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The Big Damn Buffy Rewatch S02E21: “Becoming: Part 1”

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In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone has not caught up on her work after vacation. 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.
  23. Despite praise for its positive portrayal of non-straight sexualities, some of this shit is homophobic as fuck.
  24. How do these kids know all these outdated references, anyway?
  25. Technology is used inconsistently as per its convenience in the script.
  26. Sunnydale residents are no longer shocked by supernatural attacks.
  27. Casual rape dismissal/victim blaming a-go-go
  28. Snyder believes Buffy is a demon or other evil entity.
  29. The Scoobies kind of help turn Jonathan into a bad guy.
  30. This show caters to the straight female gaze like whoa.

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. 

So we’ve reached the one, dear reader. The big cry fest at the end of season two. The two-part conclusion that sets the tone for every season of Buffy that follows. I debated between doing them as one big post, or splitting them up as two separate posts. What I decided to do instead is split them up, but only by a few days. Keep an eye out for the next one soon.

The episode opens in an old timey kind of village area. Someone is doing a voiceover, but it’s nobody that we’ve really heard from before. It’s going to turn out to be this kind of cocky demon type person,  like an infernal Jiminy Cricket. For a set of episodes as strong as these, this was an incredibly weak opening.

We see Angel and a friend getting thrown out of a tavern, probably because Angel’s Irish accent is so terrible. He and his drunk friend make plans to go steal from his father, but then the friend passes out, leaving Angel to spot a beautiful woman standing in a gross alley where she definitely should not be. It’s Darla, and she’s set up a trap for dumb, drunk young aristocrats. Darla tells Angel that she could show him the world, and they hop  on a flying carpet, and Genie and that little monkey are there. No, wait, I’m getting something mixed up here.

For some reason, maybe it’s the horrible accent, Darla finds Angel just irresistible enough to turn him into her companion for centuries. These vampires move fast with these kinds of decisions, I’m telling you. She makes a way larger than necessary cut across the top of her boobs; I don’t understand why vampires always are going for the tits. Angel drinks her blood, and we flash forward  to Sunnydale, where he watches Buffy kill a bunch of vampires in the cemetery. Xander is patrolling with Buffy, and by patrolling I mean I think he got knocked out, because he was on the ground behind a tombstone. Buffy’s bummed because she didn’t get a chance to kill Angel, and Xander asks her if she’s really that eager to meet him again. Well, Xander, Angel did kill your friend,  and Buffy’s been saying for about a thousand episodes now that she’s finally ready to confront him. But you’re right, she might not be exactly sure on the timeline.

Buffy mentions to Xander that she hasn’t started studying for finals yet, and Xander panics, because he’d completely forgotten about them. Buffy reassures him with a blithe:

Buffy: “Look on the brightside; it’ll all be over, soon.”

And from the shadows, to himself, Angel says aloud:

Angel: “Yes, my love. It will.”

I don’t understand why villains talk to themselves when they’re being sneaky. I get that if they didn’t say stuff out loud, we wouldn’t get their internal process, but it seems like Buffy could have just turned around and gone like, “hold up, Xander, I think I hear Angel,” and then she could have gone over and found him and beat the shit out of him to death, and then the last two episodes of the season would be unnecessary. But I’m glad that’s not how it happens, because I like the last two episodes.

After the opening credits, we see some archaeologist type people. They’re uncovering an artifact about the size of a refrigerator, and Giles shows up.  He’s there because some guy in Washington, D.C., told the head archaeologist guy that Giles was the best authority on obscure stuff like this. Obviously, this is because he’s a Watcher,  but the more we hear of his resumé, the more it sounds like Sunnydale high school couldn’t have afforded to hire him. The guy didn’t even describe Giles as the leading expert on artifacts in the country, or even in California. He just said “the leading expert.”  so are we talking the leading expert in the world? And nobody on the school board, when they were looking at potential school librarians, thought, “this guy might be a little overqualified for the position. Are you sure we can afford him?”

But of course, Giles is humble and says that obviously that whole “leading expert” thing was an exaggeration.

Giles inspects the artifact and even takes a sample of dirt with a little paintbrush. What’s he gonna do with that? Run it back to the lab? Of all the resources we see the Scoobies develop over the course of the series, a sort of forensic facility is never one of those. Which seems odd, considering how good Willow is at science. You’d think they’d have some sort of witchy lab set up in the  basement of the Magic Box by season five. But I digress.

Giles asks the archaeology guy if they’ve tried to open the artifact. And the guy is like, “open?” and Giles points out to seam where it can be opened. Archaeology guy is stoked; he wants to open it right away and find out what’s inside. But Giles is like, “hold up, we need to translate these hieroglyphics.” Except he says in a Giles-y way. It’s pretty obvious that whatever is inside the artifact is something that Giles doesn’t want getting out.

In the cafeteria, Xander is reenacting the fight from the night before with fish sticks and toothpicks, the fish sticks being the vampire and Buffy, and the toothpick being her wooden stake. Buffy says she’s tired of people asking her if she’s ready to kill Angel. Thank you, Buffy. Your friends should listen to you.

Since Buffy is so freaked out about finals coming up, Willow suggests that after school, she and Buffy should study.  Willow’s still teaching all of Ms. Calendar’s classes. When does Willow have time to go to her own classes? She must be missing some in order to fit teaching into her schedule. This seems like a pretty unfair burden to put on a student. Unless Willow has enough credits to graduate early, she can’t miss all of these classes in her junior year. Or maybe the school plans on letting her make the classes up in her senior year. Either way, this whole Willow-the-teacher thing is still pretty messed up.

Since Xander and Cordelia are all  giggly and touchy, and Willow is sitting in Oz’s lap, when Snyder comes into the cafeteria he starts complaining about public displays of affection.

Snyder: “These public displays of affection are not acceptable in my school. This isn’t an orgy, people. It’s a classroom.”

Buffy: “Yeah, where they teach lunch.”

Snyder’s had just about enough of Buffy’s sass, and threatens to kick her out of school. This will be important in the next episode.

Willow asks Buffy if she wants to come over to study after school, too. Buffy is noncommittal; she thinks she should patrol because Angel is gonna show up when she least expects it. How weird must it be for the other Scoobies, knowing that any night could be the night that Buffy has the massive showdown with her evil undead ex? I mean, they must accept that she could die at any time. That’s kind of what being a Slayer is all about. But going up against Angel, in a hugely emotional battle, when their strength is pretty evenly matched, it just seems like the risk is higher.

We cut to a Gothic cathedral where Drusilla, dressed in some medieval middle-class garb, has come to pray. She goes into the confessional, where she tells the priest that it’s been two days since her last confession. Except it’s not the priest. The priest is dead, because Angel is on the other side of the little screen, having just eaten the dude. Drusilla confesses that she’s having visions again, so this is clearly something that she’s been worried about for a long time. Her latest was a premonition that came true about a mine cave-in. Her family has basically told her she’s an abomination; only God should see things before they happen. She pours her heart out to Angel, thinking he’s the priest, and he urges her to be evil, because that’s God’s plan for her. She’s understandably freaked out by this, and begs him to help her. But even though he gives her an act of contrition to perform, she’s obviously still afraid that what he said is true.

In the present day, Drusilla returns to the mansion, having just eaten an old man that has not agreed with her. She tells Spike and Angel that the moon told her there’s something evil at the Museum. Angel is impressed, and asks her if she can see all of that in her head. Spike replies:

 Spike: “No, you ninny, she read it in the morning paper.”

Is the morning paper for vampires the late edition for normal people?

Angel reads the write up in the paper, and says something about the world screaming. Which means he probably knows what’s in the artifact. Or I could be misremembering that. He might find out later. But I do think it’s weird how all of the creatures in Sunnydale seem to have this universal knowledge of dark artifacts and horrible things that will end the world. Is there a class they take?  Is there a special paper just for vampires? Is that the one that Spike was talking about? And if so, does the morning paper come out at night and the late addition come out at dawn?

These are things I need answers for.

In the computer lab, Willow is trying to encourage Buffy,  even though Buffy is really, really bad at studying.  Buffy drops her pencil and it rolls into the crack between the desk and the filing cabinet where we know the disk that contains the spell to restore Angel’s soul is. Buffy leans down to get the pencil out of the crack, and it seems like she’s going to miss the disk yet again. But then she has a moment of déjà vu. She lets the pencil go again to fall into the crack, and this time she reaches down and finds the disk. She gives it to Willow. Willow doesn’t recognize it, so she puts it into the computer to see if it’s something that belonged to Ms. Calendar. As the text comes up on screen, Buffy sees the word restoration, and Willow explains that Ms. Calendar wasn’t a practicing witch, but Buffy cuts her off.

Buffy: “Willow…”

Willow: “Oh boy…Oh boy…Oh boy.”

We cut to someone running through the forest, and we can tell that it’s Angel from the grunting.  Angel has a very recognizable grunt.  Someone is chanting around a corpse all dressed in white. A few recaps ago, there was some confusion in the comments about who the Roma girl was that Angel killed. Some people thought she was Drusilla, and I can see where they might have gotten that idea:

Dead girl on a bier, who looks a lot like Drusilla.

That does look a lot like Drusilla, to be fair.

Mingled with the grunting and the running and the primal drum music is an old lady chanting. She has the orb of Thesulah in a circle of candles,  You know it’s some spooky shit when there’s candles. Angel collapses by a fire in the Roma camp. A guy comes up and he’s like “Hey, by the way, you have a soul now, and you feel this pain for all these people that you killed.”

In the library Buffy and Willow give Giles the spell Ms. calendar worked on. Xander isn’t thrilled by  the discovery, but Cordelia points out that it’s a good thing. After all, now they can restore Angel’s soul, and he’ll stop being such a scary Big Bad. Giles isn’t sure that it can be done; the spell requires a ” greater knowledge” of dark magic than he has.

