "Hostile 17".
 

DeadlyDuo

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Since Spike couldn't point a fake gun at Xander without the chip going off, surely his chip should've prevented him from escaping the initiative and pushing Willow around in her room? It went off when he tried to bite the scientist and Willow, but he still had aggressive physical contact with them beforehand. He had no physical contact with Xander yet the chip went off.

It can't even be explained away as intent since he intended to hurt Willow and was physically holding her down. Was the Xander scene a continuity error?
 

Mr Trick

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And the case for S4 Willow being the best Willow grows! Love the scenes with her and Riley. Its great writing and acting, because the scenes are amusing and yet Hannigan plays it straight. Its a realistic character beat that having been burnt so badly be Oz that Willow is now less trusting of men [Parker's treatment of Buffy probably doesn't help either]. The scene with Spike is one of favourite of the whole show. They oddly have great chemistry and are one of the more underrated pairings.

This was a decent introduction to the promise of The Initiative. Sadly Forrest is just as a God awful as I remember:rolleyes: I pleased to see the back of Parker.
 

DeadlyDuo

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And the case for S4 Willow being the best Willow grows! Love the scenes with her and Riley. Its great writing and acting, because the scenes are amusing and yet Hannigan plays it straight. Its a realistic character beat that having been burnt so badly be Oz that Willow is now less trusting of men [Parker's treatment of Buffy probably doesn't help either]. The scene with Spike is one of favourite of the whole show. They oddly have great chemistry and are one of the more underrated pairings.

This was a decent introduction to the promise of The Initiative. Sadly Forrest is just as a God awful as I remember:rolleyes: I pleased to see the back of Parker.
It's a good episode and shows how smart and resourceful Spike can be, however the fact the chip is always treated as an impotence joke is kind of jarring. In the scene with Spike and Willow it works because of the play on words, he's talking about not being able to bite her which can obviously be used as a euphemism for something else. However after that point, the show seems to completely ignore the fact that the chip was a non-consensual act done to Spike that had a life-changing impact. It's no different to Cordelia being impregnated with demon spawn and the show going "Cordelia just doesn't have much luck with men".

Sometimes the way the show deals with certain situations is lacking.

I do wonder if characters improve if you watch the show through a certain "lens" eg if you watch Forrest's scenes under the assumption that Forrest is secretly in love with Riley, is it an improvement? Likewise, if you watch the formation of Briley as the start of a controlling relationship with Riley drawing Buffy in, does it give a dark edge to their scenes? Does it make Xander's speech even worse? Finally if you assume all of Kennedy's actions are a powerplay, she'd still be hated but does it give some logic to the Killow relationship?
 

Mr Trick

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It's a good episode and shows how smart and resourceful Spike can be, however the fact the chip is always treated as an impotence joke is kind of jarring. In the scene with Spike and Willow it works because of the play on words, he's talking about not being able to bite her which can obviously be used as a euphemism for something else. However after that point, the show seems to completely ignore the fact that the chip was a non-consensual act done to Spike that had a life-changing impact. It's no different to Cordelia being impregnated with demon spawn and the show going "Cordelia just doesn't have much luck with men".

Sometimes the way the show deals with certain situations is lacking.

I do wonder if characters improve if you watch the show through a certain "lens" eg if you watch Forrest's scenes under the assumption that Forrest is secretly in love with Riley, is it an improvement? Likewise, if you watch the formation of Briley as the start of a controlling relationship with Riley drawing Buffy in, does it give a dark edge to their scenes? Does it make Xander's speech even worse? Finally if you assume all of Kennedy's actions are a powerplay, she'd still be hated but does it give some logic to the Killow relationship?
I disagree. I think the Initiative are treated as villains or at the very least murky from their first appearance. The Scoobies never justify their treatment of Spike. The fact he is helpless is the main reason they don't just dust him. Their the good guys of the show. As good guys they set the moral tone not some army guys who may or may not be trust worthy. There's a big difference between the Spike chip story and the Cordy episode in Angel. That is just a MOTW one off. At least with the chip it becomes a long term thing which they actually do something with.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I disagree. I think the Initiative are treated as villains or at the very least murky from their first appearance. The Scoobies never justify their treatment of Spike. The fact he is helpless is the main reason they don't just dust him. Their the good guys of the show. As good guys they set the moral tone not some army guys who may or may not be trust worthy. There's a big difference between the Spike chip story and the Cordy episode in Angel. That is just a MOTW one off. At least with the chip it becomes a long term thing which they actually do something with.
Here's the thing though, the Initiative are only treated as villains in relation to Buffy. Up until that point, they're treated as a mysterious organisation that is rounding up hostiles for some unknown reason. They are never vilified for what they did to Spike, yet when Walsh tries to kill Buffy is when Walsh and by extension the initiative becomes a villain. Also add in the fact that both Riley and Buffy (good guys) work for the initiative post-Spike being given his chip, means that the Initiative is not meant to be seen as a bad thing until Walsh tries to kill Buffy.

