harsens_rob (harsens_rob) wrote,

Review: Seasons Two's BTVS: BECOMING, part one

becoming1 splash

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Season 2, Episode 21

"Becoming, Part I"

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon

Blurb: Kendra returns to help Buffy when Angel plots to revive an ancient demon bent on sweeping everything on Earth into Hell itself.

My Blurb: Y'know, there are the occasional reviews where I'm actually nervous to take them on. The subject is just sooooo good, that I really, really don't want to eff it up. I want to absorb every particle and make sure I reflect every single shred of awesome in the review, while also wanting ever so much to remember that nothing is perfect. In short, I want to do a subject proud, but I don't want to collapse into fanboyism over it... and I'm worried about my ability to do this. BTVS has several episodes where I feel this sense of nervousness, and this is one of them. Be kind with any comments, but for goodness sakes if there is something major I missed, let me know!

Also -- Spoilers are spoiled, and we have too many screen caps.

Scene 01: We open our episode, not on Buffy and the gang, but in the past of Galway, Ireland: 1753. As we stare at a paver brick road, a rider on horseback clomps onto the scene under us. Over the scene, we have mysterious voice narrating to us. Our Pompous Narrator blabs on about how life moments come along that shape everything that we'll be as we continue to follow horse and rider. He assures us that he's about to show us what he means.

We allow the horseback rider to clomp away from us, as he's not who we're interested in after all. Our attention is taken by a disturbance at a tavern, where two young men are roughly thrown out by the barkeep. They're deeply drunken.

One of our men would be Angel... back before the whole "Let's kill the Slayer". In fact, it would appear that this is an Angel before the Angel-part. He's decided that drinking isn't over for the night, although I'm thinking drinking buddy is probably near his limit. Angel offers that they can slip into his father's house and swipe some silver for trade in. It is obvious that his father is not held in high regard by the son. Drinking Buddy can't hold out and collapses in a drunken pass-out, leaving Angel to glance around for somewhere to go and something to do.

His attention is captured by a beautiful women who gives a demure "I'm totally looking at you, but see how I'm pretending not to" glance of interest. She wanders off into a back alley... and even with the coif and lack of 'Catholic school girl' look, we can tell this is Darla!


Commentary: So, as you'll know if you've read a b-movie review or two by me, my heart generally sinks when we're greeted immediately by a Pompous Narrator. So, I was kinda of a "oh no" frame of mind... until I saw Darla standing here like this. This shot yanked me right into the episode. Plus - CONTINUITY/BACKSTORY! Yay!

But what I really wanted everyone to notice here is the way that Darla is lit for this scene. Note that on her right, the framing fades into darkness and that after she gives Angel (aka Liam, at this point) her 'follow me' glance, she moves off into this darkness. It's a beautifully composited frame, and of course, it's telling us that Angel is about to become Angel and that is why we're seeing this. It also, with this extended first scene, really tells us everything [and ergo we didn't really need the beginning voiceover by who knows who] about this episode -- along with title help. We can surmise this is going to be centered on becoming who you are, and one can guess it won't be only for Angel/Angelus, but probably for Buffy somewhere along here.

[Oh, and yes -- when we reach the end of the episode, I do more appreciate the opening narration because of the bookendy sort of thing. And, I also more appreciate it when we find out who is narrating and his own history with Angel. But if I go off on the future!spoiler stuff, we're never gonna get through this first scene.]

Scene 02: Angel obediently follows Darla, as she fully expected the drunken horndog would. As she slows her walk, Angel wonders what a woman of her station might be doing wandering such an ill-reputed reputation-ed alleyway at this time of night.

Darla gives a tiny smile. She offers that perhaps she's lonely... in her quite American accent; which - uh - well, let's not harsh again on the Oirish being splashed about, yeah?


There is some banter between them, but as Angel gets close to her, he becomes instantly smitten by more than a good time. He asks her about where she hails from [I'd guess America], but she tells him vaguely that she's from everywhere. He opines that he's always wanted to see the world, but he's never left his village. Darla expresses a desire to show him everything she's seen, and he wants her to... though obvs, he doesn't really know what that means.

