I've been following, lately, a little project called the "Cultural Catchup Project", a part of the Cultural Learnings' site. Now, what this amounts to is reviews of current pop-culture - or really, TV Show episodes, mostly.
But the reason I've been interested is because one of the ongoing articles is a review of BTVS from someone who is catching the shows new. The author knows certain general storylines, but wasn't a watcher of the show when it was first aired, so he is catching everything as a relative virgin. It is fascinating to see his impressions as he works his way through, because we know what is coming - all of the shocks, all of the highs and lows for Buffy and friends - all of the heartbreak and laughs... he doesn't.
He, unfortunately, isn't really giving reviews on an episode by episode basis because he writes so many reviews of shows that are on the air now but he is giving a very good impression of the character's arcs and changes. Being someone who loves reading others' impressions of the show, I've been enjoying reading them, but I haven't really considered them detailed or profound enough to issue a site recommendation.
This newest post from him, though for Surprise & Innocence is terrific in its insight of how these two episodes changed everything. The phrase 'game changer' is used more often than not as a marketing gimmick to goose flagging interest in a show by, with a slight wiff of desperation, throwing a "shocking turn of events!" into a series. Unfortunately, these shocks rarely impact the show long term: Buffy was very different.
Angel's turn in these two episodes and what it will mean to all of our characters going forward throughout the entire future of the franchise cannot be understated in its profundity. Literally, the entire 'feeling' of the show was turned on its head with the return of Angelus and Buffy & Angel will never entirely recover from the consequences of the rest of this season.
It was a great read and I earns my recommendation (but you really should also just go ahead and subscribe to the RSS Feed). I remember the WTF-ery chill I received the first time I realized that Angel had been banished and he was going to be a bad guy, now. But I had no idea of what we were headed into - from creepy drawings to the subtle threatening of Joyce, from Jenny to the bizarre Spike/Buffy truce, from tortured Giles to that climactic sword ending - the rest of this season's Angelus/Buffy square offs were amazing television. And, this guy gets the blessing of coming into it relatively cold and experiencing the shocks for the first time. Follow along....