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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E14: “Innocence”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone is considering moving to a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas. She will also recap every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer with an eye to the following themes:

  1. Sex is the real villain of the Buffy The Vampire Slayer universe.
  2. Giles is totally in love with Buffy.
  3. Joyce is a fucking terrible parent.
  4. Willow’s magic is utterly useless (this one won’t be an issue until season 2, when she gets a chance to become a witch)
  5. Xander is a textbook Nice Guy.
  6. The show isn’t as feminist as people claim.
  7. All the monsters look like wieners.
  8. If ambivalence to possible danger were an Olympic sport, Team Sunnydale would take the gold.
  9. Angel is a dick.
  10. Harmony is the strongest female character on the show.
  11. Team sports are portrayed in an extremely negative light.
  12. Some of this shit is racist as fuck.
  13. Science and technology are not to be trusted.
  14. Mental illness is stigmatized.
  15. Only Willow can use a computer.
  16. Buffy’s strength is flexible at the plot’s convenience.
  17. Cheap laughs and desperate grabs at plot plausibility are made through Xenophobia.
  18. Oz is the Anti-Xander
  19. Spike is capable of love despite his lack of soul
  20. Don’t freaking tell me the vampires don’t need to breathe because they’re constantly out of frickin’ breath.
  21. The foreshadowing on this show is freaking amazing.
  22. Smoking is evil.

Have I missed any that were added in past recaps? Let me know in the comments.  Even though I might forget that you mentioned it.

WARNING: Some people have mentioned they’re watching along with me, and that’s awesome, but I’ve seen the entire series already and I’ll probably mention things that happen in later seasons. So… you know, take that under consideration, if you’re a person who can’t enjoy something if you know future details about it. 

PREVIOUSLY, ON BUFFY: Buffy got her v-card punched.

We open on Spike and Drusilla, who have just been humiliated in their fight against Buffy and Angel. Spike is mad at The Judge, who he feels is being lazy about their plan to destroy the world.

Seriously, Spike? The world? Come on. You live there, and you always chicken out about doing it at the last minute.

While Spike and The Judge argue, Drusilla falls to the ground, wailing Angel’s name. Spike asks her what she sees, but Drusilla just smiles.

Cut to Angel’s bed, where Buffy peacefully slumbers. She notices that Angel isn’t there, and and calls out for him. Meanwhile, Angel is in the alley, crawling around on the ground in the rain, calling out for her. Parallels, am I right?

A woman smoking in a doorway notices him and approaches, asking if he needs help. He rights himself and tells her he’s fine, before revealing his vamp face and biting her. I don’t know if he drinks her blood or what, because the whole thing is really quick, but when he pulls away, he exhales the smoke she had just inhaled, earning this episode a #20. He can’t force air out of his lungs by choice to give Buffy CPR in season one, but he can sure as hell smoke for cool effect.

Buffy goes home and sneaks inside, only to get caught by her mom, who says the dreaded, “You seem different.”

Buffy freak out sex face
Definitely not because I was having sex or anything.

Back at the library, Xander busts in complaining about how the bus station wasn’t up to his classist standards, then realizes that he’s failed to read the room and everyone is super worried about Buffy and the fact that she hasn’t returned and how that almost certainly means The Judge was assembled. Xander is all for going to the factory to look for Buffy and Angel, to which Cordelia says:

Cordelia: “And do what? Besides be afraid and die?”

Giles agrees with Cordelia, but Willow sides with Xander and they’re about to storm off to the factory when Buffy comes in. Giles asks why she didn’t call to let them know she was okay, and she makes up a story on the fly about getting separated from Angel while hiding in the sewers. She tells them that The Judge is all put together like the world’s shittiest jigsaw puzzle, and Giles tells everyone to go to class like they’re not going to be sitting there worried about being sizzled to death by Big Blue.

In the hall, Buffy is troubled that Angel still hasn’t contacted her, and as she expresses this to Willow, Ms. Calendar lurks behind them, eavesdropping. Do all the people in this show have sex radar? I legitimately have two friends who I’m not sure have ever had sex, because I’ve never asked them if they have, they’ve never mentioned it, and you can’t tell by looking at a person. Is this something everyone can tell, except for me?

In the factory, Dru is meddling with forces she doesn’t understand. Like, astronomy. And reality.

Dru: “I’m naming all the stars.”

Spike: “You can’t see the stars, love. That’s the ceiling. Also, it’s day.”

Dru: “I can see them. But I’ve named them all the same name and there’s terrible confusion.”

That’s one of my favorite Dru moments. Again, this totally falls under #14, because it’s this played up portrayal of whimsically evil crazy, but there’s just something so vulnerable about Dru. I would want very much for her to turn me into a vampire, and we could dress up in matching Gothic Lolita stuff and just be generally creepy.

Spike asks Dru if she’s “seen” anything else, like what happened to Angel, for example, and wouldn’t you know it, he shows up. And he’s got his super sarcastic bitchy pants on, too. He calls Spike scum and says he’ll always be wherever injustice is. Spike is all excited because The Judge is right there and can burn him up. Except, oh snap, Angel can’t be burned, because his humanity tank is on E with a warning light that’s been on since thirty miles ago. Drusilla and Spike are psyched to have their friend back, sans soul. And he’s smoking now (#20) and that fully confirms that he is now playing for team evil (#22).

Angel isn’t interested in Spike and Dru’s plan to destroy the world. Which I can understand, because the world is kind of where they all are. I’ve never quite been sold on the “we’re going to destroy the world” plot that various baddies come up with in TV and movies. It’s like, okay, genius, but how is it a win to destroy the world? You’ll die. You won’t even get to gloat.

Anyway, Angel wants to kill Buffy real, real bad, because now that his soul is gone he’s super disgusted at how human she made him feel. And it’s payback time or something. Honestly, since he uses “Yeah, baby, I’m back,” in this scene already, he might as well have said, “It’s payback time.” Like, 99% of Angelus’s lines are Hollywood cliches of the highest calibre.

Back at the library, everyone is researching, except for Willow, who is on the phone to Buffy, and Buffy, who is not in the library because she’s somewhere else talking on the phone to Willow.

Willow: “Don’t even say that. Angel is not dead.”

Xander: “Say hi for me.”

Fuck you, Xander. Fuck you so much. Earlier in this episode, you were all for going to find Buffy because you cared so much about her (he even accused Giles of being born without feelings because he wasn’t rip-roarin’ to go off to their messy deaths) and now it’s like, “Gosh, I’m glad Buffy is in this emotional turmoil, because if Angel’s dead the line to ride her vagina just got way shorter!” (#5)

Willow explains to Giles and Xander that Buffy is super freaked out by her boyfriend’s disappearance, but that she’s going to show up at the library later. Xander is frustrated with the book he’s reading, and goes to get another. He runs into Cordelia in the stacks, and she points out that while he was snapping at her earlier, he was about to run off and risk his life for Buffy:

Cordelia: “I know, you were too busy rushing off to die for your beloved Buffy. You’d never die for me.”

So, Cordelia legitimately cares about Xander, in a boyfriend/girlfriend way, and wants him to care back. Hey, remember how there was somebody else who wanted him to care about her in a boyfriend/girlfriend way?

willow dreams crushed

Willow runs into the hallway, her spirit completely broken because she hasn’t yet realized that she’s way, way too good for Xander, especially when she’s got Oz the thirty-year-old high schooler on standby.