Darla tells him to "close your eyes" and lean into him. She vamps out and fangs him, which he seems surprisingly unconcerned about.

As Angel drops to his knees in a swoon, Darla scrapes her nail across her quite-prominent bosum and forces him to suck her chestblood.

Commentary: So, first, let me say how ravishing Julie Benz is in period costume and hair... at least before the vamp!appliance. It makes me almost think that we should reinstitute 1753-Galway dress as a societal norm (SORRY LADIES!). I'd be half-tempted to follow her, and I'm not straight. And the light director must have loved her passionately.

I also want to express the love for tying Darla's "close your eyes, see the world" with the end of Becoming II and Buffy's "close your eyes, ******************".

Now, we do need to acknowledge a bit of 'ugh' here, though. For one - that accent, that I'm trying really hard not to disparage because it's been done to death. For two, the vamp!face is still looking really rough for Darla's face and I can't understand why with the better budget, her makeup is still looking as crap as in Season 1. Third, while I like the gist of the slow attraction build between Angel and Darla, the lines from point A to point B are a bit wonky to me. I'm not sure I'm able to describe why exactly except to say it just felt inorganic in some way. However, that said, the face acting of David is really good and there is some wonderful chemistry between he and Julie in this scene.

Finally, that fingernail scrape was really awkwardly filmed, Joss. It's far too evident that Julie's fingernail isn't even touching her skin, which sort of destroys the illusion, unless fingerpads get sharpened when you become a vampire and we just haven't seen that more explicitly ... maybe finger-ridges turn into shark skin?

Scene 03: We hop away from the sumptuousness of Darla to the present, wherein she's ash. We focus on modern-Angelus as he's staring with his too-much-facepowder-and-pale!pink-lip-gloss at us. [I haven't the heart to tell him that he's a bit more comical than scary-stalker this close up. Also, is this shot an insert from the stalking scene of him outside Buffy's house during PASSION... because I could swear this is the same shot?]

He's watching Buffy... of course. She's currently in the famous Sunnydale cemetery, beating up on a pair of vampires. She stakes one before telling the other that she wants him to get a message to Angel that she's done with his fun and games and plans on taking the fight to him. Second Vampire though isn't interested in playing messenger boy... or surviving... and presses another attack, which gets him easily flipped to the ground and staked. Buffy tells his ashes that she'll just have to tell him herself, which she's of course just done unknowingly [And, again with the no-sensing of Angelus nearly on top of her -- I wish we'd gotten an explicit explanation for this... he's just too close for her Slayer senses to be so useless without some reasoning behind it].

Buffy wanders over to a gravestone and reaches down for something out of view. This turns out to be a pain-groaned Xander Harris.

Buffy tells the recovering from a pummeling Xander that he really doesn't need to come with her patrolling, but he's obviously worried about her facing Angel alone and expresses his doubt that she may really be ready for a final showdown. Buffy tells him she just wants this whole thing over. They banter about getting home to study for finals and Xan suddenly wonders why she didn't just let him die. She offers that it'll all be over soon.

Which is Angelus' cue to make snark comment behind her.

Commentary: And NO. No, that cheesy "Yes, my love..." was SO GAWDAWFULly delivered. Please, somebody, retroactively go back and cut that line from my DVD presentation. It's also not helping that David's sneer-of-cheery-evil is looking more like CheezeWhiz. Please, just stop.

Insert Credits and Kick Ass Theme

Scene 04: Returning from credits finds us close-focused on ... a rock wall..? Oh, no! It's a rock slab of some sort, where some science-technician is blowing air and brushing dirt away from it in a room somewhere. We hear and then see Giles come in and call a hello.

Our local archeologist dude has called in Giles because Rupert has gained a reputation outside of Council circles as an authority on ancient relics [YAY, Giles for being recognized outside of the Slayer/Watcher thing!] It turns out that the giant rock is covered in writings or symbols. It was recently dug up by a construction crew in Sunnydale [you know that small burg with the seaport, bus station, airport, huge zoo... yeah, that tiny, sleepy place]. Doug Perren has asked Rupert to take a look at the symbology for them.

