I just watched [well, listened to] this ep, my first reacquaintance with BTVS in a long time. In the introduction of Spike and his inevitable confrontation and therefore contrast with Angel, the show creators prove how much they failed in portraying Angel as an interesting, desirable, attractive character.
Spike, as a more flamboyant, demonstrative character, is instantly engaging. Whereas Angel lurks in the shadows and interests the audience because he’s a mystery, Spike from his debut evinces positive personality traits that get the viewers perked up.
Spike benefits not only from a contrast with the introverted, suffering, mysterious, repressed Angel, but also with vampires in general as portrayed on BTVS. Seasons 1 and 2 show the vampires of Sunnydale relishing the kill and maybe making a mordant joke or two, but generally they take themselves very seriously. The Annoying One and his henchmen epitomize this tendency; all they do is stand around making dire pronouncements, barking orders and snarling. Spike undercuts this pomposity from the start with his impromptu drop-in and his skeptical sneer at Henchman A that of course Henchman A wasn’t at the Crucifixion because, if all vamps were at the Crucifixion who said they were, “it would have been like Woodstock.” Spike’s cavalier attitude toward the Annoying One’s deadly seriousness shows that he has a sense of humor, something that all the other vamps apparently lost when they were turned. He’s like the built-in peanut gallery of the Hellmouth, always ready with snarky comments about the pretentiousness of vampires and the general silliness of the whole thing. In this way, he takes on the ironic self-consciousness of the viewers who are laughing at the whole idea of slaying vampires. We like him because he flatters us by being like us.
I think, if he really wanted to be convincing, Angel should have gotten some of Spike’s traits. Why does Angel have to be defined by his suffering and his mystery? Couldn’t he have a sense of humor, especially since everyone else in the show does? I think that was a tragic waste of an actor on the show’s creators’ part, especially since David Boreanaz does have a comic sensibility, especially as an expressive, reactive “straight man.”
P.S. As much as I love the scoring for the show, very stirring and dramatic, I mostly wished it would shut up because it kept overdetermining the emotional content of the scenes. I could just listen to hours of the emotionally freighted music without the script behind it.