Willow: “It’s against all laws of God and man. It’s Cordelia! Remember the We Hate Cordelia Club? Of which you are the treasurer?”

Xander tells her to calm down, because they were just kissing and it didn’t mean that much. But Willow isn’t going to let him brush her hurt feelings aside, telling him that what it means is that he’d rather be with a person he hates than be with her.

Here’s the thing: I get Willow’s reaction. I get that she’s upset. But I’m disappointed that she felt as entitled to Xander’s affection as Xander feels entitled to Buffy’s affection. I remember watching this episode in the past and going, “Yeah, tell him, Willow! You deserve him more than Cordelia because you waited for him.” And now like, years and years later I’m going, “Chill out. Nobody stole your man. Stop acting like this.” Though less intense and outwardly antagonistic, Willow’s feelings of ownership over Xander are the same as Xander’s Nice Guy attitude toward Buffy.

Buffy goes to Angel’s apartment and finds him there, wearing leather pants for some reason. She’s so overjoyed to see that he’s alive, she doesn’t even notice it. But I feel like, even if I thought someone was dead for sixteen years, and they showed up on my doorstep tomorrow wearing leather pants, my first reaction would be, “Dead person! What’s up with those leather pants?” Because if someone who has never worn leather pants just suddenly starts wearing them, there’s a story there and I think most people would ask about it.

At first, Angel comforts her, saying he didn’t mean to scare her, while she clings to him and tells him how grateful she is that he’s alive. And then… things become…

I can barely stand to watch this scene, you guys. In response to Buffy’s worry, Angel tells her that he “took off” because the sex was so awful, he couldn’t stand to be around her. And as she tries to process everything he’s saying, she starts blaming herself. She asks if she was good, and he tears her down, then casually dismisses the sex they had as something that “happened,” and was “a good time.” Buffy is hurt and embarrassed, and as a last gambit she tells Angel that she loves him–and he says it back, laden with sarcasm.

buffy cry face
I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to cradle a teenage Sarah Michelle Gellar to my breast and soothingly promise that everything is going to be all right so much in my life.

As with everything in this show, the story is made up of real teen fears/experiences, with a supernatural twist thrown at them. So when Angel becomes inexplicably cruel to her, we know that it’s because he’s turned evil. Buffy doesn’t. She’s having the heartbreaking experience that many, many people go through in their teen years and young adulthood; she’s finding out that sex doesn’t make the other person feel the same about you as you did about them, and that some people will say whatever it takes, pretend whatever they need to, in order to gain access to your body for sex.

Do we have a number for “Some of this shit is way too real?”

In a hotel room somewhere, Jenny Calendar’s uncle is wearing a shoe string for a tie and giving her a lecture on vengeance. She’s trying to make a case for saving Angel, because he could be helpful. But her uncle is like, whoops, he’s not cursed anymore:

Creepy Uncle: “Angel was meant to suffer, not to live as human. One moment of true happiness, of contentment, one moment where the soul that we restored no longer plagues his thoughts, and that soul is taken from him.”

So, Ms. Calendar is furious, because if Angel is evil now, bad stuff is going to go down, and her Uncle basically has to remind her that they’re not living in a musical comedy, they’re in a goddamn Shakespearean tragedy, complete with offensive stereotypes of minority groups.

But hold up. This is something that has always bugged me. Angel can’t have “one moment of true happiness, of contentment.” Here, that means having sex with Buffy. In season three we’ll see them making out and having to stop because, whoa, hormones and we might fuck your soul away again. But spending time with Buffy, being around her in that situation, none of it counts as “true happiness” until he puts his dick in her and has an orgasm. Uh… what? Does the soul get pushed through the vans deferens and shot out his possibly fanged urethra? Or is his love for Buffy not complete until he completes? Is sex with Buffy so important to Angel’s happiness that he can’t possibly feel joy or contentment if he’s not getting off physically? That’s fucked up.

Even more fucked up is when you consider that Angel is a (much) older man, sleeping with a teenage girl who removes his soul through the act of sexual intercourse. There’s a very weird Lolita dynamic there that is just super ooky to me. Either way you look at it, I’m tagging this both #6 and #9, for both setting up canon in which the hero’s love isn’t whole until he’s plugging the heroine’s hole, and for Angel apparently seeing it that way, too.

Willow returns to school and tells Xander that while she’s not okay with him hiding something so important from her and basically just daring to like someone who isn’t her or Buffy, they have to work together to solve this whole “no weapon forged” thing. Xander starts to get what sounds like a really good idea, but the power goes out and distracts them.

Good thing Angel is there! He tells Xander to go get everyone from the library, because he’s got something to show them. Xander runs off, and then one of the greatest scenes in television history happens.

As Willow approaches Angel, Xander suddenly understands:

xander scared face

And so does Ms. Calendar, who shows up with a cross out of nowhere:

jenny stake face

…and finally, so does Willow. She’s the last to understand what’s happening, and she looks heartbreakingly betrayed.

willow scared face

Ms. Calendar warns Willow and Xander that Angel just isn’t Angel anymore. He corrects her, saying something like he hasn’t been himself in a long time or something. You get the gist. Then he says:

Angel: “I’ve got a message for Buffy.”

And from out of nowhere, Buffy says:

Buffy: “Why don’t you give it to me yourself.”

Angel explains that he’s going to kill all her friends. Buffy is hopeful that she’s going to reach something in Angel that’s still human, but no dice. While Angel is monologuing like the villain in The Incredibles, Xander sneaks up and flashes Ms. Calendar’s cross at him. Angel lets go of Willow then threatens Buffy, kisses her, and throws her into a wall. And Xander is like, “Buffy, are you okay?” and NO, OBVIOUSLY NOT XANDER GOD.

In the library, Buffy tells the gang that she knew something was wrong because of the way Angel had treated her earlier.

Jenny: “But you didn’t know he’d turned bad?”

Willow: “How did you?”

And the point goes to Willow. Jenny says she knew because she’d seen his face. So… you just roam the halls of Sunnydale High armed with a cross?

Well, that’s not a bad idea, actually.

But they kind of gloss past this when Giles says:

Giles: “If only we knew how it happened.”

Buffy: “What do you mean?”

Giles: “Well something set it off, some, some event must have triggered his transformation. If anyone would know, Buffy, it should be you.”

Buffy: “I don’t.”

Giles: “Well did anything happen last night that–”

Buffy: “Giles, please, I can’t–”

And Buffy gets up and runs out, with Giles calling after her. Remember how Willow was the last one to know that Angel was evil (well, besides Ms. Calendar). Well this time she’s horribly, terribly the first one to know what’s going on with Buffy.

Willow: “Giles, shut up.”

Despite Cordelia’s snark, Xander has formulated a plan, but he needs Cordelia’s help. Willow offers Oz’s van to help, in a sort of snooty way because it’s pretend like you don’t care day on Tiny Toons. Xander tells Cordelia to meet him in a half hour in “trashier” clothes than she’s already wearing (swoon). Giles says he can imagine what Buffy’s going through, and Willow puts the very quiet, very sad smackdown on that notion quick.

At the factory, Angel is bragging about how he really hurt the Slayer’s feelings, to which Spike is kind of like, uh, why didn’t you just kill her?

Drusilla: “You don’t want to kill her. You want to hurt her. Just like you hurt me.”