As Giles gives it a lookover, he's able to confirm immediately that it is older than any local settlements that he knows about, and that it is actually a sarcophagous... or a giant hope chest. He asks Doug not to try to open it though, until he can verify its origin.

Commentary: Now, obvs, this being Sunnydale and all, opening things without research is always bad. But, what kinda bugs me about this particular scene is Doug Perren. I had thought this guy was some sort of doctor of archeology [perhaps at the college our Machida followers attended], but he sure doesn't act like one. It bothers me that his first thought is to just start chiseling it open -- isn't there any concern on his part of damaging anything sealed within about being contaminated by the outside air? Apparently not. That seems... unlikely to me. If this was the 1930's, maybe, but not in 1998.

Scene 05: Over as SHS, the gang are at lunch where Xander is regaling the gang with the tale of Buffy's exploit the night before using a toothpick and a pair of those really cheap fishsticks of possibly-not-even-fish. Everyone is amused, and Willow is sitting on Oz' lap... and OMG, Seth Green is the most adorable.

They joke and kid around a bit. Convo turns to the reason Buffy was in the graveyard, beyond it being her calling, which is that Angelus has been a no show lately and she's antsy to get to the final showdown. Willow, like Xander, worries that she's not really ready for a knockdown/dragout/kill-or-be-killed fight with her ex, but Buffy assures them she's ready, willing and able.

She also expresses concern that her "test" against Angel is the only one she's likely to pass, which Willow poo-poos. She assures Buffy that she'll get her through her finals and Cordy tells her she's really gotten the teaching bug since taking over for the computer class [which causes me to give my obligatory, I don't care how tired you are of it, dramatic sigh for Ms. Calendar]. Wills tells them that she's  really loving the teaching and Cordy almost compliments her, before turning it into an insult.

Her and Xan trades  snipes before they get cutesy-flirty. Until Snyder wanders by, where he will not tolerate things like affectionate horseplay... or girls sitting on Adorable Oz-laps [which I'm actually totally behind, because helloooo - I'm sitting here without a lap to sit in, OZ!] or general shows that kids are anything but lifeless robots to be programmed and then sent out into the world.

Before he wanders off, he manages to threaten Buffy on general principle.

Scene 06: From Buffy's general where-is-Angel-we-need-to-fightness, we skip back to 1860 in the city of London.

We wander into a church or cathedral... whatevs. A woman is there walking up the aisle and when she kneels to genuflect, we see that it is Drusilla. But not as we know her -- she's human!Dru.

As Dru wanders into a confessional, we see a hand snake out from the one next to it where the priest sits and some soft gasping.

Drusilla starts her confession and we join the neighboring ... uh... "booth?" "cabinet?" I don't know what these are called. But, anyway, we see the priest coming to an end as Angelus is sitting in his place and has apparently just drained him.

[Yes, why is Angelus hanging around in a church long enough to get trapped there during the daylight hours?? And, I so want to make a completely appalling and disrespectful joke about the priest being forced to sit on a man's lap for a change... but I won't, except for that part where I almost kinda did.]

Drusilla's confession is met with interest and evil-humor by Angelus. Dru is in a horrible place because she's sure that she's been cursed with the devil's sight, her being able to get flashes of the future. She tells of the mine cave-in she saw in a vision that came to pass. She wants to be rescued by God from her evil visions of future events. Angelus finds this all so amusing, especially her self-hatred and fear of her powers. He offers comfort that the Lord has a plan for all of Earth's creatures... even a Devil-Child like her.

Dru is startled by the "priest" calling her a devil-child, and Angelus assures her that she's a spawn of Satan and all the Hail Mary-ies in the world isn't going to keep the Lord from using her up for his own purposes and then smiting her down when he's finished with her. Dru asks what she can do, and Angelus offers that she shouldn't work against the will of God, but should be evil the way he intended.

Drusilla doesn't find this comforting advice at all, so Angelus relents by offering some contritions but leaves her with the reminder that God is watching her... in the most uncomforting way he can.