Wait a minute. Wasn’t there an entire episode in this season about how great Giles was at dark magic? And if Ms. Calendar knew how to do the spell, but she wasn’t able to overcome the dark magic that Giles was able to dabble in, then how is he not able to do the spell?

Willow mentions that she knows a little bit about magic now, since she’s been researching the dark arts  “for fun”.  And Giles makes this face:

Giles, looking shocked and heartbroken

remember what I just said about how Giles got mixed up in the dark arts when he was a teenager? Well, here’s Willow telling Giles, “hey I’m getting mixed up with the dark arts as a teenager!” This begins a theme that we’re going to see throughout the series. There are going to be numerous occasions where Giles tells Willow that she shouldn’t be messing around with magic (weirdly there’s a track on Anthony Stewart Head’s latest album titled “Don’t Mess With Magic”, which simultaneously reminds me of both Giles and King Uther from Merlin), and Willow’s like “no, I got this.” By the beginning of season seven, she starts to get that, hey, maybe Giles was right all along. But it’s gonna be a bumpy four more seasons before we get there.

Buffy agrees with Giles. She doesn’t want Willow to put herself in danger. But Willow is adamant that she’s the only person that can make the spell work and restore Angel’s soul.

Xander: “Hi! For those of you who just tuned in, everyone here is a crazy person. So, this spell might restore Angel’s humanity?  Well here’s an interesting angle…. Who cares?”

Buffy: “I care.”

Xander: ” Is that right?”

Giles: ” Let’s not lose our perspective here, Xander.”

Xander: “I’m perspective guy.  Angel’s a killer.”

Willow: “Xander…”

Buffy: “It’s not that simple.”

Xander: “What? All is forgiven? I can’t believe you people.”

Cordelia: “Xander has a point.”

Xander: “You know, just for once I wish you would support me, and I realize right now that you were embarrassed, so I’m gonna get back to the point. Which is that Angel needs to die.”

Giles: “Curing Angel seems to have been Jenny’s last wish.”

Xander: “Yeah, well, Jenny’s dead.”

This comment causes Xander and Giles get into a shouting match, which threatens to turn physical. Everybody tries to stop the fight all at once, which just leads to more shouting, until Buffy shouts louder than everybody and starts giving people wounded looks.

Yet again, I find myself on the Xander’s Right train. I’ve never understood everyone’s willingness to just forgive Angel and do whatever it took to get him ensouled again. He killed their friend, and by the end of this two-parter, he’s trying to actively end the world. At what point do you put a rabid dog down? Is it the first time he bites someone, or is it after hundreds of years of biting someones? They all know that Angel was never a great guy before he ran afoul of the Roma, and that the only thing that’s keeping that in check is a spell that can very easily go wrong. Everybody gets that Buffy is in love with Angel, but sometimes we love people who are bad for us. Rather than letting Buffy learn this lesson, her friends do everything they can to make it possible for her to get back together with this guy. It’s no wonder the Buffy continues to have a series of dysfunctional relationships after this; she’s locked in an abusive relationship that literally all but one of her friends is encouraging her to stay in. (#6)

Let’s talk for a minute about how willing Giles is to aid in Operation Fix Angel. Out of any of the Scoobies, Giles is the one who’s lost most to Angel. He’s willing to entertain the idea of saving Angel, despite the fact that Angel killed Ms. Calendar, but why? Because it would make Buffy feel better, and he also knows better than the rest of the Scoobies how it feels to lose somebody that you love. He doesn’t want Buffy to go through that pain. He’s willing to sacrifice his own vengeance just to spare Buffy some unhappiness, leading me to flag this as an example of #2, because that’s not the type of sacrifice you just make for no reason. It’s definitely not a “fatherly” instinct, because no father worth his salt, no matter how much it would hurt his daughter, would encourage her to help a now-violent ex return to boyfriend status. Giles isn’t thinking right, but it’s because the seed of #2 has already been planted.

Buffy says that what happened to Angel wasn’t his fault, and Xander points out that what happened to Ms. Calendar was. Let’s go back and examine what Buffy just said. What happened to Angel wasn’t his fault? The reason he got curse in the first place was because he was running around killing people. And yes, that’s what vampires do, but they’re still responsible for their actions. He took particular delight in torturing people, so it wasn’t just an “I need to grab a quick bite” thing. So yes, what happened to Angel was his fault. Maybe not losing his soul this time, or being turned into a vampire in the first place, but really, but this whole thing is his fault.

Xander accuses Buffy of glossing over Ms. Calendar’s murder just because she wants to get her boyfriend back. And that’s exactly what everybody is doing, except Xander and to a point, Cordelia. Buffy leaves and everyone stands around in the sad music.

At the archaeology guy’s lab, the music turns spooky and suspenseful. He hears whispering from the artifact, just before Drusilla attacks him and eats him. Angel and his vampire friends are there are to take the artifact.

In Buffy’s room, Buffy  is on the phone, talking smack about Xander with Willow. Buffy is getting ready to go out patrolling, and when she looks through her stakes, she finds the ring that Angel had given her. More sad music.

Out and about in the dark of the night, Buffy senses that danger might be afoot:

Slayer Kendra, having just jumped out of the bushes.

Yay! It’s not danger it’s Kendra!  Well I guess she would be dangerous if you were a vampire.  but Buffy isn’t a vampire and is glad to see her, even though her appearance portends the rise of a very big  scary.

Back at the mansion, Angel shows off his newly acquired, creepy, hieroglyphics-bedecked occult artifact. Spike’s not that impressed:

Spike:  “it’s a big rock. Can’t wait show my friends. They don’t have a rock this big.”

Angel schools Spike on what the artifact is. It’s the Acathla,  a demon who had been sent to earth to swallow it up. A really brave knight  jammed a sword through his heart, turning him to stone. He’s inside the giant artifact thing, which  turns out to be a sarcophagus.  the stone demon still has a sword in its heart — wait, how did the knight know where the demons heart was? It could have been anywhere. It could’ve been in his foot. It could have been in his dick. Demons aren’t people, and they have all sorts of different parts.

Whatever. If someone who’s worthy pulls the sword out of the stone demon it will come to life and destroy the world, like some kind of reverse King Arthur, sending everyone to hell.

Giles gets off the phone with the Museum to report that the archaeologist guy is dead, murdered by vampires. Willow is concerned about the whole drag-me-to-hell thing that’s going to happen to the world if the Alcathla wakes up. Giles explains that demons live in a parallel dimension, and if the Alcathla  draws a single breath, he’ll create a vortex and suck everyone into that dimension, where they all will suffer eternally.

So obviously, this is something that the Scoobies want to put a stop to.

Buffy says that the spell to restore Angel’s soul is their only hope. Kendra disagrees, siding with Xander on the whole let’s kill Angel thing. Buffy points out that while she’s willing to fight Angel and kill him if she needs to, if she’s unsuccessful (read: she dies in the attack), the only way to stop Angel from destroying the world is probably Ms. Calendar’s spell, because Angel-with-a-soul isn’t like to plunge Earth into a demon realm.

Okay, Buffy has a point there.

Willow isn’t psyched about the idea of being the world’s only hope. But Kendra points out that she doesn’t have to be; they have  a sword that was blessed by the knight who vanquished the Alcathla in the first place. Giles just totally geeks out about the sword,  but agrees that it’s their last line of defense. He asks  Willow how long she needs to get everything for the spell, and she says about a day. She also needs an Orb of Thesulah, but she doesn’t know what it is.

Giles: “A spirit vault for rituals of the undead. I’ve got one…I’ve been using it as a paperweight.”

If you haven’t already made this connection, prepare to get your heart ripped out. The only reason Angel found out that Ms. Calendar was planning to restore his soul was because she went to a New Age shop to buy an orb of Thesulah.  If she’d just told Giles what she was doing, he could have been like, “I’ve got an orb of Thesulah,” and she would have never died. Giles had the key to preventing Jenny’s death the entire time.

Willow apologizes to Buffy that since she’s got this whole do-a-magic-spell-to-restore-a-vampire’s-soul project going on, she won’t be able to help Buffy study for finals.

 Buffy: “Eh, I’ll wing it. Of course, if we go to hell by then, I won’t have to take them. Or maybe I’ll be taking them forever.”

Angel has to perform a ritual before he can open the Alcathla, suggesting that they’ve got some time to plan before it happens.

Some vampire henchmen bring Angel a trussed up human. Angel plans to drink the human’s blood, at which point he should be able to pull out the sword. He gives a big dramatic speech:

 Angel: “I will drink. The blood will wash in me, over me, and I will be cleansed. I will be worthy to free Acathla. Bear witness as I ascend. As I become.”

he bites the dude and drinks his blood, and some gets on his hand.

Angel: “Everything that I am, everything that I have done, has led me here.”

He’s about to grab the sword when we cutaway. It’s a flashback to Angel, filthy, in an alleyway. He sees a rat, which he’s obviously going to eat, because that’s what vampires do when they don’t want to eat people. For some reason, they prefer to eat rats. Why don’t they just eat something that isn’t cute?

A really annoying dude who seems like the member of the Rat Pack that nobody liked and didn’t invite to things, hops out of the shadows. He taunts Angel about being a vampire with a soul,  and takes some for a little walk. He tells Angel that instead of rats, he should probably be eating blood from a butcher shop. Something that he figures Angel hasn’t done because he hasn’t been out in the “real world”. But, uh, didn’t they have butcher shops way back in ye olden days? Why wouldn’t Angel have come to this conclusion on his own?

Annoying dude’s name is Whistler. Because I guess that’s just what a vampire sidekick is called these days, I guess. See also, Blade.  Whistler tells Angel that he has a choice. He can either keep skulking around, eating rats, or he can do something good with his life. Then Whistler tells Angel that there’s something he should see.