She’s thrilled about this, by the way. That’s how much Angel tortured her (we find out exactly how much in an episode of Angel, I believe, or possibly season 3 of this show. Or both).

Spike thinks Angel is really underestimating the severity of the whole “the Slayer could fuck up our plans” dynamic, but Angel tells him that he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to break Buffy down emotionally because she can’t be killed with force.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Buffy comes home, devastated and finally able to let her feelings out in the privacy of her room. She curls up in her bed and sobs, and it is here that I will bring up another teen vampire breakup, just to get some stuff off my chest. Despite all its problematic content, I’m rereading Twilight and I really like it. No, I don’t think Edward wasn’t creepy, but I also don’t think Angel isn’t creepy. I’ve always said there was a lot in common between Buffy and Twilight. There are a lot of readers who would say that Buffy was a stronger character than Bella because Bella was this girl who was completely destroyed by losing her boyfriend and Buffy was out kicking ass and stuff.


But it takes Buffy like… the entire rest of the series to get over Angel. And you never get the sense that she ever will. And like Buffy and Angel, Bella fought vampires with Edward. Bella faced danger with him, then felt betrayed (sure, Edward didn’t leave because he turned evil, but still). So, I don’t get why Buffy’s experience is somehow less “wimpy,” or why we can’t accept that teenagers can get break up feels without being “weak.”

Back to business.

Buffy has vague dreams of slow breathing and blankets moving and fingers touching, and it’s surprisingly erotic, given that he’s a couple hundred years older than her and she’s a teenage girl (here again, Twilight comparison because it’s on my mind; in Twilight you never get a sense that Edward has matured beyond being a teenager; all of the vampires seem basically frozen in time. Angel is very clear that he’s a grown fucking man, weary of the world). The dream changes and Buffy is standing at a grave. Angel is there, and he tells her that she needs to see something. When Buffy turns, Jenny Calendar is standing behind her, dressed in funeral clothes.

When Buffy wakes up, she realizes that Ms. Calendar has something to do with Angel going evil. She marches mad-style into school and throws Jenny across a desk in front of a class of horrified students. Giles was already there talking to Jenny, and he freaks out on Buffy, saying she can’t just accuse people. That’s when Ms. Calendar opens up and spills the entire beans, saying she was sent to Sunnydale to keep Angel and Buffy apart.

Jenny Calendar first showed up in “I Robot, You Jane,” episode eight of season one. At that point, while there was romantic tension between Angel and Buffy, how could Jenny’s family have possibly known that Buffy and Angel would fall in love and get to that, ahem, moment of happiness? This feels like retconning in the first degree. First of all, it’s a giant leap that a Slayer would fall in love with a vampire. Second, it’s just a giant leap in general that two random people are going to fall into a love that defies the ages anyway.

Jenny confirms to Buffy that the nookie was the reason Angel went bad, but Giles can’t quite grasp the double meaning behind “moment of happiness.” He asks Buffy how she knows it was her fault that Angel had that moment of happiness and:

Buffy duh face

Giles finally gets it
When the glasses come off, you know it’s serious.

Buffy tells Jenny to curse Angel again, and Jenny is like, no dice because nobody knows the magic anymore. Buffy says to take her to someone who can. Cut to creepy bolo tie uncle in his hotel room, smoking a pipe. The door opens and he’s like, “I knew she would bring you,” like he knows exactly who’s walking in. But he doesn’t, because it’s Angel. BLAM. You are dead, sir.

At the Sunnydale military base, Xander lies his way into the armory, saying he’s a soldier and Cordelia is a date he’s trying to impress. He knows how to do this because he wore that Army costume at Halloween and got turned into a real soldier. Get used to this, because Xander’s “I was a soldier for a couple hours, so I know military things” is  a plot point that get used at least twice more in the series.

While Willow and Oz wait in the van,  they are adorable:

Oz: “So do you guys steal weapons from the army a lot?”

Willow: “Well we don’t have cable, so we have to make our own fun.”

And also they are heart-melting and awkward. Willow asks Oz if he wants to make out with her and he says:

Oz: “Sometimes when I’m sitting in class, you know, I’m not thinking about class, because that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it’s like everything stops. It’s like, it’s like, freeze-frame. Willow kissage. Oh, I’m not going to kiss you.”

Willow: “What? But… freeze-frame.”

Oz: “Well, to the casual observer it would appear that you’re trying to make your friend Xander jealous. Or even the score or something. And that’s on the empty side. See, in my fantasy, when I’m kissing you, you’re kissing me. It’s okay; I can wait.”

This is the kind of romantic hero we should want girls to want. Not a cold and possessive vampire. Not a tattooed bad boy who calls them bird names. We should want them to be with the guy who’s willing to go at an appropriate pace for both of them.

Buffy, Jenny, and Giles arrive at weird uncle’s hotel room to find him dead beneath a message from Angel:


angel poo smear

I know this is supposed to be blood, but all I can think about is the women’s bathroom at the National Park Services  headquarter on Boston’s Freedom Trail. I was traumatized.

Giles: “He’s doing this deliberately, Buffy.”

Hate to interrupt, Giles, but… yeah, obviously. Or else that’s that most serendipitous splatter pattern in the world. Quick, someone get Dexter!

Giles: “He’s trying to make it harder for you.”

Buffy: “He’s only making it easier. I know what I have to do.”

Giles: “What?”

Really, Giles?

Usually the dialogue in Buffy is amazing. This is one of those cases where it totally isn’t. It makes Giles sound stupid because he’s pointing out something the audience already knows and which is totally obvious. It makes it seem like the writer believes the audience to be stupid; the audience wants to reach certain conclusions on their own. If the lines had been just, “He’s trying to make it harder for you.” “He’s only making it easier.” then we would know that she’s going to kill Angel. Instead we have the most thoughtful and analytical occult specialist on the show wondering what a vampire slayer is going to do to a vampire who’s killing all her friends.

Drusilla, Angel, and The Judge are headed out to cause mayhem, but Spike can’t go because he’s in a wheelchair and can’t escape to the sewers and shit like that. Angel is a total d-bag about it, so we’re like, “Grrr, ableist” and it helps us to hate Evil!Angel even more. Spike warns Angel that he’s going to eventually recover, subtext, there will be hell to pay, but Angel just laughs him off and they go on their merry way.

Back at Scoobie headquarters, Oz and Xander deliver a big crate, and Jenny Calendar wants to be helpful. Oh now you wanna be helpful?

Jenny: “Do you, uh, is there something I can do?”

Buffy: “Get out.”

Jenny: “I just wanna help.”

Giles: “She said get out.”

His face is the saddest.

The Scoobies go to the factory, where they find exactly what they were expecting; Angel isn’t there. Spike listens to them, but wisely hides in a corner. As they try to figure out their next step, Cordelia makes a comment about how people won’t line up to get killed. And then Oz is like, hey, you know where there are typically lines?

Cut to the movie theatre in the mall. Which is a really good idea. Lots and lots of people. Dru and Angel and The Judge emerge with some vampire pals and just start fucking shit up. Buffy and the gang announce their presence with a crossbow bolt to The Judge’s chest, and he’s all, ha ha, no weapon forged, remember? And she gets out the huge fucking bazooka that Xander and Cordelia liberated from the armory.

