Despite Spike and Angel's bad hair days, this is a truly effulgent episode. Spike may think he's good enough for Buffy, but he really is beneath her. Nevertheless, you can't help but feel sorry for him thanks to James Marsters' touching performance. He's taking on his responsibilities as the show's new male lead admirably.
The episode also features one of the coolest bits of Buffy direction ever as Spike, Angel, Dru and Darla stride through the burning Chinese village in slow motion. Feature film quality stuff.
The rest of the Scooby gang take a bit of a back seat, although their shameless crisp munching during Riley's mission made me chuckle.
Well, well, Spike's past comes to light. I loved pre-vamp Spike, he's been taking acting lessons from Tony Head, hasn't he?
I want to know, though - what is it that is sexy about Vampires? Neck-nibbling scenes are oddly erotic. Is it the exposed neck? The giving yourself up to someone else? The period costume britches... um, let's not go there.
Maybe it is just that perennial Bad Boy appeal. People really love that rebel thing - it's the hint of danger that gives the object of your affections an edge. Look at James Dean.
I don't think I get it - give me a ditsy Wiccan any day - but it's obviously popular!
The first sign that Buffy was a really confident show was when Angel went bad. Now we get a serious display of smugness as the makers reveal the back story of a major villain.
This can seriously backfire - if you develop too much back story, suddenly your super villain looks a little flimsy. The X-Files tried it with Memoirs of a Cigarette Smoking Man and emerged looking ridiculous - he's a thwarted science-fiction writer, actually. Ooh, scary.
Spike emerges from Fool for Love triumphant and even more interesting. It's just great that underneath the whole vamp thing, Spike's a bit pants, and certainly rings a bit truer than trying to make us swallow that soulful, mystic Angel used to be the dodgiest-accented roustabout in all of Ireland.
Huge brownie points for the way the show is shot, acted and filmed. The intercutting between the tube carriage and the back alley makes for gobsmackingly interesting, challenging television. Shame the follow-up show on Angel is shallow rubbish by comparison.
From the gory shock at the beginning to the affecting ending, this slice of Buffy heaven is flawless. Small things first - seeing Riley insulted by Buffy’s insistence that he take the Scoobies out on patrol, then appalled by the reality of it was most enjoyable. And getting a glance into Spike’s past to discover that the big bad was once just William the bloody awful was superb.
Even such gems as these are outshone by the masterful way the script and James Marsters' stellar performance drenched this episode in barely suppressed desire. Deftly, the object of this adoration was kept mostly unaware of it. The audience knew, but to Buffy, Spike was just as unpleasant and, er... spiky as ever, giving no hint of his feelings.
The details of his history he lets slip and the spin he puts on them, though, tell a whole other story. Violence, death and sex are inextricably linked for Spike, and with his blood-soaked life story he’s flirting shamelessly with Buffy. By the end, that failed attempt at a kiss is inevitable.
Question for continuity fans: What would Angelus be doing with Darla and the rest in 1900? Well, if Channel 4 ever get round to showing Season 2 of Angel you’ll find out.