Commentary: Love! Love this scene. I love these flashbacks/personal history building, but more than that, I just love the way that David and Juliet play off one another in any scene that they're in. Juliet seems able to connect with any actor she's put opposite of, as she also shows when she's in any scene with James Marsters.

And, I think she help elevate David. His "God is watching you" while he's touching that grate is excellent.

It's also just a bit fun to see that Drusilla's visions are something she took with her to vampirehood -- not a vampire power, which explains why she seems to be the only one to get these flashes.

I just absolutely love the worldbuilding we'll get throughout this episode, and the way that these events all tie into who our characters are now in the modern world. I'm just kudo-ing the hell outta it here, so I don't have to keep inserting commentary at each past!scene to mention it. Just assume, unless I state otherwise, that I'm in nerdgasm over these character!history scenes.

Scene 07: We crossfade from Dru staring in fear at Angelus' hand on the confessional partition, to Drusilla smiling as she sweeps down the stairs at the Vampire Mansion. Spike greets her and she tells him she had a rough night of old men getting stuck in her teeth, but then things got better as the moon began to whisper to her. Angelus arrives at that point and asks about what the moon told her, as Spike gets a slap from Angelus to the back of the head and goes on reading his paper.

Drusilla tells Angelus that the museum has received a tomb with a dark surprise inside. Angelus is impressed by how much she sees in her head, but Spike undercuts the awe by pointing out that she read all of that in the morning paper. He hands it over for Angelus to see for himself and Dru crazy-grins behind him.

Angelus reads about the obelisk uncovered, and seems to recognize it... possibly? Dru states that she's sure that the obelisk is whispering to her. He tells Dru there are no worries, soon the whispering will stop, and it'll scream... he shares that CheezyWhiz grin with Spike, as Dru... well... she air-bites Angelus behind his back in her crazy-Dru way.

Scene 08: Back at SHS, in Jenny's room (sigh), Willow is tutoring Buffy in chemistry. There is some bonding dialog, and then Buffy's pencil rolls off the desk. She reaches down and her fingers brush the LOST DISKETTE OF SOUL RESTORATION. She assures Wills that she's "learn-girl", but then almost immediately interrupts to say she had a strong deja vu moment. She rolls per pencil again, and this time when she retrieves it, she finds the L.D.O.S.R. and hands it to Willow, believing she must've dropped it. But Wills doesn't recognize it and correctly assumes it's from Ms. Calendar.

Out of curiousity, she pops it into the computer drive to see what lesson plans are on it. But, as we know from... well, that episode, it is not lessons, but a spell. There is intense stares by Willow and Buffy to this sudden find.

Scene 09: Finding the disk leads us to the woods, where we hear panicked gasping as someone rushes through them.

Scene 10: We find ourselves looking down at a body dressed out for a funeral, and hear an old lady chant in a language unfamiliar (to me anyway). A chyron lets us know we've time skipped again and are in the Romanian Woods (OH, those famous woods) in 1898.

We pan around until we find the source of the old-woman chant, and see that she's involved in a ritual... one which happens to involve an Orb Of Thesullah.

As our spellworks continue, we skip back and forth to the running, panting man in the woods. The man rushes into the gypsy camp, and it's, no longer surprisingly, Angelus.

Scene 11: The Orb glows and then vanishes, while back at a disoriented Angelus, his eyes glow.


As Angelus looks around bewildered, a gypsy man walks in front of his kneeling form. He tells Angelus that he's glad it's hurting him and that it will be hurting more very soon. Angelus is confused and doesn't seem to know where he is or how he's gotten here, but gyspy man assures him the memories will come back soon.

Angelus... clearly Angel now... begins to react with tears and horror as all of Angelus' deeds come rushing back to him, including the murder of the gypsy girl that has caused the clan to call down this resouling curse in the first place. He collapses in on himself at the memories, while gypsy man smiles his creepy-assed grin down at his suffering.

Commentary: And can we just stipulate that gypsy-man is a giant douchebag? His glee at Angel's suffering -- knowing that it is caused by a human soul being forced to recall events which he had no part in -- is super-duper dickery on an epic level. It really makes me sympathetic toward Angel [which is important, because of spoiler!reasons], and also ties nicely into Jenny's disgust with her own people over this curse in the first place.