This is the part that’s never quite made sense to me, because I don’t think the script was very clear on it: a bazook is metal. It’s totally forged. So, is “no weapon forged” a mystical stipulation, or just an observation? “We tried a sword, we tried arrows, but no dice. No weapon forged can kill him. Write it down.” Buffy does say,

Buffy: “That was then. This is now.”

so it could be that just no weapon forged at the time was capable of doing it. But this is a show with spells and monsters and stuff, so for a long time I assumed it was like a fairytale catch, like they had to find a way around this thing and it would be totally obvious that he could be defeated with water or whatever.

Wait, if the judge can’t be killed, why are there any humans left on earth? Obviously he was contained at some point. If it wasn’t a mystical thing, why didn’t they just write down, “…but we figured it out, this is totally how you do it,” after the “no weapon forged” thing?

Whatever, let’s just move on.

Angel and Drusilla dive the fuck out of the way, while The Judge is standing there like, I’m acquainted with most weapons forged, so I’m pretty confident that this is going to go my way. And it doesn’t because Buffy blows him up. She tells the others to go and gather up the pieces of the judge and keep them apart in case he’s not dead.

Cordelia: “Pieces? We get the pieces? Our job sucks.”

The fire sprinklers go off, and Buffy pursues Angel through the freaking out crowd. When they finally meet up and fight, he tries to demoralize her into giving up by saying he was just pretending to love her and shit like that. And she says some stuff, but I’m really excited about the Quest for Camelot poster in the background!

The gist of the scene is that Buffy and Angel fight each other, but in a moment of weakness, Buffy can’t kill him. He gloats about it, so she kicks him super hard in the balls and says,

Buffy: “Give me time.”

while walking away like a stone cold badass.

Giles drives Buffy home to one of my all time favorite scenes in the entire show. He tells her that Angel will come after her, and that things are going to get bad. Then she says:

Buffy: “You must be so disappointed in me.”

Giles: “No. No, no I’m not.”

Buffy: “But this is all my fault.”

Giles: “I don’t believe it is. Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly; you did, and I can. But I know that you loved him, and he, has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn’t have known what would happen. The coming months are going to be hard, I suspect on all of us. But if it’s guilt you’re looking for, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.”

This. This is how people should react to teenagers during breakups with sexual partners. Look, I don’t want to place some artificial value on virginity, but it really does suck and hurt when you share something very intimate, for the first time, with someone you love only to have them turn out to be terrible to you and use it as a weapon later. I remember when the kid I lost my virginity to called me a whore during our breakup. I will never forget how cruel that felt, but the response I got from adults I talked to was, “What were you doing having sex in the first place? This is your screwup.” Instead of telling Buffy that she shouldn’t have had sex with Angel, Giles makes it clear that he understands why she made the choices she did, even though a Slayer sleeping with a vampire is probably not smart (hence the “rash” part). He doesn’t talk down to her like she’s a child that needs to be scolded because having sex is somehow unforgivable. He offers his support and makes it clear that he doesn’t think she did anything wrong.

This is one of the first scenes I’ll have in mind when we get to season four and I start talking about  #2 (LOL, talking about number two). I know a lot of people say, “Giles was a father figure, he didn’t have any other feelings for Buffy,” and while I don’t think this is a Buffy/Giles ship scene, I do think it points to the fact that while Giles is an older authority figure, he doesn’t view Buffy as a child he he has to protect, but as a near-adult capable of making life decisions without his guidance. I’m not saying that no parents on earth are capable of this, just that in this case it will feed into Giles viewing Buffy as a full-fledged adult when she transitions to college, and their relationship becoming less paternal, right up through their break-up in season six.

Yeah, I call it a break-up.

Anyway, we’ll contrast this scene with a parental reaction later this season.

Buffy and her mom have cocoa and cupcakes while they watch an old movie. Joyce asks Buffy what she did for her birthday, and Buffy says that she got older. Joyce says she seems the same, which kind of…how much attention have you been paying to your daughter, Joyce?

The episode ends with Buffy refusing to blow out her birthday candle, and it’s super depressing.

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  1. Bekah

    A parental reaction later this season…ugh, Joyce. >.> I love this episode, though. The whole Angel/Angelus arc is my favorite in the show, actually, and Becoming is my favorite episode. It’s just so real, and Buffy’s such a wonderful person and I want to hug her forever.

    I’m a Twilight hater, and for me it wasn’t that Bella had a hard time with her breakup–it was that she actively refused to try to move on and get better. She wouldn’t go to Jacksonville away from memories of Edward, she wouldn’t try to do anything with her life; she just gave up until she realized she could use someone to give her Edward hallucinations.

    Buffy grieved, yes, and maybe never got over Angel. But she got up and she did things with her life, and she didn’t let everything afterwards revolve around getting back with Angel.

    January 21, 2015
    • I have only seen the movie as far as Twilight goes, but I was thinking the same thing. She just sits in that window, staring out. Buffy gets up and fights.

      Anyway, I hate Twilight because the writing is just so awful. I tried to give it a go just for the sake of having read it, but I was shocked to find the writing was actually worse than 50 Shades. I didn’t think that was possible.

      January 21, 2015
    • Lieke

      Completely agree.
      All Bella did was wallow. She really loved to wallow. And then she tried to make it seem as if her love for Edward was the greatest love ever, because she didn’t WANT to move on.

      January 21, 2015
    • Rene

      There are some key differences in Buffy and Bella’s situations, though.

      1. If Buffy checks out, people die. When Bella checks out, people get really worried about her but nothing life-threatening happens to them.
      2. Bella’s entire plan is becoming a vampire and living forever with Edward and the Cullens; this does not work without being Edward, so the relationship ending casts her adrift. Buffy still has to be the Slayer, with or without Angel.
      3. Bella’s ex is gone and she doesn’t know where he is. Buffy’s is right in her face, threatening to kill all of her friends. This is similar to #1 but separate as well. All Bella can do is wait and wish or move on and she doesn’t know how to do the latter because of the stuff in my second point. Buffy is hoping that Angel will return to being the man she loves, but she also has to deal with the evil that he’s committing now. She can’t wait and hope because he’s actively killing people.

      There are other reasons, too, but I think these are some of the reasons that I don’t compare Buffy being dumped to Bella being dumped.

      March 28, 2016
  2. That Willow/Oz scene in the van is one of my all-time favorite scenes not just in this show, but in every show and movie and book ever.

    Also, I think that moment of happiness thing with Angel … Well, I kind of understand it. If you’re not having the sex, there’s this kind of tension and the sex — with the right person — is something that can solidify feelings in a way that not having the sex doesn’t really do. I don’t know. I know that’s how it is for me, anyway. Everyone is different. My best friend can have sex and walk away like she just had an ice cream sundae with the guy, but it’s a lot more powerful for me. So I get that scene.

    January 21, 2015
    • Lieke

      The first time I watched this show (a long, long time ago) I was all over Angel and Spike, but this time there’s just one guy. Oz. He’s so at ease with his weirdness and nerdiness and so mature and sweet and funny and smart. He’s slowly turning into my favourite character on the show.

      January 21, 2015
    • Buddhist teaching says “to end suffering, end desire” — I think that is why Angel could not be perfectly happy until he and Buffy had sex. The unfulfilled desire was always in the background, making him suffer at least a little bit. The notion of losing one’s soul during a moment of ecstasy is a very old one — the word comes from Greek ekstasis, which literally means to stand outside of oneself. It was used to describe a mystical state or out-of-body experience long before it was used to describe feelings of intense pleasure.

      January 21, 2015
  3. “Does the soul get pushed through the vans deferens and shot out his possibly fanged urethra?”