Cut to  Angel in a crappy car with blacked out windows, wearing filthy clothes, pulling up in front of a high school and generally acting suspicious.

 Angel, looking filthy and creepy.

In the non-TV world, the police are already en route.

The thing Whistler wants Angel to see is Buffy.  Only this is a younger version of Buffy, who acts a lot like Cordelia.

 Buffy, surrounded by sycophants.

She’s expecting a guy to crawl on his hands and knees to ask her to a dance later (no, really, literally crawl), so she hangs around on the steps. She’s approached by a guy in a suit and tie. Buffy’s concerned that she’s been caught for some shoplifting that she’s done, but the guy tells her that she has to come with him because it’s really important. Because of her destiny. He tells her that she is the chosen one, and that she alone can stop the vampires. Buffy’s response?

 Buffy: “Huh?”

Cut to  a  graveyard at night, where Buffy artlessly  fights a vampire as Angel watches from the shadows. She ultimately manages to stab the vampire in the heart, but it takes a couple tries. This is the first time she’s slayed.

So in this version of the Buffy mythos, Buffy’s first Watcher is not Donald Sutherland (like a WB show was realistically going to get Donald Sutherland. I have to give them some leeway here), but the guy from Office Space who gets fired, paralyzed, and invents that stupid “jump to conclusions” mat.  So, serious downgrade from the movie, and serious upgrade when Buffy moves to Sunnydale and gets the hot Watcher.

Still in flashback, and still in Angel’s POV, we see Buffy arguing with her mom about coming home late. Joyce blames Buffy’s boyfriend  for her lateness, and Buffy goes into the bathroom where there’s a giant big window for some reason. Because who doesn’t love the idea of their neighbor being able to watch them pee? She stands at the mirror and cries as she listens her parents fighting about how to raise her, and Angel watches the whole time.

Angel tells whistler that he wants to help Buffy, and Whistler says that Buffy must be prettier than the last Slayer. Gross. Angel asks Whistler to train him, and Whistler agrees.

Can we discuss for a minute how creepy this addition to the Buffy/Angel  “romance” is? The first time I watched the series, I thought to myself, “wow, he was in love with her before they ever met.” Now, I think to myself, “wow, he was basically stalking a 16-year-old. And then he fell in love with her. And then he followed her to a new town when she moved. And then he got involved with her without telling her that he’d stalked her before. This is messed up.” Some commenters disagreed when I said that Angel was as bad as Edward Cullen; well, is pretty Cullen-like behavior. despite the attempt to make us buy this as romance, labeling this as #9.

Back at the Alcathla,  Angel  is still monologuing, because The Incredibles hasn’t come out yet, so he doesn’t understand the danger.

 Angel: “I have strayed. I have been lost. But Alcathla  redeems me. With this act,  we will be free.”

Angel grabs the sword and there’s a lot of lightning. But after a fade for commercial, we see that the attempt was ultimately unsuccessful. Spike sing-songs:

 Spike: “Someone wasn’t worthy.”

Angel is furious, Dru is about to have a meltdown, and Spike thinks the whole thing is hilarious.

At school, Buffy’s taking her finals. A cloaked figure enters the classroom. It’s a vampire, and she tells Buffy to go to Angel that night or more people will die, before flinging off her cloak and self-immolating in front of the entire class. First, I think those kids should get a do-over on their exam, because that’s a pretty big distraction. Second, this was just seen by everybody, and they’re all still going to go about their lives in Sunnydale for the rest of the entire show and barely ever talk about any supernatural stuff that happens in their midst. What. The. Fuck. (#8)

In the library, Buffy argues with Giles, saying that since more people are going to die if she doesn’t go to Angel, she kind of has to. Kendra volunteers to go with Buffy, but Buffy thinks it’s better if Kendra stays behind to protect the others. She also points out that if Angel is busy fighting her, he can’t do the ritual. Willow says she needs more time to figure out the spell, but Buffy tells her that if it’s going to happen she has to do it right away. So, no pressure, Willow. Giles tells Buffy to hold Angel off until the spell works, and that she’ll know when it does. Cordelia thinks Buffy should wait in the library until they know if it works, but Buffy won’t risk the lives of anymore innocent people. Kendra gives Buffy her stake,  which she has named Mr. Pointy.

Angel meets Buffy in the graveyard. He tells her that she’s the one thing in this dimension that he’s going to miss, before taunting her by saying he wants to get back together. They launch into a fight. Meanwhile, the Scoobies start the ritual. The library is soon flooded with vampires. Cordelia and Willow run from them, and Xander and Kendra fight. Giles gets a pretty good shot in, shattering a vase or something over a vampire’s head. One of them pushes a bookcase over, trapping Willow beneath it, and Xander saves the petrified Cordelia from a vampire, but he’s been bitten. Naturally, Giles gets knocked out.

In the cemetery, Angel has caught on to the fact that Buffy is trying to stall. But Buffy hasn’t caught on to the fact the Angel is doing the same thing:

 Angel: “You never learn do you? This wasn’t about you. This was never about you. And you fall for it every single time!”

Buffy realizes that this has all been a trap (P.S., if she’d followed Cordelia’s advice, none of this would be happening), and runs to save her friends. Drusilla joins the other vampires in the library and they back off at her command. Kendra is gearing up for a fight, which Drusilla isn’t terribly good at, but she uses some sort of hypnotic power and slashes Kendra’s throat. Dru the vampires to get what they came for, which is Giles. They drag him off, unconscious. You know, considering how many times he gets knocked out, it’s a miracle that he can remember any of this mystical knowledge the vampires are after.

Next comes what is one of my favorite visuals of the entire series: Buffy’s  futile slow-motion run through the halls of Sunnydale high to save her friends:

This is really majestic. Buffy is wearing this long coat, running full bore through the hallway, with a determined look on her face.

 

This scene is so, so heartbreaking. The look on her face as she’s running through the hallway is one of hopeful determination. She’s going to save her friends. She can imagine no other way that this is going to go down. She’s going to win and save everybody. And she’s going to do this because she’s the Slayer, and she’s driven to protect the people she loves. She has no idea at this point that it’s too late. She still has hope.

Unfortunately Whistler, who turns out to be the unseen narrator from the beginning of the episode, starts talking in voiceover. I don’t know why Joss Whedon, when writing this episode, thought it would be a great idea to frame it with musings from a character that we’ve never seen before, and will never see again. I do know that Whistler is obnoxious. He’s the overused fedora guy who talks in stereotypical tough guy speech, who we’re supposed to see as an irreverent mentor with all this wisdom. He’s a tiresome combination of cool and dorky; the indispensable geek with a cocky attitude who guides people to their destinies.

Gosh, I wonder why Joss Whedon would have chosen such a character to become a canon device in what is, at this point, the most important episodes of the series. It’s a mystery for the ages.

The voiceover isn’t even that good:

 Whistler: “Bottom line is, even if you see ’em comin’,  you’re not ready for the big moments.  No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what, are we helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come; you can’t help that. It’s what you do afterwards that counts. That’s when you find out who you are. You’ll see what I mean.”

This unsolicited input from a character who can’t even be classified as “minor”, totally intrudes on this “big moment”:

 Buffy kneeling, distraught, over Kendra's corpse.

Buffy has just found Kendra dead. A Slayer, just like herself. Buffy has died before, so she knows it can happen. She knows that Slayers die. But this is the first time there have been two Slayers. It’s the first time that Buffy isn’t the only one of her kind. And the only person who truly understands her experience, the only  other Slayer on the planet, is dead. With just silent facial expressions, Sarah Michelle Geller portrays everything Buffy must be going through at the moment: shock, despair at her failure, and a new realization of her own mortality.

And we have to listen to this low-rent Dean Martin jackass talking over the whole thing, because Joss Whedon loves the self inserts.

As Buffy kneels over Kendra’s body, someone shouts freeze, and a gun appears on screen before  we cut to the end credits.

Barring the unnecessary addition of Whistler, this episode is so solid, it doesn’t feel like its 45 minute runtime. With the little, breathtaking  allusions to what could have happened and what will happen in the future (Giles’s Orb of Thesulah,  Willow’s introduction to dark magic), it must’ve been hell to wait a full week to see what happens next.

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82 Comments

  1. Morgan
    Morgan

    On killing vs saving Angel: I’ve always regarded Angel and Angelus as functionally two different people, even if they have the same memories. Angel isn’t (directly) responsible for what Angelus does while soulless, and saying that restoring his soul lets him off the hook misses the point – it replaces Angelus with Angel, which is a net positive (gaining a powerful agent for good) compared to simply killing him/them (which only removes a powerful agent for evil). If, rather than removing/restoring his soul, Angel had been possessed by a demon, wouldn’t exorcising him clearly be better than killing him? Should Jean-Luc Picard have been executed for treason committed as Locutus?

    Now, I’ll grant that Buffy probably shouldn’t continue to date the guy, even if restored, but I also read Xander here as motivated much more by a personal animus towards Angel than any real moral or strategic reasoning. For the same reason, I found the Roma curse to be just plain awful – it doesn’t punish the person who wronged them, it takes an innocent(-ish) person and sticks them with all the guilt for a monster’s actions.

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • Sonny
      Sonny

      Whether Angel and Angelus are different people is interesting because that’s clearly how Angel sees it and how he wants other people to view him. But the more we see other characters turn into vampires the more clear it is that the vampire demons don’t change people’s personalities, they just bring out the worst in them.

      I also saw Xander as having a personal vendetta against Angel rather than actually caring about Jenny Calendar so I find him completely insufferable in this – and especially the next – episode.

      November 13, 2015
      |Reply
      • Morgan
        Morgan

        Yeah, I’d agree it’s clear that they’re not completely distinct such that Angelus has nothing at all to do with Angel, or I’d say the possession thing is literally what’s happening, not just using it as an analogy. I do think, though, that they’re different enough that it’s wrong to say something Angelus does is something Angel’s guilty of.