Scene 12: Back in the library, Giles is shocked at Buffy's handing him the curse to restore Angel to who he was. Willow clarifies that Ms. Calendar had been working on restoring the lost magic spell.

Xander and Cordelia are now revealed to be in the room, where Cordy's looking stunned as well. But Xan... oh, Xander Harris... is nothing but pissed. He points out that Angelus murdered Ms. Calendar for trying to help him. He sarcastics what a prince this makes Angel [because Xan has never been able to separate Angel from Angelus --- and after S8, I'm kinda more sympathetic toward that view, though I'm still going to have a lot of appalled anger toward Xan in this scene].

Cordy interrupts Xan's growing snit to point out that restoring Angel is a good thing, though Giles says that he's not sure they have the magical resources necessary to work this sort of dark mojo. Wills steps up to say she thinks she can work it, because of some research she's been doing into the magic on the side. Giles expresses distubance (it's all in his face) toward Willow's looking into the dark arts, but also worries that she's taking on more than she can handle by thinking she can work this spell. Buffy is also more worried about Willow than she is concerned with restoring Angel, but Willow is confidant that she can try this.

Xander interrupts at this point (And, I'm not sure I'll ever reach the level of anger I'll have toward this character as here. I'm not really on the side of the Xan-Haters, obvs, and generally believe that they're really WAY TOO PSYCHOTICALLY HARSH toward him, but in this scene, I can totally step on over to the Haters side). He opines that everyone is a crazy-person excepting himself and also states a blunt Who Cares to Angelus' getting his soul back, which Buffy can't believe.

Even though everyone else in the room is looking at him with shock and hurt, Xan keeps on opining that Angel is a killer and should be put down... his opinion not having changed since Passion. He's also pig-headedly uninterested in putting Angelus down by restoring Angel.

Giles points out that restoring Angel seemed to be Jenny's last wish [I LOVE ALY's FACE ACTING!], but Xander points out snottily that Jenny is dead. This causes Giles to not only shout at him to keep his mouth shut, but he actually steps up in Xan's face like he may Ripper-out at any moment over it. Meanwhile Xander is willing to stand toe to toe with him and shout back that he's not hearing him.

[Ugh... so awful. So hard to see this pain on Giles' face again, and to hear Xander being so spiteful and to see them nearly coming to blows about somebody that I'm totally on board with staking and want him gone after Jenny's death. But DAMN IT, if they have a chance to save Angel -- and since he's not responsible for Angelus' actions -- DAMN.]

Buffy intercedes, shouting like she's about to burst into tears for them to stop fighting. [I LOVE WILLOW's CONFUSION and BUFFY's APPALLED SHOCK at Xander. This whole scene is so brilliantly acted by everyone!]


Buffy, Giles and Xan separate. Willow asks Buffy what she wants to do. Buffy is unsure, as she states that what happened to Angel wasn't his fault. But Xander -- even after it's clear that everyone isn't buying his "Angel has to die, because Angelus is a killer" argument, presses on. He tells them that what happened to Ms. Calendar is [again, I honestly believe that he CANNOT {rather than will not} separate Angelus from Angel, so even though I don't agree with him, I do understand him] and then he says perhaps the most appalling thing he could've said to Buffy in this emotionally charged moment, so quotage:

"You can paint this anyway you want. But, the way I see it? Is that you wanna forget all about Ms. Calendar's murder so you can get your boyfriend back."

Buffy and Xander have a stare down, while Willow just looks disgusted at him. Buffy finally turns and leaves the room.

We get an overhead view of Willow still staring at Xander in disbelief, Giles standing separated from everyone else and also glaring at Xan, Cordelia leaning against the table at a loss, and Xander marching away to his own corner simmering with rage.

Commentary: I know, you're thinking "Commentary? How much more can this gas bag have to say about one scene??" Well, it turns out the answer is "more".

