"Gee, and we'd all hoped those crazy kids would make it work."
There are going to be points in the future of The Whedoning when I'm going to complain about the way Spike is used, and one of the things that's going to bother me is the use of Spike's inefficacy for humor and/or pathos. It was boring in season two, and it will be used to even worse effect in the future, but I think that here in "Lovers Walk" it works exceptionally well. The reason is largely because Spike still poses a genuine threat. While he's at an emotional low point, this just makes him all the more dangerous. Like I said in my review of "School Hard," it's the personal touch that makes Spike work so well as an antagonist, and the Spike we see here seems a logical outgrowth of that character. And like in "School Hard," his capricious and emotionally-driven villainy stirs the pot quite bit. This time he whirls in and out of town like a hurricane, destroying relationships in his wake.
The transgressions between Willow and Xander that have been building over the past few episodes finally bear dramatic fruit, which is great to see, but of course devastating all the same. The episode does a really good job of setting us up to feel bad for Oz early in the episode with his random present to Willow, but I can't help feeling even worse for Cordelia. She's given up an awful lot just to be with Xander, so her complete rejection of Xander in the hospital comes off as more painful for her than for Xander, which is really quite satisfying considering the show's apparent hesitance to embrace Cordelia as a full member of the main cast.
The episode does a decent job handling the breakdown in the relationship between Buffy and Angel, but I think there's too much telling and not enough showing. It's been obvious that they still have feelings for one another, but I think this episode didn't do enough to demonstrate the danger in this. However, the notion that Spike has to be the one to do the telling is pretty brilliant, so it's hard to fault the episode for that too much
- The Mayor's brief appearance in this episode is pretty amusing (particularly his deconstruction of his own mixed metaphor) but rather pointless, as his commissioning a "committee" to deal with Spike is never mentioned in the episode again. Unless we're supposed to assume that the gang of vampires who attempt to ambush Spike were sent by the mayor? If that was the implication they intended, the connection wasn't drawn strongly enough, since those vampires seemed to be acting on their own behalf against Spike because of their own personal resentment.
- The whole fake-out with the graveyard at the end of the episode is a really dirty trick, isn't it? I'm not sure how I feel about that.
- Spike's return is nicely bookended with nods to his origins: First, he crashes into the Sunnydale sign much like he did in "School Hard," and later he rocks out to a version of "My Way" by Sid Vicious, on whom the character of Spike was originally based. Or rather, a version of "My Way" modeled on the version by Sid Vicious: I was pretty disappointed when I found out that the version playing was actually a cover version by Gary Oldman for the film Sid and Nancy, because Sid's own version wasn't available.
- There's some confusion among different sources (even official ones) about what the title of this episode is supposed to be: "Lover's Walk," "Lovers' Walk," or "Lovers Walk." The latter is the one on the script, and it's probably the most appropriate to the events