Season Seven is … not the best season. Now, it’s better than the first one – and I will fight anyone on that – but it’s like the tenth season of Friends, where there are some genuinely amusing moments, and sure, it’s nice to be with the characters you’ve grown to love over how ever many seasons, but seriously, when is this going to end? But that’s what makes today’s challenge so easy! I only have a handful of episodes to choose from, and I already knew what it was going to be even before I was made to pick!
It doesn’t hurt that “Lies My Parents Told Me” is also one of the best episodes, hands down, of the entire series.
There is so much about this episode that I adore from a writer’s and viewer’s perspective that it’s almost harder to fit them all in without boring people by your fangirling: character development, acting, plotting, cinematography, fight choreography, costuming … you name it, this ep had it.
The symmetry was glorious; Robin has the same line thrown in his face – “The mission is what matters” – not once (by his mother, when he was a child) but twice (this time by Buffy as she explains why she’s allowing Spike to live), really driving the point home that his petty need to avenge his mother’s death was pointless and ultimately dangerous. A Slayer chooses her weaknesses; while Buffy chooses Spike to be hers, Nikki Wood chose the mission over her own son. That is gonna fuck with anybody, to be sure, but Buffy makes it clear that she is not going to allow his issues, albeit understandable, to get in the way of her beating the First Evil.
Not only does she ensure Robin understands this, Buffy reveals to Giles that she would have let Dawn die if it meant the world would be saved. This is a huge jump from her fanatic devotion to keeping her sister alive in the fifth season, which ultimately led to her sacrificing her life in the finale. This growth as a warrior and leader is upsetting to Giles, who until that point believed that Buffy’s “hero” status kept her from making those choices. He killed Ben to prevent Glory from resurfacing, something Buffy couldn’t have done that early in her development. Instead of accepting that Buffy had matured, for better or worse, depending on your interpretation, Giles again takes it upon himself to solve a “problem” for her. It’s a very father-like mistake, really, but one that Buffy has a understandably difficult time forgiving.
Watching Spike’s mom emotionally mutilate him was some of the most painful, beautiful television ever created. The First really knows how to fuck with people, especially since they chose that moment that haunted him the most, that one woman who had more power over him than Buffy. His guilt over siring his mother’s vampirism and his belief that the demon’s words to him were the truth is what kept him in the First’s grasp. Once he realized that the good woman his mother was truly did love him, despite his shitty poetry, that hold over him disappeared, making him more trustworthy than Buffy’s mentor or a child of a fellow Slayer. He wasn’t beholden to any incorrect beliefs any longer, as Giles and Robin were.
This is not necessarily an episode I would recommend to someone with little to no experience watching Buffy, as you kind of have to know a lot about the character of Spike to really appreciate it. If you don’t understand the history between Buffy and Spike, with or without the sexual escapades from last season, there’s a lot to be missed, even if you can fill in the blanks a bit. But once you’ve watched the entire series, I do highly suggest going back and rewatching “Lies My Parents Told Me.” It will definitely be worth your time and energy.