    I lost it right there. But yeah, you have a good point. Why is banging his honey the ultimate happiness? I’ve never thought about it that hard before, but privileging physical pleasure as the end all be all of happiness is kind of…gross? Not like, ew sex is icky gross, but like, what about asexuals? Or people who have intimacy issues? Does that mean they can never know true happiness?

    January 21, 2015
    • I commented on this above so I won’t repeat all that, but it isn’t actually sex that does it. It’s sex with Buffy specifically. He has sex a few times after with different women (Darla and that werewolf chick) and he doesn’t lose his soul.

      For Angel, the sex was a culmination of feelings and an end to tension with this woman who was kind of his “love for all the ages.” I get it because of my own personal feelings about sex. But I realize it isn’t that way for everyone.

      January 21, 2015
      • shel

        I sort of looked at it more this way as well… and also that in this particular place in their relationship, taking the step of having sex solidified for both of them how they really felt. Angel was able to let go and just love her without thinking about all of his baggage and Buffy was able to do the same thing.

        They give the impression that it was just the sex that did it, but later, Angel figures out (with Darla it seemed on Angel) that orgasming isn’t pure contentment/happiness.

        He and Buffy also remain separate after this, even if they do fall back into kissing and a sort of relationship, it’s not the same after he is Angelus and he chooses to leave. If he had stayed, I think it would make sense that it could have been at the cost of his soul- not them having sex again, but reaching a place in their relationship where he does feel complete happiness and contentment by being with her… but there is never a chance for that to happen because Angel leaves.

        January 21, 2015
    • Ilex

      I’d always thought of this as Angel forgetting himself during orgasm, which would seem like pure happiness — but it doesn’t explain how he could jack off (which I would assume he did), or have sex with other women without the same problem.

      He does have that drug-induced “perfect happiness” later on Angel, which was kind of hand-waved away as not stealing his soul forever because it was only temporary … so was sex with Buffy somehow permanent?

      January 21, 2015
  4. Promise

    I always figured the moment of true happiness stuff was referring to that blissful peace you get right after sex.

    January 21, 2015
  5. Candy Apple
    Candy Apple

    How did the Gypsies know Angel would fall for Buffy and vice-versa? I can think of two reasons. First, they obviously have magical powers, since they can hex the soul right into Angel. Also, Drusilla, who was once one of them, can see the future. It stands to reason someone else in the clan could, too. Secondly, we know later on that Angel was stalking Buffy before she got her powers and became The Slayer. It’s therefore not a surprise he developed feelings for her.

    Also, I use the term “Gypsies” because actual Gypsies self-identify as “Gypsies.” See every single episode of “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding,” UK edition, for confirmation of that. I know there’s a U.S. version as well, but I haven’t see that one.

    January 21, 2015
    • shel

      There are all of the powers that be/prophecy stuff that comes into play later too… maybe there was something in a book somewhere that prophesized the slayer would fall for a vampire with a soul…

      January 21, 2015
    • meadowphoenix

      Uh, actually Irish Travelers aren’t who the slur was originally aimed at and there’s plenty of contraversy in the Roma community about that show, so I wouldn’t say the word so unreservedly unless you are Roma.

      January 21, 2015
    • Of course, the ‘gypsies’ portrayed in that show are Irish Travellers, who are a different group entirely from Roma, but the show basically conflates with the Roma. The Roma really hate it and it’s apparently extremely misrepresentative.

      May 20, 2015
  6. Ilex

    all I can think about is the women’s bathroom at the National Park Services headquarter on Boston’s Freedom Trail.

    But … I use that bathroom once a year every year when a women’s road race starts near there. And the bathroom has never traumatized me; it’s usually very decently well kept. So you must have been there on the Worst Day Ever. So sorry, Jenny!

    January 21, 2015
    • JennyTrout

      There was… a shit stalactite hanging from the back of the toilet seat. This was just one of the many noticeable fecal features installed in the bathroom at that time.

      I have not recovered.

      January 22, 2015
  7. Laura

    I think Buffy’s line, which you mentioned in the post, “Give me time.” Perfectly summarizes why I still see her as a strong female character through her hard break-up. She recognizes that while she hasn’t moved on enough to kill him in that moment, she will move on, or try to move on. Yeah, it hurts, but she’s gonna fight back.

    Whereas, like mentioned by other commentators, Bella goes catatonic and then fucking wallows until Edward comes back. He leaves her for the dumbest god-damned reason and instead of being mad at him, she shuts down. It’s been a while since I read Twilight, but I don’t remember her ever being upset with him to any degree, she just gives up and acts like a zombie for an entire book.

    Also, silly thing, but why didn’t you didn’t label the Oz-Willow scene as a #18? Because Xander would have totally jumped on board with being used as long as it got him a kiss from the girl of his dreams. He’d have taken full advantage. But Oz is the BEST. Not only does he notice what’s going on with Willow, but he explains why he won’t kiss her without being rude or putting her down. And I agree, he is totally the type of guy we should be wishing young guys would become and young ladies would fall in love with.

    January 21, 2015
  8. Annie

    Candy Apple, the US version is/was awful. You aren’t missing anything.

    Watching this episode for the first time as an adult in my 30s was hard enough. The look of total heartbreak and betrayal on Buffy’s face while Angel is delivering those lines in a completely believable way made me want to curl up until it was over. I would have been absolutely gutted to have watched that scene as a teenager when it was a current show. I would have been in tears for the rest of the day. Kudos to the writers and cast for making that particular scene perfectly parallel real life. Just….wow.

    January 21, 2015
  9. Ilex

    We definitely need a number for “Some of this shit is way too real.” That portrayal of the complexities of teen life /emotional life in general (which never gets simple no matter how far past teenage you are) gave this show a real depth and genuine stakes that kept me addicted for all seven seasons.

    January 21, 2015
  10. Lindsay

    I actually think the Judge and “no weapon forged” thing makes sense. First, they never found out a way to kill the Judge, that’s why they had to cut him up into pieces and scatter them so that hopefully he wouldn’t ever be pieced together — so he was never killed originally.

    With the bazooka it seems like they contemplated the fact that hey, maybe this won’t kill him either, this thing is still maybe a forged weapon? Which is why Buffy specifically says “make sure to get the pieces.” The advantage to the bazooka is that you can make lots and lots of Judge pieces in a single quick blow, increasing the chances of making the Judge incapable of doing damage in one blow while also making it super hard for others down the line to put him back together — remember Dru and Spike had to physically put him together, they had the head where the head goes, arms at the sockets, etc. I imagine with bazookaed pieces that would be like putting together the worst jigsaw puzzle ever.

    Also I’m going to come to Willow’s defense a little here. I see the way she reacts to Xander being interested in someone else as being pretty different from the way Xander reacts to Buffy with being someone else, and I can sympathize with Willow a lot more (maybe just because I went through a really similar thing when I was in high school? I don’t know). The way I see Willow handling her feelings re: Xander kind of goes: “Well, he’s really into Buffy, but you know, we’re such good friends, maybe when he realizes that Buffy doesn’t share those feelings, he’ll finally get feelings for me.” While this is still a pretty delusional thing for Willow to think, it focuses her attention on Xander’s feelings, seeing him as a human being who feels, and maybe, just maybe, he’s capable of feeling for her. That’s why when he sees him with Cordelia, Willow’s reaction isn’t “That bitch stole my man! If I get rid of her, he will be mine!” Her reaction is “damn, he would rather be with someone I thought he hated than be with me. I guess I don’t really rank with him at all.” Ya, she acts kind of badly throughout the rest of the episode, but I think that is pretty expected for getting such a harsh emotional blow. But at the end of the day, she is realizing how Xander feels, and trying to work through and deal with that. She also (until season 3 where Xander fucks it all up) accepts that fact and moves on to find happiness with Oz.