        Of course, if you look at it from the level where this is itself meant to be an analogy or metaphor for something, the message becomes a lot more uncomfortable.

        November 13, 2015
        |Reply
        • Jon
          Jon

          The one or two person guilt conundrum seems to be a returning theme in the show. In many ways I agree that it comes down to whether this is a should be read in a Watsonian or Doylist fashion.

          I suspect it will be controversial to add this but I do wonder if the hyena episode can be the subject of a similar discussion.

          November 13, 2015
          |Reply
      • With regard to vampires assuming some of the personalities of their previous “hosts,” the way I always saw it is that Angel pre-vampirization (Liam?) was sort of an empty, useless shell. He was so busy womanizing and drinking and having terrible hair and an atrocious accent that he never developed anything resembling a personality, allowing the demon that inhabited him as a vampire to pretty much full take over – hence his lack of pretty much any humanity when he is without a soul. When he was soulified, he basically became a new person, different from both his human and soulless vampire selves. As we see from flashbacks, Dru, Spike, and even Darla had some real experiences and formed personalities before being turned; Angel didn’t have too much of that. Just my 2 cents. Upon rewatching Buffy and Angel as a non-teenager I now realize that Angel doesn’t really develop at all as a character until his own show, which is really where he gains a personality, real life goals, etc. Whether or not you like him is up for debate, but he is at least a fully formed being, which he never really was on Buffy. Just my 2 cents.

        And yeah, I just hate Xander in general, especially in this episode. All he cares about is eliminating the guy who fucked the girl he couldn’t get, Jenny Calendar be damned.

        November 16, 2015
        |Reply
        • Earthed Angel
          Earthed Angel

          I love this explanation of the Angel/Angelus divide!

          November 16, 2015
          |Reply
    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      Yeah, I always saw shutting off Angelus as a way of stopping the ongoing slaughter Angelus commits. If you can do that by restoring Angel’s soul, then do it. That doesn’t mean ‘all is forgiven’ or that Buffy should start dating him again, but definitely it is a straightforward option that doesn’t risk the Slayer’s life like a fight does.

      Xander is clearly motivated by his hatred of Angel rather than noble motives in my opinion. That his goal of getting rid of Angelus also make sense is a bonus, but really he is motivated because he wants Angel gone. He wanted him gone before he starting murdering ppl, the motive hasn’t changed there.

      The gypsy curse is such a stupid design. If the victim is happy, they become a souless murdering torturing monster again. Really, that’s the best thing you can think of? It becomes even more ridiculous in ‘Angel’.

      I think it is Giles who says at the start of Season 1, when you are looking at a vampire what you are seeing isn’t your friend, it is the creature that killed them. Over time the lines get blurred a bit, Dru has her psychic abilities, they all have their memories. It’s tricky to say Angel is guilty of committing the actions Angelus does given his choice would be different. Drucilla the pious child wouldn’t commit the actions Dru the vampire does. But Angel contains the potential of Angelus, kind of like Jekyll and Hyde. It isn’t sensible to keep someone around who could turn at any moment.

      November 14, 2015
      |Reply
      • Sywieh
        Sywieh

        About the gypsy curse, I always believed that the “if you are happy your soul gets away” was an unitentional side effect. I thought they cursed Angelus far a vengeance and to get rid of the evil side of him, but as their magic was not perfect, it came with the effect of making his soul disappear if he ever was happy.

        On the other hand, I never watched ‘Angel’, so maybe more is said about it there…

        (I’m sorry for my grammar, english is not my native tongue ^^;; )

        November 18, 2015
        |Reply
      • Mel
        Mel

        I totally agree – the gypsy curse is ridiculous. One moment where the things he’s done don’t haunt him; one moment of pure happiness causes him to become a monster again? Do they WANT him to start killing again?! And why is it bumping uglies that does the trick? Is there no other way for Angel to feel completely happy unless he’s giving it to Buffy? And Angel does have sex again, with Darla – are they expecting us to believe he is totally thinking about every innocent person he’s killed while he’s nailing her?! Because isn’t that what the curse is about?

        Also, it occurred to me that when Angel does regain his soul he acts as though he has no memory of being Angelus – yet Angelus remembers being ‘the Slayer’s lap-dog’ as Spike put it. I would have thought that once the soul left the body, what remains wouldn’t have any human memories and vice versa. It’s just the demon that took the body over.

        December 5, 2015
        |Reply
    • Quelaag
      Quelaag

      I came here to say exactly that!

      I’m inclined to think Angel and Angelus aren’t the same being, despite having some shared personality traits and shared memories. Several people in the show, both human and vampire, have mentioned that a person doesn’t “become” a vampire, but a demon “takes up shop” in their body. And whenever he comes out, Angelus has loudly complained about being “trapped” inside ensouled Angel.

      When I first watched the show, I was all for killing Angelus throughout most of the season because I didn’t care for Angel even when he was a good guy. However, I don’t think that’s reason enough to let him die for Angelus’s sins, and I think Xander’s motivations are as selfish as mine were.

      November 14, 2015
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      • Quelaag
        Quelaag

        I mean … I don’t think anyone blamed Regan when Pazuzu was killing people.

        November 14, 2015
        |Reply
  2. Laina
    Laina

    I both love and hate these two episodes because AWESOME but MY HEART.

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
  3. Emerald
    Emerald

    Omg I never made that connection about the orb if thesulah. I always just laugh cuz the shop keeper guy before said he sold a lot of them as new age-y paper weights. MY HEART!! :'(

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
  4. On Giles’s resume being obscenely overqualified to be a high school librarian, I always assumed the Council called from “Washington DC” and lied about who he was, and probably do that every time he needs to be involved with something that requires more than what he has. Kind of like when the Doctor gets out his psychic paper and says “I totally belong here, see?”

    And as for him telling Willow that he isn’t capable of doing the spell, I thought he was just trying to throw Willow off because at that point, he would’ve rather seen Angelus dead. Of course, this is before the bigger argument and he changes his mind.

    Considering all of the tricks Giles has up his sleeve before and after this episode, I choose not to believe him when he says, “I don’t think we’re capable of this, it requires very powerful magics, etc.” It always comes across as cautious, like he didn’t want to expose them to too much of the black arts, and it was an easy excuse.

    Of course, that all goes to hell when Willow admits to Giles later that she went through the spellbooks he kept hidden (Season 3, Episode 17). He kept the books hidden from HER specifically. “Magic secrets Giles doesn’t think I’m ready for.”

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • Michelle
      Michelle

      Hm – I also seem to remember Willow saying, in the first episode, that Giles used to work at a fancy museum, that he went to Oxford, etc., and that she had no idea why he’d even WANT to work at a high-school library. And presumably his Watcher education would have involved a great deal of formal book-learnin’ on ancient artifacts and whatnot. So it’s not too great a stretch to think he’d be considered an expert.

      November 15, 2015
      |Reply
  5. Anon123
    Anon123

    ” . . . it must’ve been hell to wait a full week to see what happens next.”

    So…we all got sucked into the demon dimension after all, but no one could tell because it looked just like the real world, only with slightly more eternal suffering? (Where “eternal” = one week.) 😛

    Also, I didn’t mind the voiceover so much. Sure, it’s cheesy, but I kind of liked the external framing of the epic moments. Then again, I’m a sucker for fourth-wall breaking and general self-awareness in fiction, so that might just be me. 🙂

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
  6. Re: Whistler

    I swear I read in one of the Buffy Official magazines or in some interview in another magazine (cause at that point in my life the internet was only for fanfiction, not useful stuff so I only got my info from the TV guide or EW or the “official” show magazines) that Whistler had originally meant to be the character that eventually became the Doyle character in Angel (when they eventually spun it off at the end of Season 3 of Buffy), but they couldn’t get the actor or Whistler himself was just not received well (gee I wonder why), not that I was particularly fond of Doyle… So back-door sidekick character for a spin-off show? Is that a thing?

    The first time I saw this (about a month after it aired, I watched both parts back to back) I was 14, reeling from the fact that not only were my parents officially divorced, but my friends had all abandoned me as of our middle school graduation a week or so earlier and I had never felt so alone in my life. The scene in the library when Buffy is panning the chaos that occurred, and looks down to Kendra, had me sobbing uncontrollably. Buffy (and Xena – which was also going through its OWN horrifying stuff, thank you Season 3 of Xena) was supposed to be the IT GETS BETTER WITH FRIENDS AROUND YOU show for me. Yeahhhh about that…

    But I gotta wonder and maybe this was covered and I forget/glossed over it in my memory, why didn’t they do the spell in the privacy of a house? Ya know, where vampires can’t just randomly enter willy-nilly? Was it because of the Hellmouth’s opening? Cause Willow performs that ritual nowhere NEAR the Hellmouth’s opening in part 2.

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • tessany
      tessany

      Possible Spoilers

      Yeah, you’re right. Max Perlich wasn’t available to return as Whistler so they recast/remade the character into Doyle. Which makes me wonder, considering that Whedon killed off Doyle mid season, and it was apparently always his intention to do so, was that why Perlich was unwilling to commit to more episodes? Perlich has a pretty solid resume and is still working consistently, so that could be why he turned it down.

      November 13, 2015
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      • Mjkbk
        Mjkbk

        I’ve read (in more than one soource) that Doyle had to be written out of the show due to actor Glenn Quinn’s drug use problems. He died of a heroin overdose 3 years later.

        A sad chapter in the Whedonverse…..

        November 13, 2015
        |Reply
        • I remember that, there was an interview some years later about Charisma discussing the difficulties he presented on set (and how his shot had been a last chance favor since he said he was trying to go clean). He died not long after they let him go right?