It's similar to how Spike and Dru are viewed as villains in the first half of Season 2, they're only villains in relation to Buffy. Spike's grand master plan is to make Dru better, something that anyone with a sick loved one would want to do. He has run ins with Buffy but post-School Hard, it's more a case of just trying to kill her off so she can't ruin the chances of getting Dru better, since Buffy does have a tendency to show up even when the vampires aren't deliberately antagonising her eg when Dalton is getting the Du Lac cross from the crypt which Spike and Dru need to decode the book containing the answer to Dru's cure. The main conflict with Buffy comes when Spike and Dru kidnap Angel to use for the restoration ritual.

Because the audience are programmed to view things from Buffy's POV, this is a terrible thing because Buffy views it that way. However, from Drusilla and Spike's POV, this might be a little karmic justice, given the crap that Angelus put them both through both pre and post siring respectively.

Relating this back to Season 4, because Spike has been a villain to Buffy, the audience aren't expected to sympathise with him because Buffy doesn't. However, this completely ignores the fact that what was done to Spike was morally and ethically wrong. If the Watchers had done something similar to Faith (implanting her with a chip so she can't harm humans), would that be okay? After all, Buffy has no sympathy for her either.
 

Btvs fan

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Easily the best of the whole Initiative arc episodes.

Great fun to watch with some great scenes. All characters got a fair shake. The Xander/Harmony fight is pure gold 😂

It's Ironic that the writers were trying to be careful with Riley and Willow, because of the chemistry (which they were aware ) due to the future B/R relationship (which they weren't aware) had no chemistry 👩‍🔬👨‍🏫
 

Mr Trick

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Here's the thing though, the Initiative are only treated as villains in relation to Buffy. Up until that point, they're treated as a mysterious organisation that is rounding up hostiles for some unknown reason. They are never vilified for what they did to Spike, yet when Walsh tries to kill Buffy is when Walsh and by extension the initiative becomes a villain. Also add in the fact that both Riley and Buffy (good guys) work for the initiative post-Spike being given his chip, means that the Initiative is not meant to be seen as a bad thing until Walsh tries to kill Buffy.

It's similar to how Spike and Dru are viewed as villains in the first half of Season 2, they're only villains in relation to Buffy. Spike's grand master plan is to make Dru better, something that anyone with a sick loved one would want to do. He has run ins with Buffy but post-School Hard, it's more a case of just trying to kill her off so she can't ruin the chances of getting Dru better, since Buffy does have a tendency to show up even when the vampires aren't deliberately antagonising her eg when Dalton is getting the Du Lac cross from the crypt which Spike and Dru need to decode the book containing the answer to Dru's cure. The main conflict with Buffy comes when Spike and Dru kidnap Angel to use for the restoration ritual.

Because the audience are programmed to view things from Buffy's POV, this is a terrible thing because Buffy views it that way. However, from Drusilla and Spike's POV, this might be a little karmic justice, given the crap that Angelus put them both through both pre and post siring respectively.

Relating this back to Season 4, because Spike has been a villain to Buffy, the audience aren't expected to sympathise with him because Buffy doesn't. However, this completely ignores the fact that what was done to Spike was morally and ethically wrong. If the Watchers had done something similar to Faith (implanting her with a chip so she can't harm humans), would that be okay? After all, Buffy has no sympathy for her either.
But that's because Buffy is the hero of the show. Thing is its a difficult balance with Spike. On the one hand the writers are starting to transition him into a good guy or at least an in-betweener. Then again up to this point he has very much been a villain. Plus for the sake of drama the writers can't play their hands too early on the Initiative's intentions. I think they got about the right balance.
 