    Whereas with Xander, his continued reaction with Buffy and Angel is, “Ya, she’s into Angel, but if he were out of the picture she would certainly be interested in me.” The distinction I think is minor, but it really changes one’s world view and how one handles a crush’s/friend’s relationships. Xander is openly antagonistic toward Angel all the time, constantly trying to tear him and Buffy apart — that’s because Xander isn’t focused on Buffy and how she feels – he is focused on eliminating an object that is in the way of what he already considers to rightfully be his. He doesn’t see Buffy’s emotions as being real except when they are for him — logically, if he realized Buffy was a real person with emotions he wouldn’t think “you know what makes girls really swoony? Destroying their relationships and being mean to their current boyfriends.”

    January 21, 2015
    • ArgentLA

      When this episode originally aired, I really appreciated that the Judge was destroyed by the rocket launcher (it was not a bazooka, as I recall, but a LAW, although that’s sort of hair-splitting). The diegetic reasons it worked were sort of beside the point, although the idea that being blown into tiny little pieces made it nigh impossible to put him back together is as plausible as anything else. It worked because it was dramatically effective and emotionally effective.

      Stuff in this genre often lets the in-universe mechanics run the story to the detriment of drama. You get some kind of magical spell or ritual or enchanted artifact that works because the exposition tells you it worked, but that doesn’t have any visceral payoff for the audience. It’s pretty clear that the writers of this episode approached the climax by saying, “Okay, we’ve had lots of mystic hand-wringing — what would be unexpected and funny?” Also, Buffy has had such a shitty time in this episode that she clearly needs to smash something or blow something up, so when she does, the viewer laughs and applauds. You could rationalize it with an extra line or two of dialogue at the end, but for the most part it doesn’t matter because it worked dramatically.

      January 23, 2015
  11. Ilex

    The biggest contrast between Bella and Buffy, to my mind, might be at the ending of New Moon, when it’s clear that Bella was not actually hearing Edward in her head, but hearing herself using Edward’s voice to give herself good advice about dealing with Laurent, for instance. But then that isn’t even acknowledged in the story in any way — she doesn’t gain anything from it, or see herself as newly competent in any way. Whereas I think Buffy would have recognized and appreciated her own good instincts if, for instance, that happened to her with Giles’ voice in her head.

    And Buffy wanted to grow up and used her experiences to gain maturity, even though slayers have an average life expectancy of 18 — while Bella wanted to freeze herself at the youngest age possible in order to be “equal” with Edward, and that freezing included emotionally.

    So while I don’t disrespect anyone’s awful breakup experiences and feels — I mean, we’ve all been there, right?, and it’s really horrible — the context is just very different.

    January 21, 2015
  12. Laina

    Don’t talk to me about New Moon because I spent the other night BAWLING through it. Apparently I over-identify with my depressed girls who go numb and can do nothing. *sniffle*

    “It’s like, okay, genius, but how is it a win to destroy the world? You’ll die. You won’t even get to gloat.”

    This is the difference between Brain from Pinky and the Brain (wants to rule the world) and Admiral Bubbles from My Goldfish is Evil (wants to destroy the world, and yes, there is a show in Canada about an evil goldfish that wants to destory the world).

    Also this episode hurts, but there are amazing moments in it. “Give me time” and Giles’ speech are some of my favourite parts.

    January 21, 2015
  13. Amber Rose
    Amber Rose

    I don’t hate Bella because she’s a teenager and has breakup feels. I hate her because she’s an insufferable, stuck up snob who treats everyone around her like crap and has no problem using people. She’s more like Cordelia than Buffy, and she doesn’t even have Cordelia’s redeeming traits. So when she loses it… I don’t care. Because I don’t care about her and quite frankly, her relationship with Edward is less convincing than Neo and Trinity in The Matrix.

    Anyways, this episode absolutely crushed me when I was younger, and i’m both not happy and happy to see it still has that effect on me. I’m not clouded by nostalgia, this really was a well written moment. But… oww. Right in the feel bads. 🙁

    January 21, 2015
    • Ilex

      I was really shocked by all Bella’s hating on everyone around her when I finally read Twilight last year.

      But it seems to me that she was suffering from depression, and that attitude of needing to deprecate and devalue everyone around oneself is a pretty common symptom of depression. Not a pleasant or sympathy-gaining symptom at all, no. But it’s clear that Bella hates herself in addition to hating everyone around her, too. I spent the whole book wishing she’d gotten some much-needed therapy.

      January 22, 2015
    • I don’t know why this irritated me SO intensely, but I really disliked the way Bella was convinced that everyone in Forks was intimidated by her “Big-City Girl” status, because she was from Phoenix. (Forks is a small logging town, sure, but it’s not like Phoenix is New York City, y’know?) It made her seem even more tone-deaf and condescending than she was already… and she really didn’t need any help with that.

      January 23, 2015
  14. Amber Rose
    Amber Rose

    Actually, and I need to add this, the way Angel treats Buffy reminds me of years ago when a guy told me the definition of eternity.

    “You know the definition of eternity? It’s the time between when I come and you leave.”

    January 21, 2015
  15. Re: the Bella thing, for me personally it wasn’t the not getting over Edward that bothered me about her, it was that it was part and parcel of a character whose entire existence was built around falling in love with Edward. There’s literally nothing else to Bella. With Buffy, you get the sense there’s a reason this character exists beyond just having a forbidden romance with Angel, that she has more purpose than just being a cypher through which readers vicariously experience the romance.

    And then there’s just the fact that Buffy is a more likeable, relatable, well-developed character than Bella. Because a lot of people who’ve watched the show and read Twilight *like* Buffy better than Bella, they’re going to cut her more slack.

    Anyway that’s just my $0.02

    When I first watched Buffy, I thought the whole “moment of true happiness” being equated to sex with Buffy thing was weird, too, for the reasons you said. Because I was college-age when I watched the show, though, I figured it was a plot device for the whole “pitfalls of having sex” metaphor this episode was going for.

    That being said, this is one of my absolute favorite Buffy episodes because hot damn if it wasn’t an emotional gut-punch. The Buffy/Giles scene also remains one of my faves in the series as well. Before reading this recap, I had never realized that Willow was feeling the same feelings of ownership over Xander that he did over Buffy, but I totally see it now. They really do deserve each other.

    Re: romantic heroes more like Oz, I got the impression Oz was very well loved in the Buffy fandom, but the whole Byronic hero “bad boy” cliché is probably so ingrained in popular culture that it’s probably not going to die anytime soon.