          Joss had mentioned a few places at the time that Doyle was very important to the plot (or at least his powers). I wonder what would have happened with season 3&4 if he had stuck around?

          November 14, 2015
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          • oblomov
            oblomov

            As much as I liked Doyle, I think that – motivated by external circumstances or not – killing him off and giving his powers to Cordelia was ultimately one of the best decisions for the show.

            But yeah, I think that with him still around Angel would be a very different show than it ended up being.

            November 14, 2015
      • LC
        LC

        I always assumed that The First was the original idea for Wolfram&Hart as well. It’s just as the series morphed, it didn’t make sense anymore. But Angel the series would make much more sense if it had been Wolfram&Hart who actually brought him back because he was important to the Apocalypse.

        November 14, 2015
        |Reply
  7. Candy Apple
    Candy Apple

    To be fair, Angel didn’t kill Ms. Calendar, the demon who replaced Angel’s soul when Angel became a vampire killed Jenny.

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • Candy Apple
      Candy Apple

      To add to that, Giles, as a Watcher, is well-versed in the lore of vampirism, and recognizes that Angel didn’t kill Jenny, the demon inhabiting his body did. Angel soul, what makes Angel Angel, is not in that body. A demon is.

      So restoring Angel’s soul back into his body and kicking the demon out is an act of restoring justice, not letting things slide and ignoring the fact that Jenny was murdered in order “to make Buffy happy,” because Angel didn’t kill Jenny, the demon did.

      November 13, 2015
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      • Candy Apple
        Candy Apple

        Just to back that up with quotes from the show:

        Buffy, in I Only Have Eyes for You: “I slept with him, he lost his soul, now my boyfriend’s gone forever, and the demon that wears his face is killing my friends.

        Giles, in The Harvest:”You listen to me! Jesse is dead! You have to remember that when you see him, you’re not looking at your friend. You’re looking at the thing that killed him.

        November 13, 2015
        |Reply
      • Jay
        Jay

        You’re forgetting Giles feelings of utter betrayal when he finds out that Buffy took care of Angel after he got out of the hell dimension, started dating him again, and kept it all from her friends. She did that because she didn’t think they’d understand and she was right. Giles reminds Buffy that Angel tortured him in the season finale and he can’t understand how she could want to date him again or more importantly why she didn’t warn Giles that Angel wasn’t dead after all. Giles totally holds Angel responsible for Angelus’s actions and I can’t see why he wouldn’t. There’s been mention a couple times in the show about a demon setting up shop in your body with all your memories for aid but we’ve also seen that other vampires act similarly without their souls as they did when they were soul-filled humans. Most of the other vampires, in fact, don’t even come close to approaching the psychopathic evil that is Angelus. Angelus just likes torturing people and that character trait doesn’t disappear when the soul moves in. Angel is just so weighed down by human guilt for his past actions. Moreover, his soul didn’t motivate him to act as an agent for good until he first started stalking Buffy (he has that in common with Angelus, as well). Mostly, he just moped in all of his guilt about the amount of human death he’d perpetrated. Angel remembers his whole existence as Angelus and understands his motivations–because they were his. I don’t think they’re fundamentally separate at all. The restoration of Angel’s soul may make him sorry for it later, but the fact is he did kill Jenny and he did so with the intent to thwart her soul-plans, and torment Giles and, by extension, Buffy. And he enjoyed it.

        November 13, 2015
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        • Tashi
          Tashi

          I would about ten thousand pages to this but its buffy and angel spoilers galore like whoa.

          But in a nutshell; from everyones point of view, they’re all in the right. Angel/Angelus is often a matter of “how bad do i feel doing this” and not actually a whole other person.

          He’s done some shitfuck awful things without the expedient of being souless.

          But thats in the future. (Jenny plz do angel concurrently with buffy after season 3 <3 please if only for cordy)

          In this moment, everyone is putting as much of a collected emotional face as they can, and rationalise as only humans can.

          Hellmouths man, they're terrible on your life choices.

          November 14, 2015
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        • Candy Apple
          Candy Apple

          I guess that just goes back to Jenny’s #9: Angel is a dick. 😛

          November 14, 2015
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        • There was a tiny shred of proof of this in Dopplegangland.

          Buffy: “Willow, just remember, a vampire’s personality has nothing to do with the person it was.”
          Angel: “Well, actually–”
          Angel: “… That’s a good point.”

          I see the demons that set up shop as… removal of inhibitions, like feelings of remorse or guilt. As if the soul and the demon are the metaphorical angel and devil on your shoulders, telling you what you should and should not do. When you become a vampire, the soul-angel-shoulder-guy is out of the picture, or the demon-devil-shoulder-guy becomes a lot louder and more convincing.

          And you can absolutely see in other characters before/after vamping how little they actually changed:
          –Wishverse!Willow openly embraced her sexuality, foreshadowing Willow coming out as gay later (even though she was bi). She made references in line with what we’d eventually see when she became Dark Willow, as well.
          –Xander was very much like hyena!Xander, which was still Xander in there.
          –William was a victim of society’s scorn and oppression, and felt unleashed when he became Spike, akin to a teenager’s rebellion. He was still a hopeless romantic and still loved his poetry. He even seemed to feel emotions that the other vamps generally didn’t, like guilt and remorse. And if that whole ordeal with his mother wasn’t proof enough that he was the same person, I don’t know what is.
          –Harmony was… almost completely unchanged.

          So yeah, I think the whole “demon setting up shop” thing is a lie the Watchers tell each other and the Slayers to dehumanize the vamps. Seeing them as nothing more than demons in human skin makes them easier to dust without remorse.

          November 14, 2015
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          • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
            Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

            Coming in late to totally agree!

            November 18, 2015
          • Mel
            Mel

            100% Agree! Wish I could have put it like that!

            December 5, 2015
          • Dar Toften
            Dar Toften

            I’m coming in even later to agree. Watchers might have more trouble with their slayers if they said, “Well, look–she’s still the girl from your math class. She still really likes boys with hot cars, glitter eyeshadow, and unicorn collectibles. But now she cares less about what’s right or wrong, and she needs blood to survive. Go kill her.”

            June 9, 2016
    • JennyTrout
      JennyTrout

      Yeah, I diverge sharply from canon on this one, because I just can’t accept it on a few levels. The most obvious being, Spike totally retained his personality when he became a vampire. A hundred some years gave him time to reinvent himself, but by the end of the show we see that at heart, he’s the same guy. We haven’t seen it at this point in the series, but the show does retcon the “vampires are just possessed bodies” thing just about the moment Harmony shows up as one in Season 4, whether that was their intent or not. They’re the same people they always were, they’re just evil now. The demon possession thing was a good concept in theory, and it may be what the characters believe and what the writers intended when the show started, but they don’t stick to it as the series goes on.

      November 13, 2015
      |Reply
      • Quelaag
        Quelaag

        “The most obvious being, Spike totally retained his personality when he became a vampire.”

        Yeah, I think that had more to do with it being Spike. Spike gets away with a lot of logic-defying stuff during the show because he’s a fan favorite, such as not being hunted down by Buffy and friends despite that he does horrible things with not a hint of remorse. But Spike mentions his vamp-mom being a demon in season 7, so I’m pretty sure the writers use “vampirism as demon possession” when it suits the plot.

        And they couldn’t make ensouled-Spike like ensouled-Angel because ensouled-Angel was boring. 🙂

        November 14, 2015
        |Reply
        • Morgan
          Morgan

          I do agree that the show isn’t consistent about it, but I’d also say it’s easy to reason that if someone’s already a murderous bastard then being vamped isn’t going to change their personality as much. If you already lack or ignore a conscience, then losing your soul (one of the chief functions of which appears to be Jiminy Cricket duties) will change your personality less than if you were a kind, compassionate person beforehand, and getting it back won’t change as much. William the Bloody, the gleeful sadistic serial killer, isn’t going to change his behaviour much when he shares his body with a demon (which IIRC is the actual metaphysical explanation in the show – you don’t get possessed but you both lose your own soul and get a sort of demonic symbiont?) who wants to rip and tear.

          On the other hand, I haven’t seen the final season of Buffy or the last two of Angel, so I don’t have a reference for where this all becomes more important again and the contradictions (I’m guessing) really pile up.

          November 14, 2015
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          • Laina
            Laina

            I’m pretty sure Spike only became a serial killer after he was turned into a vampire. “William the Bloody” came from his “bloody awful” poetry, didn’t it?

            November 14, 2015
          • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
            Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

            Right–William the Bloody was a Bloody Awful Poet. He “apprenticed” under “crazy” Drusilla (sorry to use a loaded word, but Dru is mentally deranged because of what Angelus did to her) and vicious Angelus, so yeah–Spike became a killer, but seemed to have retained more human emotions–and a sense of humor.

            November 18, 2015
        • I wrote this somewhere above, but my take on it was that, from all the flashbacks we see, Angel was mostly useless and sans personality pre-vampirization–unlike Spike and Dru, who developed fully formed personalities prior to being vamped. So when he got vamped, the demon was the only one truly at home in his body. When Angel got a soul, he became a new person different from the demon AND his former human self. That was sort of my view on it – he went from zero loser to demon to new guy with horrible guilt re: a century of murdering. Three separate characters, basically. Just my view 🙂

          November 16, 2015
          |Reply
      • Candy Apple
        Candy Apple

        Yeah, you make a good point. The show itself isn’t consistent on the idea of vampirec demon possession. While I don’t like Angel as a character (#TeamSpike), I’ve never blamed him for Jenny dying because it was Angelus who committed her murder. But maybe I should change my opinion on that, because Liam was inherently a bad person before Darla ever got her fangs into him.

        Anyway, good write-up of this episode; it brings up a lot of complex and interesting points. Thanks!

