Episode Title: The Harsh Light of Day
Original Air Date: October 19, 1999
“Being A Vampire Sucks.” – Harmony
It would be just typical that when Buffy seems to be getting her life in order, having established herself as the slayer on campus and got shot of her demon roommate but no things are once more thrown into confusion when she finds herself falling for fellow student Parker, while the appearance of a now vampire Harmony heralds the return of Spike to Sunnydale who is keen to find the “Gem of Amara”. The Vampire version of the Holy Grail and which will also make him in the process invincible to stakes and able to walk in the sun.
One of the more tricky episodes and one which makes it all the harder to argue the case for this season, seeing how most of it is spent focused on the ever more complicated relationships of Buffy and the Scoobies for not do we have Buffy’s confused feelings for Parker, but also Anya and Xander’s equally confused relationship and finally the borderline abusive relationship between Spike and Harmony.
Despite being setup as a potentially normal love interest in the previous episode Parker like all of Buffy’s mortal and non-supernatural boyfriend turns out to be a jackass and far from the nice guy he portrays himself as Buffy discovers for herself after she sleeps with him only for him to then blow her off as a fling. It’s a crushing scene to watch and one which is truly sold by Sarah Michelle Gellar who once more shows her talent for really selling Buffy’s vulnerable side. I guess if Buffy wasn’t as in control of her Slayer powers she would have turned his ass into a hat or something, but sadly we just get to watch her being crushed again by another failed relationship. Interestingly Gellar didn’t want to have Buffy sleep with Parker only for Joss Wheldon to defend the decision by saying that “you go to college, you do stupid things.” Which I guess is the best way of describing the situation that Buffy ultimately finds herself in here.
When it comes to Anya and Xander their confusion over the status of their relationship is only added to by Anya having only the loosest of a grasp on how to conduct herself in the Mortal realm let alone how to deal with all these new feelings she has as a human. As such she is humorously direct and blunt over everything with her attempts at seduction quickly throwing Xander into a blind panic, especially when he didn’t even realise that they were dating and even though they ultimately end up having sex, their relationship is still none the less confused by the end of the episode.
Finally and certainly on the more disturbing end we have Spike and Harmony, who are not only a truly random pairing but one whose backstory of how they even got together is left frustratingly unrevealed much like how Harmony became a vampire! Seemingly when we saw her being bit during the season 3 finale that was seemingly all it took for her to be turned and in doing so tossing out all the usual rules of how someone is turned into a vampire. For Spike meanwhile this is clearly just a rebound relationship after seemingly failing to win Drusilla back after she left him for a fungus demon.
Worrying their relationship is highly abusive with Spike constantly insulting Harmony as he throws out great lines such as “I love syphilis more than you” though the tone of their relationship switches throughout the episode from fun to downright abusive as Spike continually insults her intelligence and personality, while only being nice to her when he wants something from her mainly sex. It’s an aspect of the show I never noticed back when the originally and watching it as an older viewer its kind of disturbing to see how abusive their relationship is let alone that Spike has this side. More so when most fans tend to remember Spike for his bad guy turn in Season 2 and as the wiseass hero turn he has from season five onwards, but here is arguably at his most evil and I guess it’s a credit to the roguish charms of James Masters that we can still side with Spike even after episodes like this one.
The inevitable showdown between Buffy and a now invincible Spike is a great end to the episode and certainly one of the more brutal fights of the series as highlighted by Buffy being thrown onto a glass table and both Spike and Buffy taking some impressive hits before Spike makes his inevitable cowardly turn once he loses his invincibility powers. In a nice crossover with “Angel” Buffy sending Angel the “Gem of Amara” which would be seen in the episode “In the dark” which during its original run was shown on the same night as this episode in a fun bit of timing between the two shows.
While Spike’s return is certainly a welcome once especially after his sole appearance last season, while Harmony becoming a Vampire finally gives her character a purpose outside of being one of Cordelia’s former group and as the airhead vampire she add another fun element to this ever evolving world. The downside however being the focus on the relationships, especially with the “Gem of Amara” feeling like a thin plot thread to stop this episode from feeing like a complete cop out and for such a powerful weapon its alittle frustrating to see it so easily discarded when it could have been much more of a plotline than it ultimately is.
Next Episode: Fear, Itself