    January 22, 2015
  16. My only quibble on the Willow thing is that Xander treats her like his back up girlfriend like, “If we never have anyone else we’ll have each other,” and you have Willow working up to coming to express these feelings for Xander and Xander steps on her time and again. Not to mention Cordelia has always bullied the both of them so it’s at the base level a betrayal of their friendship, but on top of that Xander has played with Willow’s feelings too so while she isn’t entitled to Xander’s gross nice guy fee fee’s I feel like she is reacting more to the fact that he laid out the groundwork and offered the potential, but why be with bookish little Willow who will follow me around puppy-eyed when he can what I’m sure he considers ‘a hot piece of ass’ on the side or first. At that point she isn’t even second choice Xander is treating her like he doesn’t dare be seen romantically with her or that will be the end for him. So I really think it’s just an extension of Xander’s gross personality that has hurt Willow time and again and perhaps this is going to be for the last time. So once again isn’t entitled to his feelings, but he has certainly laid the groundwork a few times and then repeatedly stomped on it when someone more attractive comes around because he is a douche and Willow is his safety romance or something. Blech.

    January 22, 2015
  17. Betty

    I can’t find your recap for s2e13. Could you post a link? Thnx.

    January 22, 2015
    • Betty

      Nevermind; found it!

      January 22, 2015
  18. Amanda

    Personally I always took the ‘moment of happiness’ thing not so much as sex, but as in like, total bliss? Or something along those lines. Basically, him forgetting his angst completely for even a moment. The laws of the curse have always been flexible depending on what the writers were trying to achieve it seems – in the Angel series he loses it briefly after being drugged, but can have sex with other women just fine (Darla, that werewolf). I think with Buffy he loved her so much that it ~transcended when he was with her. Not that just hanging out wasn’t nice, but the intimacy kind of kicked it over maybe?

    To be honest I never really understood the curse. Why put a loophole in there? Just give him a soul and let him feel bad for eternity.

    January 22, 2015
    • Ilex

      Why put a loophole in there? Just give him a soul and let him feel bad for eternity.

      That would make too much sense! And besides, those Buffy writers just loved their loopholes. 🙂

      January 23, 2015
      • It probably is connected to the whole, “all magic has a price,” thing. This is the price for this magic.

        January 23, 2015
  19. Alasdair

    Reading about this episode makes me realise I was too young to really appreciate Buffy when it was first broadcast. I must have been about 12 when I first watched this one, and hadn’t been through that experience of heartbreak, so the central metaphor was mostly lost on me. I just remember thinking the Judge, Spike and Dru, and Angel were really cool, and the ending was super badass. Re-reading about it now, though: ouch, that’s a painful scene! Buffy had its flaws, but the emotional resonance of stuff like this is what made it great.

    January 22, 2015
  20. Jemmy

    I think the curse is the most stupidly designed curse I’ve ever heard. I mean, you have a horrible killer, he doesn’t just kill his victims, he mentally tortures them, he kills their loved ones, he destroys their happiness and everything they cherish, and then he destroys their life. Why on earth would you put a proviso on the curse that restores the killer to their psychopathic self at all? It’s not like Angelus gives a damn about losing his soul, he feels restored.

    I think I read somewhere the scene int he van with Oz was part of the writers’ plan to have the audience accept Oz and love the character. I think there were concerns that the character would be disliked because of his relationship with Willow, rather than her and Xander hooking up, and this was their way of bringing the audience on board.

    January 22, 2015
  21. Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
    Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

    1. When I saw “Fellowship of the Ring,” and the scene on the bridge with the Balrog, I immediately thought, “Too bad Gandalf doesn’t have a rocket launcher.”
    2. Given that Xander’s homelife is dominated by at least one alcoholic parent, I think he’s wary and “jerky” about Angel because he knows that a monster can behave nicely sometimes, but is still capable of becoming a monster. His anger at Ms. Calendar’s murder is real.
    3. I think Angel not only loves Buffy, but also loves the idea of Buffy–she’s the Slayer. He’s a vampire that murdered and otherwise destroyed dozens of people. If Buffy the Slayer can love him, he can be redeemed. How Victorian.

    January 23, 2015
  22. Jon

    As I saw it the rocket launcher didn’t kill the judge – it just dispersed him. Although my main concern was the effect of firing it with a wall so close. As the Finns put ‘ass fire kills’.

    January 23, 2015
  23. MadGastronomer

    Actually, rockets and shells (generally — I suppose there might be some rocket bodies that are) aren’t forged (which means beaten into shape with a hammer), but cast (molten metal poured into a mold and cooled). It’s a MacDuff loophole.

    January 24, 2015
    • MadGastronomer

      *sigh* I really am trying to excise “actually” from my vocabulary. This is a cool thing, though! Because they did the MacDuff thing! They made a loophole for this!

      January 24, 2015
  24. Jon

    PS Am I the only who thinks Anthony Stewart-Head should play Pierre in War and Peace. I think that it would serve to prove point 2 rather a lot though as the conversation at the end of the episode sounds like Pierre and Natasha Rostov!

    January 24, 2015
  25. Noel

    The “no weapon forged” bothered me so much when I first watched it. I was all, “Okay, use an arrow! Or poison! Or a rock! Just use literally any weapon not made of iron!”

    Now, reading the comments, I get what they were going for, and I think it’s a problem with their initial ye-olde-timey phrasing. They thought “no weapon forged can kill him” sounded cool, but it’s actually specific enough to sound like this geas-like loophole. What they seem to have actually meant was “he can’t be killed.” If you substitute that phrase in, blowing him to bits and keeping the bits apart forever makes perfect sense as a solution.

    January 24, 2015
  26. Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
    Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

    Also, I love Evil Angel. He’s a lot of fun to watch! The Angel/Angelus foray gives more depth, more seriousness to the Buffy show. (And it makes me agree with The Mayor, who is my all-time fave bad guy.) Not because of Angel’s capacity for evil, but because Angel’s had more life (or “life-esque”) experience than Buffy. I figure Angel got vamped in his early 20s, and was an immature, selfish, silly young man–he got “frozen” as an immature, selfish man, and hasn’t grown past that, for the most part, in BtVS (he does in AtS). But he’s seen and done so much more than Buffy has, even though she’s a Slayer.

    Again, I’m differing a bit about Xander. Yeah, he’s a jerkish teen boy, who does jerkish teen boy things, like the Nice Guy act and the jealousy about all the women/girls in Sunnydale–OTOH, with his family background, which we get to infer more than actually watch, it’s a realistic look at how he got that way, and how he can make himself, or listen when he’s yelled at enough, behave better–and how he backslides when he can’t lean on the inner resources he should have learned as a child.

    All the Scoobies, and Buffy, have weaknesses (Willow’s fear of abandonment, and that tadpole thing) that make them vulnerable to deciding to do the wrong thing sometimes, and that makes the show so fascinating. I mean, Joyce even–just a disaster as a parent most of the time, but also sometimes so hard on Buffy’s side it puts her in danger (I’m thinking of Faith’s body switch in particular). And when I saw “The Body” I cried. Every time. Because Joyce the terrible most of the time parent is still lovable and loved.

    January 24, 2015
  27. Much as I (used to) love Willow, she has a horrible way of taking the people she cares about for granted- we’ll see this later with Mind-wiping Tara, and living in Buffy’s house rent-free while forcing her to go out and work shit jobs. Maybe she and Xander should have hooked up after all- they have a lot in common!

    January 24, 2015
  28. Elspeth Grey
    Elspeth Grey

    To be fair, I actually think Shakespeare’s comedies have more of the offensive ethnic stereotypes (it’s easy to forget, but Merchant of Venice is one of the comedies).

    January 26, 2015
    • Lieke

      Oh, yeah. It’s pretty bad. Super jarring if you’re unaware before going in that racism is afoot. It’s especially offensive since the story would have worked just as well without all the hating. I mean, Shylock is an asshole because he’s an asshole, not because he’s Jewish.