        November 14, 2015
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        • Candy Apple
          Candy Apple

          Oops, meant to write “vampiric.” I wish we could edit our posts, lol.

          November 14, 2015
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      • monkyvirus
        monkyvirus

        I felt like maybe the characters think vampires are just a demon hijacking your body but it’s not actually quite that simple. I, personally, think the writers wanted to have this sort of “can you blame an ensouled vampire for his past?” debate. Most humans aren’t that chummy with vampires and it’s easier to say “that guy is no longer the person you knew” than go “well maybe he is a little bit but seriously he wants to eat you now”. I think maybe Giles has an inkling it’s not that clear cut (he’s often tried to protect Buffy from the stark reality of saving the world and often takes care of the morally ambiguous stuff so I wouldn’t be surprised if he just uses the demon line to help Buffy justify her job).

        Notably Angel loves to go on about how he didn’t choose to be ensouled and the implication is he never would have chosen that himself so he’s clearly a selfish ass whether he’s ensouled or not (also obsessed with Buffy). Spike has always cared about selected people it’s just his brutality towards those outside his social circle that changes.

        tl;dr: I think it is cannon that personality is somewhat consistent whether a vampire is ensouled or not it’s just the characters don’t know that/ admit it.

        November 14, 2015
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    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      The demon doesn’t replace Angel’s soul. They are both in there together. That’s covered in the Ethan Rayne episode with the Mark of Iygon (sp?). They dump Iygon into Angel and the demons battle it out within Angel’s body.

      November 14, 2015
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      • Candy Apple
        Candy Apple

        But Angel has no memory of what Angelus has done. When Willow restores his soul, Angel has no idea where he is or why he’s been fighting with Buffy. If the soul is still in there when the demon takes over, it’s completely decommissioned to the point that it might as well have been floating away in the ether somewhere.

        November 14, 2015
        |Reply
        • Morgan
          Morgan

          He does get those memories back, or at least he did when first cursed, since the point of it was to torture him with the memories and guilt (and we see him disoriented and unable to remember where he is or why, at first, then). But you’re right, he acts like someone just reintroduced to his body who needs time to assimilate its memories, not someone who’s either been stuck within it watching helplessly as it kills, or been happily committing atrocities while seeing nothing wrong with them.

          November 14, 2015
          |Reply
  8. I always took the “Let’s restore Angel’s soul” thing to be more of a “He doesn’t try to destroy the world or kill any of us when he’s got a soul” consideration. I mean, yes, Buffy wants her boyfriend back, and yes, Angelus is not entirely Angel and vice versa, but it’s mostly a safety thing. A world with Angel is safer than a world with Angelus, so if we can make Angelus Angel, let’s do that. Not necessarily instead of killing him, but as an option.

    So I see Xander as only a little bit wrong. A world without Angelus at all is a safer world than a world with an Angel that could become Angelus, or a world with Angelus. Plus, Buffy knows how to kill vampires. Apply stake to heart. She may have a hard time doing it, since Angelus is a good fighter, but she knows how. They don’t really know if they can restore his soul, and might waste resources trying to do it. Yeah, Xander hates Angel and his motivation is mainly that hatred, so Xander still sucks. But Kendra, when she agrees that killing him is a better idea than restoring his soul, doesn’t really.

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
      Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

      I think Xander relates to Giles as a role model (what other male role models does he have? His dad and at least one uncle are abusive drunks and the males in the SunnyD school system aren’t great). Therefore, he relates to Giles’ pain when Jenny is killed. Thus, kill Angel.

      November 18, 2015
      |Reply
  9. Pam
    Pam

    Before Kendra was killed she reaches for her steak but she has given it to Buffy. If she still had mr. Pointy she might not have died

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • Neurite
      Neurite

      Yup. Between that realization and the bit about Giles having an orb of Thesulah, this episode’s just full of utter heartbreak.

      November 18, 2015
      |Reply
  10. Erin Garey
    Erin Garey

    I always just thought, if you have the ability to give a soulless person back their soul, then on a moral level shouldn’t you, no matter what they’ve done, if only because Angel can’t possibly fully comprehend and feel the ramifications of what he’s done without one. It’s after that that any justice can be found.

    November 13, 2015
    |Reply
    • anon
      anon

      That sort of raises the question then: is killing vampires ever okay? We get this dilemma over Angel, but usually vampires are slain without worry over the person they used to be. (and perhaps could be again)

      Unless they’re main character enough I guess.

      But if you can restore a vampire’s soul, shouldn’t you try to do it always and rehabilitate them?

      November 14, 2015
      |Reply
    • Suzy
      Suzy

      I don’t agree with that. If a person was essentially a good person and lost their soul and then went on to kill a ton of people it would be morally abhorrent to torture them with that knowledge. They would go through life with that weight, even if logically they knew they, themselves did not do the actual killing. And what happens the the soul? They say “lost”. Does that mean it passes out of the body? If so you would be taking people out of heaven to live with the repercussions of something they did not choose or had any control over.
      If we are going on the assumption that it was not them, but a demon it woukd be akin to condemning an innocent for a crime they did not commit.
      If Ms. Calendar’s people believed it was a demon that killed one of theirs then it was not Angel who killed and they punished him and not Angelus…because Angelus didn’t give a shit. Seems like Whedon didn’t think this one through.

      November 15, 2015
      |Reply
  11. Bj
    Bj

    I didn’t read all the comment, so I’m sorry if this is a repeat. Do you ever read the AVCLUB reviews of Buffy after you publish yours? They are both so good.

    November 14, 2015
    |Reply
  12. Rosa H
    Rosa H

    This whole discussion about whether to restore Angel’s soul or just kill him is really interesting. Personally, I saw it as a moral question. As in, should we execute criminals that could be rehabilitated? The answer is different depending on whether you value justice (vengeance) or life (killing only as a last resort).

    It should also be considered that restoring Angel’s soul doesn’t equal forgiving him. It would only need to be about saving him from death and bringing him back as a force for good — he would still need to suffer having these new atrocities on his conscience and his relationships would still be affected by what he’d done.

    As for how vampirism works, I wonder if it’s kind of like mind altering substances. People who drink and do awful things while drunk are still responsible for their actions because, even if the alcohol affected their decision making, they chose to drink. Vampires have had that choice taken away from them. So even if their personality is basically the same, including all of the nastier inclinations, what the person chooses to do about them is different as a vampire and, in most cases, that person will have had no choice in becoming one. I guess it becomes a question of how people should be judged. Is it based on their potential for doing bad things or what they actually choose to do?

    Anyway, it’s kind of fun to think that even “good” Angel is, based on this logic, at his worst a mean-spirited person who enjoys playing mind games. His conscience may have kept these traits in check but they would have been there. Since we don’t really see Angel acting mean or manipulative (or do we?), I wonder if he is merely keeping that part of himself in check to compensate for Angelus’ behavior because of his guilt. I also wonder if Angel would have been a playful prankster if he didn’t, again, have that crushing guilt thing to deal with.

    November 14, 2015
    |Reply
  13. Morgan
    Morgan

    @ Laina: Huh, you’re right. I’d completely forgotten that, even though I know the episode where it’s established. Certainly, when he was introduced, I had the impression his history was meant to describe him pre-vamping as well, but that may be my memory playing tricks on me.

    Hmmm, was there another vampire where Giles describes the horrible things he’s done, someone says “nice demon”, and Giles says “no, that was when he was human”? I’m probably conflating the two.

    November 14, 2015
    |Reply
    • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
      Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

      It’s that one with the cowboy vamp brothers, who massacred an entire town before they were vamped.

      November 18, 2015
      |Reply
  14. E
    E

    Has everyone on Team Save Angel considered that the actual question isn’t whether he counts as one person or two, but what to do with the one person who currently has active agency? There is an imminent (and the gang doesn’t have solid information on just how imminent) threat to the whole world, and they need to decide how to use their resources to stop that threat. It’s not like they have Angel chained up and have to determine whether to execute or rehabilitate their prisoner. They’re comparing strategies for stopping him, deciding what goals to put their time and energy toward. If the spell is so difficult, it doesn’t make much sense to use it as a back-up plan, especially when it ties up their one of their few magic users and their sole computer user.

    They’ve killed every other vampire without scrambling to find a redemption arc, even those who used to be their friends before the demon moved in AND would have far less to atone for than Angelus. Why aren’t any of these other vampires granted the same duality that Angel/Angelus is? Why didn’t the Scoobies immediately consider the ensoulment spell as an awesome end-game weapon they could use to save countless lives by neutralizing any of the other innocent-but-possessed killers that Buffy ISN’T boning? They didn’t consider ensouling Drusilla, for example, though they could have harnessed her mind powers for Good and possibly found a path for derailing the Acathla plan through her. Buffy is not being honest with herself. This really is about getting Buffy’s boyfriend back, or at least giving her another excuse to put off having to kill him, and it’s straight-up capital-W wrong to potentially add all the people in the world to the list of humans who’ve been murdered because Buffy’s feelings have kept her from dealing with Angelus so far.

    Xander’s deeper motivations and general suckiness aren’t actually relevant here. Jenny Calendar (not to mention all the less pretty people that Angelus also murdered) is kind of irrelevant to this discussion as well. They should be looking at their choices and consequences for the immediate future, not the past. Killing Angelus with a quickness, as you would any other vampire who is threatening to destroy the world, is the only course of action that makes pragmatic sense (which is why my boo Cordelia supports that plan) AND is a consistent application of the moral rules the group has already decided on and been following.

    Buffy, girlfriend, there’s plenty of D in the sea; exercise some control over your emotions and get this done.