First, I just want to say that I LOVE this scene. It's harsh, and it really puts Xander is a bad light, but I really appreciate that we're allowed to see our characters as extremely flawed, and sometimes hateful people. I love that they had one person in the group who was willing to state outright that Angel isn't worth shit and should die and Xan was that logical person. I loved the way that Nicholas embraced that ugly rage and delivered... almosted spewed... those lines at ASH, Aly and SMG; he really could have tried to pull back, because he must've known that attacking Buffy and Rupert was going to get him blowback from the fans, but he really went for it and sunk his teeth full force into the dialog.

Second, I love the way that this scene tears me up inside, because I was fully onboard with Angel being dusted -- basically standing firmly on Xander's side until this scene. And, like I believe with Giles, the fact that it was Jenny's dying attempt to restore Angel really carries a lot of weight with me to at least make an honest attempt. I have no doubt that seeing Angel's face again would be horrible for Rupert, especially if Buffy really did "try to get her boyfriend back" in the aftermath of the restoration, but I have loads of respect for him that he's divorcing his personal disgust and pain to separate Angelus' deeds from Angel in a way that Xan cannot. And in the way that I truly struggled with it at this point in the series -- it's easier in hindsight of course, because we know how it turns out and all the AtS goodness, but I do remember even though I was disgusted and pissed at Xander, I wasn't really completely disagreeing with him that they should just focus on killing Angelus and write Angel off.

Thirdly, I love that Buffy is made to be unsure herself. She's even seeming reluctant to go down this path, now that she's made up her mind [she thinks -- my personal feeling is that she's not quite there yet to stake Angelus quick and finally] to do her Slayer-duty.

Fourth, I love everybody's acting work in this scene -- even Charisma in the background is looking at Nicky like he may have just gone insane.

Finally -- I absolutely love that last shot of Buffy being out of the room, and the Scoobies all in their respective corners suddenly separated and damaged from one another. You can easily relate this to S4, S6, S8 and current S9. This tension between them makes them more than just "Buffy and the Rah Rah Gang" ... each of these characters is their own person with their own feelings and beliefs and there are times when they conflict with one another and lead to that bond between them being stretched to near breaking point. I completely appreciate this complexity in character, even when I'm hating on a character's dialog or actions. It allows for scenes like this, which may be ugly, but g'ddamned if it isn't painfully fantastic.

Scene 12: Back at the museum, Doug is working late as people of Sunnydale are suicidally compelled to do, when he hears mysterious whisperings. He wanders over to the big stone and listens closely. But is turns out the whispering were an Angelus game with Dru.

She grabs him from behind and then sinks her fangs in. Angelus comes in with his anonymous minions for the big rock. Dru continues to, apparently very slowly, feed on Doug. Angelus calls to Dru, who snarls with bloody fangs, and he says mockingly, "Save me some".

Scene 13: Back in Buffy's room later that evening, she's on the phone with Willow who is commisserating about Xander's assholishness.

Buffy tells her that she'll stop by in a bit after a patrol sweep. Willow has apparently asked Buffy about what she intends to do in regards to the spell [we only get Buffy's side of the conversation throughout this] when she spots the ring Angel gave her on the desk in her room. Over the Buffy/Angel love theme, she hangs up with Wills so she can stare at Angel's Sad Ring.

Scene 14: This takes us to the outside where Buffy is patrolling, though it's more like she's wandering around deep in thought. Her focus is broken by a twig snap and she creeps her way into the park. Another twig snap has her turning around and trying to hone. A fast movement happens behind her and she spins around, ready to punch... but the twig-snapper is only Kendra gooding around with her.

The two Slayer greet each other, and we see that Kendra has managed to seem a bit more laid back than the when she last visited. She informs Buffy though that her Watcher sent her because of a dark power rising in Sunnydale. Buffy asks if she knows what this power is....

Scene 15: ... which lets us conveniently segue over to Vampire Mansion. Angelus and Dru gaze in wonder at their big rock, while Spike snarks. Angelus finally lets us know what this obelisk is all about.

It turns out that the obelisk holds the demon Acathla who came to pull the world into Hell, but got his heart skewered by a virtuous knight with a magic sword. He turned to stone before he could pull the breath to perform the act and then was hidden away where no one would think to look for him... unless you're building low rent housing.