DeadlyDuo

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But that's because Buffy is the hero of the show. Thing is its a difficult balance with Spike. On the one hand the writers are starting to transition him into a good guy or at least an in-betweener. Then again up to this point he has very much been a villain. Plus for the sake of drama the writers can't play their hands too early on the Initiative's intentions. I think they got about the right balance.
It's never acknowledged until Season 7 how wrong the chip was, that's several seasons too late, although I suppose better late than never. Jesse was never mentioned after his death, it's easy to forget he even existed.
 

Mr Trick

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It's never acknowledged until Season 7 how wrong the chip was, that's several seasons too late, although I suppose better late than never. Jesse was never mentioned after his death, it's easy to forget he even existed.
I don't think it has to be mentioned. Buffy and the Scoobes (who are the good guys) clearly frown upon it. It would be a bit jarring if one of the big villains of the series up to that point was suddenly given the innocent puppy treatment. Like I said it works from a dramatic standpoint.
 

DeadlyDuo

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I don't think it has to be mentioned. Buffy and the Scoobes (who are the good guys) clearly frown upon it. It would be a bit jarring if one of the big villains of the series up to that point was suddenly given the innocent puppy treatment. Like I said it works from a dramatic standpoint.
I get that Spike was a villain up to that point in relation to Buffy, and thus the audience is conditioned to side with Buffy and not feel sympathy for him, but the chip itself is a terrible thing. It's essentially a shock collar that is exceedingly painful when it fires. Spike can take a beating but even he describes the pain from the chip as "blinding". Just how much voltage was the chip firing into Spike's brain? Add in the fact that in Season 7 the chip was misfiring due to degradation and it becomes even more horrifying. The chip was always going to degrade and the Initiative don't seem like the kind that would care about a vampire's welfare so at some point the chipped vampires would die in agony. The only reason Spike's chip was removed in the end was because Buffy knew Riley. If that contact didn't exist, then Spike would be screwed as a result of something that was done to him against his will.

Once Spike was team Scooby in Season 5, then the wrongness of the chip should've been brought up. There's nothing they can do about it so he is stuck with it, but a little acknowledgement that it shouldn't have happened wouldn't have hurt.
 

burrunjor

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Classic episode and a shining example of why S4 is such a great series. It is by far and away the most hilarious and feel good. Makes sense that Spike who is hysterical would flourish so brilliantly this year.

I do love it when Xander is giving the big cheesy, angsty speech about this being when a man faces evil and doesn't know it might be his last, only for Giles to say "Oh shut up."

Spike trying to make Willow feel better is a defining moment for me. As I said before it shows you how Spike is kind of like Satan from South Park in that he is evil because that's his job, but deep down he is actually a nice person who will try and make her feel better when she is upset.
 

burrunjor

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I get that Spike was a villain up to that point in relation to Buffy, and thus the audience is conditioned to side with Buffy and not feel sympathy for him, but the chip itself is a terrible thing. It's essentially a shock collar that is exceedingly painful when it fires. Spike can take a beating but even he describes the pain from the chip as "blinding". Just how much voltage was the chip firing into Spike's brain? Add in the fact that in Season 7 the chip was misfiring due to degradation and it becomes even more horrifying. The chip was always going to degrade and the Initiative don't seem like the kind that would care about a vampire's welfare so at some point the chipped vampires would die in agony. The only reason Spike's chip was removed in the end was because Buffy knew Riley. If that contact didn't exist, then Spike would be screwed as a result of something that was done to him against his will.

Once Spike was team Scooby in Season 5, then the wrongness of the chip should've been brought up. There's nothing they can do about it so he is stuck with it, but a little acknowledgement that it shouldn't have happened wouldn't have hurt.

Buffy does say the chip was wrong in S7, that it was like a muzzle. It was more human to stake a Vamp, than force it to live a life it didn't want.