    November 14, 2015
    |Reply
    • Morgan
      Morgan

      Yes, several people have considered that, starting with me in the first comment. I and others have argued that it’s better to try a tactic that could both remove Angelus from play and restore Angel as an ally, while also avoiding the need for a dangerous fight that they can’t be sure Buffy can win, than to simply ignore it. Meanwhile, Xander argues that they shouldn’t bother because Angel doesn’t deserve salvation/redemption, not for any strategic reason. It’s not like the “Buffy goes and fights to the death with an extremely dangerous opponent” plan has Willow doing anything else important that uses her time better than the soul gambit.

      November 14, 2015
      |Reply
      • E
        E

        It’s the assumption that Buffy has an unusually high chance of losing this fight that indicates, to me, that the in-show Team Save Angel is not thinking tactically. Their strategy in the past has been Buffy, with or without her friends as backup, confronting the evil using Buffy’s physical and creative powers. Angel’s a mean bastard, but he’s not superpowered. Why should they assume Buffy can’t win, when she’s won almost every other one-on-one vampire battle and many that also involved multiple henchmen?

        Meanwhile the Scoobies could help the way they usually help–by locating the Acathla artifact, finding Angel’s current location or his hideout (iirc they don’t know about the mansion until Spike? I could be wrong), or researching the method for closing Acathla’s maw as a backup plan. Willow can use books, computers, or magic to do those things, and that puts her in less danger than trying this dark magic soul vault shizz. It bugs me because Buffy always cared about her friends’ safety before she got caught up in her boy drama.

        I don’t mean to sound like I’m lashing out at anyone around here, and I’m sorry if it sounded that way. This has just always been a frustrating plotline for me because while it’s realistic for a teenager to act weird over a dude and have many feels, the writers make Buffy weak for half a season until finally she remembers that she’s a moral badass at the very end. And then they go back to that well many times in the series, but here’s where they started the serious digging.

        Plus Angel has stupid hair. Stake, stake, stake!

        November 14, 2015
        |Reply
    • AltoFronto
      AltoFronto

      I’d have to guess that it’s just too labour-intensive to ensoul every vampire. I don’t know how many orbs of Thesulah there are to be found in the world, but once they’re used, they’re used, and I can’t remember how they explained that they were made in the first place.

      You make a really good point about Drusilla, though. If she could have been brought onside, that future-vision would have prevented a lot of stuff. Maybe she wouldn’t have been willing to help the Scoobies even if she had a soul. Maybe they’re all just ableist and it never occurred to them to want a mad vampire on their team.

      I think the gang make such a big thing about redeeming Angel not as much because of the valuable allyship he had with them before the change, but because they seem to think it would be better for Buffy than making her lose Angel permanently – they’re trying to spare her the need to murder her first love. That and he’s a major character – you’ve got to allow for the fact that he’s going to have a spin-off series later. 😛

      Spike’s eventual allyship is a lot less dependable, but Angel’s devoted his entire life to Slayer-assisting, and so he’s one of the team at this point, so maybe the Scoobies still recognise him as one of their own in distress, rather than an unstoppable adversary.

      I dunno if they see the End of the World as a direct consequence of their failure to neutralise Angelus – I mean, it’s practically a hair’s breadth away at any moment in Sunnydale, and everyone seems fatalistically resigned to the doom of humanity at this point, so what’s another apocalypse between friends?

      November 14, 2015
      |Reply
      • JennyTrout
        JennyTrout

        You know, they should have ensouled Dru because then maybe she would have that crushing guilt, and she knows Angel is the one who sent her down that path, and then SHE could have killed Angel and it would have been an amazing plot twist.

        November 14, 2015
        |Reply
        • AltoFronto
          AltoFronto

          I would have loved for Dru to get that kind of closure. Joss Whedon’s characters sure seem to shrug off an awful lot of abuse.

          November 15, 2015
          |Reply
        • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
          Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

          That would have been so great, but then Dru would have been the star of the show.

          November 18, 2015
          |Reply
          • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
            Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

            Plus, we wouldn’t have gotten utterly terrifying Dru who revamped Darla in Angel…

            November 18, 2015
        • The Unicorner
          The Unicorner

          Oh man, I wish someone would write a fic of this now.

          November 22, 2015
          |Reply
  15. anon
    anon

    I never particularly liked Angel, and even when I saw this episode as a teenager I thought he was a creep, and I agree he is pretty similar to Edward…

    But I never had the same problem with Angel, because of how it’s presented. Angel and Buffy don’t get their happy ending.

    It might be portrayed as romantic but my view of it would be different and I’d dislike Angel more if he and Buffy ended up skipping into the sunset together by the end.

    November 14, 2015
    |Reply
    • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
      Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

      I’m still firmly convinced that Stephenie Meyer saw Buffy and thought all the stalking Angel/Angelus did (following her to SunnyD, drawing a picture of her sleeping and then one of her mother sleeping, coming in through her bedroom window) was romantic. Thus, Twilight. Plus, awful hair.

      November 18, 2015
      |Reply
  16. AltoFronto
    AltoFronto

    Long comment, while I align my head-canon.

    I always figured that Vampirism works thusly: by making some kind of blood pact (the new vampire-to-be has to drink the sire’s blood), they allow a demon to inhabit their body, in the space where the soul should be.

    However, there can be conflict between the soul and the demon, or between two demons vying for the same body, and I think vampires tend to become more evil over time as the original mortal becomes more corrupted by the demon’s presence… so each Vampire can choose to sustain the internal battle for Good and Evil by their choices, and retain some of their mortal selves by not giving in to the demon aspect more than they have to – but they’re ultimately doomed because by its blood lust, the beast sustains their very being.
    That’s why vampirism is such a Faustian bargain – the promise of supernatural strength and immortality seems pretty sweet, but ultimately the demon will prevail over every mortal aspect, even if the body is incorruptible, save by fire, stake, or sunlight. Each vampire is desperately trying to cling to their fundamental “self”.

    I think that how the demon affects the personality of the vampire depends on how strong their character is. Spike has more moral fibre than Angel ever did, so he’s more capable of self-restraint, compassion and loyalty than Angelus, even without a soul or a chip to curb some of his baser instincts.
    So Spike retains a lot of William, And Dru retains a lot of her original qualities despite her vampirism and Angelus-induced psychiatric issues… and I think that this is because they had firm identities and more connection to others in life.

    Either Angel is inhabited by a much stronger demon than other vampires, thus making him even more evil as Angelus than the average vamp… or he was just kind of an asshole human in the first place. I think he never really had a strong sense of his own character in the first place – that’s why he’s so goddamn bland and mopey as ensouled Angel, he’s defined more by Angelus than anything else.

    I think Angelus is such a sadist, because the original Angel, or Liam, was a piece of shit all along. He was living a life of drunkenness and debauchery, and then as a vampire he couldn’t get his kicks out of booze, but the power-trip of being Angelus was too awesome, so he moved on to killing and other forms of depravity, and then his soul-curse wouldn’t let him carry on with that any more, so he just ended up on the streets until Whistler could give him direction and purpose in the form of Buffy.
    Angel is desperate for redemption and aiding The Slayer gives him a new identity to inhabit, so he can define himself as Angel.

    but Angelus, being totally amoral, doesn’t feel any need for redemption and just falls straight back into the cruel behaviour at the first chance he can get, targeting Buffy especially because Angel laid all the groundwork to really destroy Buffy’s trust psychologically, and that’s just too good for Angelus to pass up as a chance to really inflict human suffering.

    I guess Angel’s entire story arc has a lot to do with him defining himself as separate from Angelus, despite having the potential for great evil within him… but I think as Angel, he too heavily plays on the idea that he’s not to blame, that he’s not responsible – and he’s analogous to the abusive boyfriend, or the lapsed junkie, who promises that it wasn’t really him who lashed out and acted out of control, and that it’s the last time and that he can do better… but fundamentally, I think Liam was too weak to control Angelus, and it’s only by virtue of gaining a soul that he’s able to be Angel and get away from his myriad failings as a human being. But Angel’s still an asshole for the amount of self-pitying that he does, IMO – which is why the human part of him will never truly be redeemed.

    Anyway that’s my pet theory, but I’m sure there’s some key stuff in the series that I’ve forgotten about which will prove me wrong.

    TL;DR – Angelus is a powerful force for evil, Liam was a self-indulgent addictive personality who got too hooked on a demonic power-trip, together they got off on cruelty; gaining a soul forced him to quit murdering people, and he found a worthwhile cause in Buffy, but Angel still doesn’t have the inner strength of character to truly achieve redemption, because he had a shitty attitude in his human life and still hasn’t really got over himself.

    November 14, 2015
    |Reply
    • Frolik
      Frolik

      I think this is the best theory I’ve ever read on the vampires in Buffy. I’m just gonna go ahead and steal your headcannon and make it my own…

      November 16, 2015
      |Reply
    • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
      Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

      Excellent….

      November 18, 2015
      |Reply
      • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
        Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

        Plus, Angel’s first kills were his family, while Spike vamped his mom in order to save her from dying of TB. Totally different first acts as vampires.

        November 18, 2015
        |Reply
    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      I always saw William’s transition into Spike the Bloody as a rebellion against himself. In life he was mocked and ridiculed, in becoming a vampire he had the chance to get his revenge against those who mocked him. I’m not sure he had strong moral fibre, but he wasn’t a vice loving individual that Liam seems to be.

      It does appear that becoming a vampire seems to reduce the person to who they are without the strictures of society’s rules. Much like it is said you can judge a person by what they do when no one is watching. The potential to be that kind of person is inherent in them, but it isn’t let loose until the demon takes up residence. Maybe the demon is the corrupting influence.

      I like to think Spike made peace with himself in the end, with the young man who was terribly mocked and who he spent so long trying to reject by being the opposite.

      Angelus is a jerk, he was always a jerk and I think Liam probably was too. You can see what he would do if he was in a position of power by what he did when he became a vampire. Harrassing the staff etc. I think it is also telling in that Angel regained his soul and did nothing of note. He didn’t seek to right the wrongs, he didn’t seem to seek to do good or help people. He moped around until Whistler got involved.