      January 27, 2015
  29. Heather S
    Heather S

    Man, I know this is an older article but this pretty much summarizes my feelings for this show, especially the ‘not as feminist as people think’ and ‘holy crap someone purge Xander from this world with whatever it takes to remove that kind of grease-stain-on-humanity.’

    January 30, 2015
  30. […] not going to sit here and tell you Twilight was the best book ever, but I think Jenny Trout makes a good point that Twilight gets a lot of shit for the very same things that exalte…. I think we hold up stories about sad, lonely white men Being Awkward and Finding Themselves […]

    February 3, 2015
  31. Holly

    In terms of angel and the series defining “one true moment of happiness” as orgasm (and not, for instance, when his son was born?!) at least they have that scene in Angel when Wesley is just like, “do you not realize how incredible rare that was? And have you been assuming that a moment of perfect happiness would be a given every time you had sex since then?

    February 11, 2015
  32. Jessi Jo
    Jessi Jo

    You totally forgot to mention sex being the number one villain in this show! HELLO: Angel turning evil because he and Buffy have sex is like THE most important evidence supporting the very first item on your list of insightful themes on this show!

    February 25, 2015
  33. Anon123

    That “I can tell you’ve had sex” trope pisses me off. You’re not alone; freaking *no one* can tell that about a person just by looking. I think this one makes me especially sore because of listening to my mom go on and on about how she could tell who was gay and then being wrong. Every. Single. Time.

    You can’t tell jack shit about a person just by looking–not gender or age or race or natural hair color or income or religion or fast-food preferences. The “I can tell you’ve had sex” trope is a terrible thing to teach teens. One, it’s creepily Big Brother-ish and paranoia-inducing. Two, it implies that if even minor details can be determined at a glance, then bigger-picture aspects of experience and identity must be totally obvious with no thought whatsoever.

    *steps off soapbox*

    April 26, 2015
  34. Re: Buffy vs Twilight, someone probably pointed this out, but the reason Buffy is a stronger character is because she’s obviously heartbroken, but she doesn’t let this break her. Rather than sitting in a room angsting for months and just staring into space writing letters to a fake email, moping to the point that her parent urges her to move in with her other parent because she’s just going through the motions, Buffy …she sobs a bit, lets herself feel the pain, AND THEN GETS HER ASS UP AND FIGHTS. She doesn’t sit around waiting for Angel to come back and love her. She doesn’t become an adrenaline junkie so she can hallucinate him. She takes responsibility for her life and gets her ass on track. Yeah, she has too much compassion to kill him, but she still kicks him in the nuts and says she will. Later, she actually does. Bella could never do that.

    Teenagers aren’t weak because they feel breakup pain. But characters appear weak if they succumb to it and refuse to move on with their lives. das-sporking on LJ did quite a good recap of Twilight that pointed out a lot of problematic things I hadn’t noticed on a first reading (and also, a couple sporkers read you and like you so there’s that too).

    May 7, 2015
    • Laina

      Every time I see a comment like this specifically about the way Bella reacts to her break-up, it makes me more and more aware of how this society sees mental illness. Actually, it’s a lot like many comments on season six Buffy (going through the motions anyone?) regarding her depression. Apparently people really hate depressed characters.

      Apparently some studies say 1 in 5 teenagers suffer depression after a breakup

      Like if people wanna point out the problematic things in Twilight, go for it, but deciding that a teenage girl’s depression isn’t manifesting in the way you like? That rubs me the wrong way. Some people are triggered into episodes of depression by breakups. Some people go numb with depression. Or lethargic. Withdrawn. (And lots of people find writing letters they don’t send theraputic.) What kind of message are we sending to girls when we say that if they become depressed after a breakup, they allowed themselves to become broken??? Cetainly not one that encourages them to seek out help.

      May 7, 2015
      • Lieke

        Part of the problem of Bella’s behaviour after Edward breaks up with her is (in my opinion) that Bella and the book itself present her depression as an example of how much she loved Edward. It’s like ‘this is how you’re supposed to feel and behave if you REALLY love someone.’ That’s a shitty attitude, because:

        1) no, you’re not supposed to feel like that. It’s not normal. Please seek professional help if you’re in such a bad place emotionally.
        2) it shits all over people who lost a significant other and manage to move on with their lives. Must not have been true love! Ugh, fuck you, Bella.

        May 8, 2015
  35. thespookyfox

    Funnily enough, in Spain, the “killed by no forged weapon” stuff was translated more or less as “It took an entire army to defeat him”
    It still doesn’t make the bazooka fulfill the prophecy in a literal way, but seems more coherent.
    Btw Im enjoying a lot this recap. Keep up the great work!

    August 26, 2015
  36. Fiona

    I’m pretty damn late to the party, but I’mma say my bit anyway.

    Angel’s whole “moment of true happiness” thing? I always saw it as him waking up next to Buffy.

    Like, yes, he was happy when he was with her, whenever he was with her, but there was always something else going on. Always something else to think about, to worry about.

    In the split moment when he woke up next to her, it was just them. Just Angel and Buffy, warm, soft, and together. Safe.

    I dunno about you, but that sounds like some “true happiness” shit to me.

    September 15, 2015
    • Lieke

      I agree. It was purely a moment with the two of them together. No obstacles. No worries. No danger. Just bliss.

      September 15, 2015
    • That makes a lot of sense, especially since it wasn’t until right then when he began losing his soul. It was hours after they’d had sex.

      September 15, 2015
  37. kokairu

    Just discovered your recaps after reading all the (current) Fifty Shades ones… Must say that, whilst the FS overviews are very entertaining and well written, I’m finding the BDBR a more pleasant and enjoyable experience!

    My fifty cents on this one is Willow’s reaction to finding Xander and Cordelia kissing… I see your point re her showing some sense of entitlement, but to me it never came across that way. I certainly like the line a lot *less* now that I’m older, but I see it more as Willow acknowledging the horrible truth to herself while she’s hurting – her delivery isn’t meant as a put down to Xander, just a “yeah, I’m feeling like this, leave me alone.” I don’t recall her making any such remarks to Xander after this event (when her feelings are raw) – she says some problematic stuff to Buffy, but that’s a safe space for her to discuss her emotions with another party, and not putting anything on Xander himself.

    Totally agree with all the Xander being a Nice Guy ™ stuff though. I still like Xander in some respects but it’s a shame the show never had him called out on his behaviour (I’d love to see a Reason You Suck Speech delivered, but don’t think this ever happens?) – or at least a propler resolution to KickHisAssgate…

    September 26, 2015
  38. Aurelia

    Oz: “See, in my fantasy, when I’m kissing you, you’re kissing me. It’s okay; I can wait.”

    Giles: “… if it’s guilt you’re looking for, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.”

    And this ladies and gentlefolks, is why I’ve only ever loved Giles and Oz in this show. They’re just such freaking amazing, heart-warming, good guys!
    Oz in particular is everything I could ever want in a man (I’m halfway to my 3 score and 10 now, and I’ve still to be involved with a guy as intrinsically decent as Oz)

    Sure, Anya’s cool, Willow’s cool (when not evil), Faith is cool (despite being totally amoral), but for me it’s Oz and Giles every single time.

    … Also, apologies for necromancing this comments thread

    October 19, 2016

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