One thing I don't get is where any other Vamps or Demons chipped?
 

DeadlyDuo

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Buffy does say the chip was wrong in S7, that it was like a muzzle. It was more human to stake a Vamp, than force it to live a life it didn't want.

One thing I don't get is where any other Vamps or Demons chipped?
I think the ones prisoner in the Initiative were all chipped but Spike is the only one who escaped. However, in order for the demons vs soldiers fight to happen, that has to be conveniently forgotten. When Spike is escaping the Initiative, he is able to grab one of the scientists by the throat and throw him about; in a later episode, he can't even point a gun at Xander without the chip going off.
 

vampmogs

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Buffy does say the chip was wrong in S7, that it was like a muzzle. It was more human to stake a Vamp, than force it to live a life it didn't want.
Buffy only ever says the chip was wrong when it came to ensouled Spike. Whenever she discussed the chip in relation to soulless Spike she was very much in favour of it and was always horrified whenever she thought it had been removed or stopped working (Out of My Mind, Smashed). In Crush Dawn says that Buffy is "always worried what will happen if he ever got that chip out of his head." The chip not only occasionally saved her life but the life of her friends too (Willow in The Initiative) and the Scoobies openly mocked the idea that Spike should justifiably have it removed or that they should feel bad for Spike's plight;

XANDER
Sure, just tell the nice scientists that you really miss killing and torturing innocent people

BUFFY
So you haven't murdered anybody lately? Let's be best friends!

SPIKE
You'd think if the government were going to put a chip in my head they'd at least make it so I could attack muggers
BUFFY
Yes, because muggers deserve to be eaten [/sarcasm]


I think Buffy changes her tune in S7 because Spike now has a soul and a conscience and she believes it's inhumane to muzzle him as opposed to trust in his goodness not to hurt people. I think there's some serious issues and negligence here due to the trigger as Giles is right to speculate that a new chip could have possibly prevented triggered!Spike from hurting people (The Killer In Me proves that the chip had been malfunctioning), but in general I agree with her moral stance on chipping a ensouled vampire.

One of my favourite ethical debates about Buffy and S4 is that I don't think she was anywhere near as morally opposed to The Initiative as fandom likes to paint her as being. Buffy has no moral qualms whatsoever with the Initiatives behaviour modifier chips or their experimentation on demons until it becomes clear they're experimenting indiscriminately (like on Oz in A New Moon) or creating cyborg killers like Adam. Buffy feels little for the demons or vampires being experimented on and has no qualms with continuing to party with the Initiative soldiers in episodes like Where the Wild Things Are. Which actually makes a lot of sense to me because we're talking about the same girl who literally beats monsters to death with her bare hands (crunching their bones, shoving her thumbs into their eyes, snapping their necks and spines, punching holes through their chests etc) or kills them in pretty horrific ways (decapitation, setting them on fire etc) and it would be rather odd if she was squeamish with the Initiative and their scalpels. Both Buffy and the Initiative had a tepid alliance throughout the vast majority of S4 (Buffy is happily patrolling and allowing the Initiative to pick up the demons she beat up as late as New Moon Rising) and this doesn't change until they target humans/friends or abuse their power.
 

DeadlyDuo

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Buffy has no moral qualms whatsoever with the Initiatives behaviour modifier chips or their experimentation on demons until it becomes clear they're experimenting indiscriminately (like on Oz in A New Moon) or creating cyborg killers like Adam.
I think this makes Buffy a bit of a hypocrite. She's happy for the Initiative to experiment on various demons so long as it's nobody she likes. Would she have happily let the Initiative experiment on Clem pre-knowing him despite the fact that Clem is more or less a good demon?

Adam was more Walsh's side project rather than the main goal of the military.
 

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I think this makes Buffy a bit of a hypocrite. She's happy for the Initiative to experiment on various demons so long as it's nobody she likes. Would she have happily let the Initiative experiment on Clem pre-knowing him despite the fact that Clem is more or less a good demon?
Reminds me of Riley's bias in the aforementioned Oz episode - clearly, he's only willing to help break Oz out once he realizes that it's someone he knows. So hypocritical. But, yeah, I agree, Buffy is kinda the same way.
 
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