      Ensouling Angel is stupid thing to do, the demon doesn’t give a damn and won’t reform his ways if the curse is ended. The human soul seems to feel guilt but isn’t willing to take steps to redress the damage done, just sit around and mope.

      November 19, 2015
      |Reply
  17. shel
    shel

    Something else about Angel and his whole deal… what about it is specific to him. It’s possible the re-ensouling spell only works on Angel, which is why trying to restore the soul of other vampires isn’t a thing. Spike went a completely different path at the end of the series…

    And in the Angel series, it gets more into the powers the be and the prophecy about Angel (or a vampire with a soul anyway) which to me means there is something extra going on, not just random evil guy gets his soul back, but something else… Because Angel with a soul is way different from who he was as a human, but clearly also very different from Angelus.

    As far as trying to do the spell, I think this is a case of trying to cover every option. Willow and co can’t go into battle with Buffy, they will just be a liability and they know from the books that Angelus is a vicious foe and not just a run of the mill vampire. Add in the emotional weight, I think it’s reasonable to be concerned that Buffy could lose this fight.

    I suppose we’ll cover it when we get to it.. but when *spoiler! Angel returns, Buffy doesn’t think, Yay! My boyfriend’s back… I think they fall back into a relationship because they can’t help it, but I don’t think Buffy goes into it thinking she and Angel can still be together. And he knows that to, hence the heading off into spinoff land.

    Sure, Angel bears some of the weight of what happened when he lost his soul, but he didn’t know that was going to be a consequence of hooking up with Buffy… and I’m okay with giving him a little leeway since they are like two separate people- both appalled at how the other acts.

    November 16, 2015
    |Reply
  18. Courtney
    Courtney

    But…. I mean, Angel was a powerful ally to the Scoobies. (Ok, so he was also doofy and silly a lot of the time, but that’s the writing for ya.) As Angelus he’s killing a crap-ton of people, threatening the lives of Buffy and all her loved ones, and is– as Jenny pointed out– as close to an even match for Buffy as she’s ever faced.

    When she goes and fights Angelus there is very little guarantee that she’ll win, and losing = dying. It makes perfect sense to me that they should try to restore his soul instead of sending Buffy into a situation where she might come out dead.

    That said, I get why some of the Scoobies are against it– Giles because who wants to look at the face of the ‘man’ who killed your girlfriend everyday? Xander because he’s a childish dick at this point in the series. Etc etc.

    But yeah. If restoring his soul means that Buffy avoids a fight to the death with a tough foe, AND has the bonus outcome of stopping the Acathla from sending everyone to Hell, that option makes 100% perfect sense to me.

    November 17, 2015
    |Reply
  19. Alyssa
    Alyssa

    Hi I love this vampire soul debate so I’ll just throw in my own (probably long winded) head canon even though I’m a little late, and I think some other people have theories better than mine.

    I sort of just thought that Liam/Angelus/Angel had a paranormal take on Dissociative Identity Disorder. As seen through the show, every other character who is turned simply becomes an evil! version of who they already are, with the same personality traits. I’ve always seen not having a soul in the Buffyverse as having your conscientious ripped away. You can still feel all the emotions humans feel, and many vampires may even have values or a code they follow, but their moral compass is broken. Vampires are sociopaths, and like with human sociopaths there’s levels. Some vampires fit into society fairly well, just as a lot of sociopaths do. But even when they do the “right” thing, there’s an ulterior motive. They know what right and wrong are, but don’t care because they have their own prerogative. These desires are largely guided by their personalities, which are still in tact. Queue Liam.

    Liam was a hedonistic dick, and becoming a vampire took it to 1,000. Liam was already indulgent, selfish, and desired power over others, but as a human he was just a drunk. Stripped away of whatever morality he had and given the power he desired, he became one of the most evil vampires ever. Angelus is Liam without a conscientious the same as every other vampire on the show.

    Angelus’ reaction to having his soul returned is where he diverges from the norm. Spike and Darla (by proxy) both had their souls returned, and went through very similar initial phases as Angel. They immediately became self loathing, questioned their identity, and were generally confused about right and wrong and their purpose in the world. Spike, very similarly to Angel, wound up eating rats in a sewer, talking to himself, and doing all around weird hermit things. But Darla and Spike were not as evil as Angelus so had less guilt to deal with, were generally stronger, and had support from people they trusted who had dealt with their situation before. They were each ultimately able to reconcile their atrocities with their identity and move forward.

    My theory is that Angelus was so evil, that with a soul he simply couldn’t cope on his own with the trauma of what he had done. There was no reconciling his atrocities because Angelus would never be worthy of forgiveness, so he created someone who was. He needed both a new identity and a worthy cause to move forward. Thus, somewhere in his decades of living in solitude and squalor, he forged an entirely new personality for himself, someone who *could* handle the guilt of the horrific things he had done. Someone who was burdened by guilt, but who both desired and deserved redemption. Angel. (Who is still very often a dick because Liam was a dick so even his most heroic self is by nature kind of an asshole, despite his intense desire to always do right). Angel is a new alter ego, complete with a new name, values, mannerisms, sense of humor, etc. and he zoned in on Buffy as his key to redemption, simultaneously distancing himself from his past acts, and empowering himself to pursue redemption from them. Spike didn’t need his personality to do a complete 180 when he got a soul because Spike with a soul was just as strong, maybe stronger, than Spike without a soul, and he could reconcile the two and seek redemption on his own. Liam was weak, so he needed to develop a heroic personality that could fight Angelus. Boom! We have our hero, the broody vampire with a soul, who wants nothing more than to help the helpless, but is constantly at war with his evil alter ego. The strongest person a self loathing drunk could muster up to deal with the guilt of what he had done.

    TL;DR Angel’s split personality isn’t a reflection of soul/no-soul, but simply a personal coping mechanism. Ta-da.

    November 18, 2015
    |Reply
    • Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK
      Quint&Jessel, Sea of Azof, Bly, UK

      Interesting, and accounts for his “Indiana Jones” thing just before he’s re-Angelused in Angel.

      November 18, 2015
      |Reply
  20. LC
    LC

    I always liked the idea it didn’t restore Liam’s soul. It just gave Angel a soul. Someone’s. The raw potential for one? Who knows. This soul meant who he was now was different from Liam. And, since the spell just grabs a soul at random, it meant after the spell, he and Buffy weren’t soul mates anymore, because the new Angel is subtly different from the original curse.

    Of course, none of that makes sense with what we see later in the Angel series, but I always thought it was a neat idea. (And basically a parallel to the “A demon sets up shop” idea. Those demons are also randomly plucked out of demonland, and so vary widely in power, potential, and evilness. That’s also why other demons hate vampires – they are parasites who essence-nap other demons each time they make a new vampire.)

    November 19, 2015
    |Reply
    • Jemmy
      Jemmy

      It’s said some where in the series that vampries aren’t seen as true demons, they’re considered a watered down version and thus the lack of regard from the ‘pure’ types.

      November 19, 2015
      |Reply
    • AltoFronto
      AltoFronto

      You know, I’ve always wondered about the Orbs of Thesulah. Do they contain souls? Or do they just contain the Magicks to restore the person’s original soul? Is each soul individually unique? Are some souls better than others? How are the Orbs created? Where do vampire souls go when not in use, if they can be restored to the original owner? Would having someone else’s soul affect stuff like personality traits, etc?

      I like the idea of Angel not being Buffy’s soul mate any more, because of the spell. But then again, I kind of want her to get over him because she’s outgrown him, or because he can’t ever make up for any of the stuff he did as Angelus and Buffy can never really trust him again.

      I’m totally adding Alyssa’s thoughts on Angel’s personality to my headcanon. I don’t know how much of Angel is genuine trauma and contrition, and how much is just him kidding himself that he can ever wipe his slate clean, though…

      November 20, 2015
      |Reply
  21. Jemmy
    Jemmy

    You know what else I like about Buffy, the way they use ‘again’ when talking about the end of the world. It always makes me laugh. Something that should be so dramatic gets reduced to being used as amusement more than once.

    November 19, 2015
    |Reply
  22. “Yet again, I find myself on the Xander’s Right train. I’ve never understood everyone’s willingness to just forgive Angel and do whatever it took to get him ensouled again.”

    For one, there is no guarantee Buffy will come out the victor in a fight against Angelus, but if he’s resouled, she won’t have to fight him at all. And Angel was a tough, capable ally when he had his soul, so there’s that.

    November 23, 2015
    |Reply
  23. This whole “random demon guy shows up to conveniently fill plot holes and give Angel a purpose by stalking Buffy” thing is not only super creepy but really lazy storytelling in my opinion. The episode is a total exposition dump but it leaves me with way more questions than answers. Like who the hell is Whistler? How did he know about the slayer? How did he find Angel and know who he was? Why would Angel want to help Buffy? Just because he saw her crying in the bathroom? Because he wanted to get into her teenage pants? Hopefully my questions will be answered in Part 2 but I doubt it.

    If I remember correctly, Drusilla said her vision was of “an old friend asking for help” Ms. Calendar going to the magic shop to buy an orb. If she had told Giles what she was doing, and he would have told her he had an orb she could use, Dru might have still had a vision of that instead, and the outcome would be the same.

    Plus I think that Kendra would have lived, or at least not died THAT fast. The cut was pretty small and shallow and Buffy got there like a minute later. There was no blood on the floor. I know she had to die in order to move the plot forward but I feel like the way it happened was, once again, lazy storytelling.

    January 16, 2016
    |Reply
  24. Agent_Z
    Agent_Z

    Can we list Kendra’s death as #12? She’s the first non white Slayer we see and the first one who dies permanently. I also find it a bit troubling how her death is never avenged.

    September 11, 2017
    |Reply

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