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Date Posted: 16:14:12 08/16/06 Wed
Author: OnM
Subject: Re: Riley's chip
In reply to: skpe 's message, "Re: Riley's chip" on 07:49:18 08/16/06 Wed

In purely practical terms, you're absolutely right. It is important for dramatic reasons to have Riley be able to cut into his chest and remove the chip. I mean, the thing has to be somewhere, and if it was on his spine, it would be hard to reach around and dig the thing out, and if it was in his brain, he’d need to drill a hole in his skull and do the whole surgical thing. So, no go with those variations.

However, there probably is some metaphorical significance to having the chip placed near Riley's heart as opposed to in his head. The other chipped entity in the overall story arc is of course Spike, a character deliberately placed as a romantic rival for Buffy’s affections. In Spike’s case the reason for implanting the chip was to induce so much pain into Spike’s nervous system (or whatever passes for that in a vampire) that he cannot function-- he’s incapacitated until the urge to harm a human is pushed back down.

Someone could rightfully point out (and likely already has in some previous post) that chipping a “subterrestrial” is stupid-- why not just kill them if they’re dangerous? The only logical reason is that “The Mission” is all about control, not about mere containment or correction. Or, as Buffy/The First put it in the the first ep of season 7, “It’s about power”.

What was the purpose in creating Adam? Certainly not to improve humanity by blending demon flesh with humans, but to create a deadlier battle weapon. Once having built the weapon, the control issue now becomes paramount. A bomb is no good to you if it goes off at the wrong time and place. So the Initiative would probably hedge its bets by not only trying to make human-demon hybrids where the demon predominates (and might very well become the unpredictable bomb) but ones where the human predominates (and might therefore be more readily controlled).

They may not have been too far off in this line of thought. Riley’s friend Forrest, once “adapted”, immediately revels in his new strength and abilities (much as Spike did after becoming a vampire). If Maggie had been present as the leader rather than Adam, he likely would have happily sworn allegiance to her and whatever her cause was. Riley could have gone the same way, maybe not as readily, but if he believed that those in command above him knew what they were doing, he might eventually have accepted his “destiny”.

Riley, however, has placed his allegiance with Buffy (and thus gave Maggie a reason to kill Buffy, and regain control over Riley). Riley admires Buffy’s passion, strength and most importantly her moral center, her heart. Because of this, he resists the idea of being “enhanced” to the point where everything is about power, and nothing is about “heart”. Thus, it may be possible to literally control his brain, but not his “heart” or soul or essence or whatever you wish to term it. Placing the chip in the location noted metaphorically alludes to the importance of that.

While it takes a good deal longer, it is worth noting that Spike comes around to this way of understanding by the end of season 6. Seeking out a soul is reasonably analogous to Riley digging the controlling chip from his chest. As long as Spike listens only to his vampire brain, he gives priority to raw power over heart-- it is his nature to do so. His growing allegiance to Buffy and what she represents becomes the driving force behind his desire to counter the control his vampiric nature holds over him.

From B7.20 Touched:

SPIKE
(quietly)
You listen to me. I've been alive a bit longer than you, and dead a lot longer than that. I've seen things you couldn't imagine, and done things I'd prefer you didn't. I don't exactly have a reputation for being a thinker; I follow my blood, which does not always rush in the direction of my head. So I've made a lot of mistakes. A lot of wrong bloody calls.

A hundred plus years, only one thing I've ever been sure of. You.

(He moves to touch her face. Misinterpreting, she turns away, but he puts his hand to her cheek, urges her to...)

SPIKE (cont'd)
Look at me. I'm not asking you for anything. When I tell you that I love you, it's not because I want you, or 'cause I can't have you -- it has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try... I've seen your strength, and your kindness, I've seen the best and the worst of you and I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You are a hell of a woman.

***

Riley had this figured out long before, but he had the advantage of being human and having a “good heart” to begin with.

One final note-- placing the chip in Riley’s brain to coerce him by pain would not have achieved what the Initiative wanted anyway. Soldiers by training are conditioned to resist the effects of pain, and if the pain was being inflicted by members of your own “side”, what does that say about them? It certainly wouldn’t have helped to retain or build allegiance. Better to coerce the soldier by dangling the promise of greater strength to make the acceptance of control easier to deal with. After all, the vertical hierarchy that the military represents pretty much means that you accept control of your actions by others on a day-to-day basis, unless of course you’re the commander-in-chief.

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