Overall Rating: 7.3
Warren's power trip is written a bit too melodramatically for my taste...BUT...Spike's plot certainly raises the creepy-crawly factor by a few orders of magnitude.
This evil cliff-hanger is described here, courtesy of the all-knowing Wikipedia.
I'm not going to spend a ton of time on the Warren plot because I don't find it all that interesting other than how it affects the scoobies in subsequent episodes. All I'll say is that, while I understand the psychology they were trying to convey in some of Warren's dialogue, I think they overplayed their hand a bit. Behind every guy talking big about what a "real man" he is, there is someone who is seriously insecure about his masculinity. I will not disagree with that. It just...feels a little thick compared to Warren's behavior throughout the rest of the season. He's over-sexed and under-attractive for it, he's a geek playing at being a man, and he's a sociopath (doesn't care who he hurts to get what he wants), but he's not really a blusterer. Other than that, this is a standard Slayer vs. bad guy plot and not worth a ton of attention.
On the other hand, there are two big themes that need discussing regarding the Spike/Buffy part of the story. The first is lust vs. love. Again. I know we've talked about this in other episodes, which is part of the reason I'm not giving "Seeing Red" a higher score for calling attention to the difference again. However, this is yet more evidence of the difference between actually caring for someone in the way that lasts and simply wanting them sexually. Spike is incapable of the former (no one is capable of love without a soul)...but the latter is something vampires are actually quite good at. In the second season episode "Passion," Angel describes how love consumes him (he means lust, of course), and on many occasions, we here Spike or another baddy proclaim that the best "love" is painful, it burns, and consumes. Buffy is finally getting to understand what she really is looking for when she finishes Spike's repetition of this trope here with "until there's nothing left."
And the fact that Spike would be willing to rape Buffy to get what he feels he needs? Just more proof that Spike does not love Buffy in any real way. Desire is not love. Obsession is not love. Chemical romance is not love. Mutual need is not love. Love is a state where a person feels that they can make their lives about being a gift to another person - doing anything in their power to make that other person happy. Spike is obviously incapable of that, even though he seems capable of making grandiose gestures to try to prove his good intentions with her.
Here's where the review is going to get a little controversial. I think the progression of things Spike says and does in this episode are a concerted effort by the writers to show the real risks of "meaningless" sex - especially the type of sex that involves no real feelings of love on either side and expresses physical/emotional needs that involve objectifying another person. To Spike, Buffy is the unattainable happiness he can never have as a empty, lifeless demon. He must feel that he belongs in her world to have any hope to hold on to. To Buffy, Spike is a desperate grasp for the passion and drive that has been missing from her life since she came back from heaven. And the both of them share some responsibility for what happens in this episode. I am not blaming Buffy (the victim) for Spike's deplorable behavior...but, viewing things from his perspective, you have to realize that Buffy has been saying she doesn't love Spike all year and then coming back for sex when she needs a useful body. It's not particularly fair to him - she realized this too late. She does need to take responsibility for creating this confusion in Spike by insuring that it never happens again - by selecting sexual partners not out of selfish needs, but out of a true desire to be a gift to another person.
The second theme here is the fruitlessness of blame. Anya, fresh off of Xander's cold rebuke in the previous episode, gets back to her life as a vengeance demon, but is still too angry over Xander's role in her unhappiness to be effective. Meanwhile, Xander cuts himself off from his friends by attacking Buffy for her bad judgment with Spike, only to realize that he is far from a model of clear-headed thinking regarding love and life lately. He and Buffy manage to reconcile with a mutual understanding that it is not blame or anger that will bring them back to a happier life, but forgiveness and understanding. This is all very well-placed messaging hidden in an eye-catching, but otherwise unspectacular, episode.
I think that the characterization is largely good, with the exception of Warren. I do begin to feel sorry for Jonathan and Andrew here, which will be important later, so that's a plus.
The performances are largely typical (solid, but not brilliant) with the exception of the rape scene and the scene that follows with Buffy and Xander/Willow/Tara (where things get much more potent)
Can't say I disagree at all with the overarching themes on display here. :)