Angelus intends to pull the sword (with a ritual of course) from the demon, and have him open a portal which will suck everything on Earth into whichever-mumble Hell.

He cheezy-grins. Again. Please stop.

Scene 16: Over at the library, Willow, Buffy, and Kendra have met up with Giles who confirms Kendra's Watcher's findings. He explains about the vortex to hellhood. This pushes Buffy to go ahead and have Willow try the curse to stop Angelus from wanting to open the hellgate.

Kendra states that she understands Buffy's feelings, but that perhaps Angel should be killed [y'know, it would really help Buffy out if y'all would stop saying Angel's name and insist on using Angelus]. Buffy explains that she'll fight Angel if she has too, she'll even kill him, but if she's not in time or if she loses, Wills may be their only hope.

Willow has a quick freak about being the "only" hope, but Kendra reports that they do have one other... no it's not a secret sibling... it's a magic sword - the twin to the one currently in Acathla's chest.

Giles questions Willow about getting her spell attempt ready and she reports she needs about a day, and an object she's not familiar with... the Orb of Thesullah. Fortunately, Rupert has one... being used as a paperweight... which is a callback joke to the shop keeper in Passion.

Rupert also reports that with any luck it will take some time for Angelus to figure out the ritual to remove the sword from the demon, in the meantime.

Commentary: And, I know that this is all heavy and everything but I can't help but giggle with glee because I love this episode and I'm already thinking about the swordfight between Buffy and Angel and the awesome Xan/Giles interaction during his rescue and the adorable Wills/Oz... of course, then I think about the ending. But then I think about next season! Oh, but Kendra... Oh, but Faith!

I'm all happy inside. Totally inappropriate!

Scene 17: Back at Vampire Manor, Spike is up and out of his wheelchair and pacing. He hears Dru call for him, and quickly gets back in his chair to resume his ruse of being "roller boy". Drusilla has come to tell Spike that the fun is about to begin, though he seems more pissy about all of this than pleased.

Scene 18: In the foyer of Vampire Manse, a shirtless man is brought to Angelus for some quickie homoerotic biting.


Our anonymous guy dies much more quickly than Doug Perren. As his body falls to the floor, Angelus wipes his hand across his neck wound to get his "innocent" blood smeared on it. Angelus ritually states that everything that he's done has led him to this moment.

Scene 19: Which leads us to flashback territory. Manhattan in 1996, to be exact. We find Angel living as a homeless person and feeding on the occasional rat... when he can actually catch one. Which doesn't look likely to be too often.

[Which is sort of awesome actually, because it could be construed as retroactively explaining why Angel was always getting so beat up in Season One, and why he was so reticent to get involved in any more than giving out information on way too many occasions.]

A man walks up to him as he's sitting on the ground frustrated with himself, and tells him he's disgusting. This man isn't just going around insulting the homeless though. When Angel threatens him - in human face - the guy recognizes he's a vampire straight off, just as he recognizes that Angel isn't in good enough shape to threaten a scurrying rat.

We also recognize the voice of our newcomer and it's the voice of our Pompous Narrator [And, if you're reading Angel & Faith, you'll know that 'pompous' is right!], who will introduce himself as Whistler in a bit.

Scene 20: With Whistler recognizing not only that Angel is a vampire, but also knows about his soul having, Angel goes with him for a walk. Whistler first insults Angel a bit for not living in the world enough to know that he could be eating more blood than he can stand, if he'd visit a butcher shop once in awhile. He also tells Angel that he's there to see who he is, because Angel could go either way. He introduces himself and reports that he's a demon, himself... but not a bad guy. He's one of the demonic entities that aren't focused on the destruction of life.


Angel tries the "I wanna be left alone" thing, but Whistler isn't having it. He tells Angel that his being alone hasn't worked out so well, and that he wants him to make a choice between continuing to be a waste, or to be somebody. He invites him to come with him to see something important. He's intense about it.

Scene 21: We skip forward over however long it takes to drive from Manhattan to Los Angeles, while not bursting into flames or being pulled over for driving a beater with the windows nearly completely blacked out.

Angel parks across from a high school, where we see Buffy in her full-on Cordelia-esque glory complaining to her friends about something trivial. [We try to ignore the uncomfortable child-molester stalker vibe this scene gives off like a rank stink.]

Buffy seperates from her friends to wait for some boy named Tyler who is supposed to beg her forgiveness for some slight so that she'll go to the dance with him. But it isn't Tyler that comes up to her, as Angel watches. It's MERRICK!!!

Commentary: Okay, a Merrick who has grown shorter, fatter and much less campy than who we thought he was from some sort of fever-dream about Buffy in L.A. that we all had before this. But, despite the little bit of retro-vision, I am LOVING that his existence [and death] are being acknowledged even as we've thrown out much of his history from the movie. That is pretty damned awesome.

I really do need to collect the Buffy trades from Joss' original script, y'all. Someday.

Scene 22: Merrick tells a doubtful and weirded out Buffy about her destiny [which is coming across as more uncomfortable teen girl stalking, so let's quickly move on].

Worse, Merrick very clearly has not given a lot of thought as to how to introduce himself or the concept of vampires and Slayers to Buffy -- because he sounds like a nutburger, and she should have been backing up slowly and looking for some adult help.

Scene 23: Be that as it may, we skip forward to Buffy's first vampire kill lesson. Angel watches this and is wanting to jump in, when Buffy is being body pressed by a vamp -- especially since Merrick seems uninclined to assist. But she's able to throw the vampire off of herself before he blows his spying cover.

Buffy manages, clumsily, to stake her first vampire and watch with disbelief as it discorporates. Merrick is all "you see, you see your power?" but Buffy's all "WTF just happened? And, am I on the crazy train and didn't know it?"

Scene 24: When she returns home, Joyce bitches about her not calling to let her know she'd be late. Buffy implies she was out talking to Tyler, who Joyce says is irresponsible. She tells Buffy dinner is in 10 and leaves her, obviously frustrated.

As Buffy wanders to the bathroom, with the most ill advised window in creation, she hears Joyce and Hank arguing over her and her future seeing the Tyler boy. Hank very soon turns his anger on Joyce for talking to him like he's a kid and she denying that she ever does that... and... domestic strife-stuff. Buffy is left crying in the bathroom with the most ill-advised window in creation where Angel can spy on her.

Scene 25: Angel rejoins Whistler in the sewers, where Whistler predicts that Buffy is going to have a rough time of it. Angel reports that he's made a decision to be somebody by helping Buffy. Whistler warns him it won't be easy, that the more he sees of the world, the more he's going to realize he's apart from it [uh, as opposed to how he's living right now??]. He also points out that Angel couldn't fight off a fruit fly right now, and what he's proposing to do will be dangerous.

Angel tells him he wants to learn from him... as long as he doesn't have to dress like him....

Scene 26: We rejoin Angelus pontificating on how he was lost, but Acathla is going to redeem him. Angelus grabs the sword and is bathed in a bright white light to Dru's giggling. Angelus starts to quake with power.

Scene 27: Angelus finds that Acathla doesn't awaken, though, and the sword doesn't get removed. He gets knocked back on his ass, instead. And although this disappoints Drusilla mightily, Spike is suddenly enjoying this ritual thing.

Angelus is left pissed off, but still with a plan.

Scene 28: The following day, Buffy is in class taking finals.

Scene 29: Out in the hallway, a weird figure draped in black wanders toward her classroom. The figure is a woman, delivering a message from Angelus. Well, actually, it's a vampire woman. But her message is simple - Buffy is to meet Angelus tonight at sundown or he'll kill more people. The vampiress then exposes herself to the sunlight and disintegrates [which will nevertheless somehow be explained as PCP, I"m sure].

Commentary: The only thing I don't like about this scene is the incredible ease with which this vampire ends up going up, when she's clearly in indirect sunlight. Oh, Joss -- you and your inconsistent power of sunlight... it's kinda annoying.

Tags: buffy season 2 reviews, recommendation

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