Brother Luca's Global Mailings
2.17: Blood, Roses, Fire
The episode "Passion" isn't like a Sixth Sense device where every use of red has a particular meaning, but you can still track the way it's used in several key moments. We don't have to see the blood to know that Angelus is drinking it, keeping him alive at the expense of the innocents he kills. Giles breathes in a red rose and we understand he's in love with Jenny. The vamp trio all have a black and red theme in their wardrobes. Fire blazes twice, first in the destruction of Jenny's computer and then when Giles takes matters into his own hands. It may seem like a paradox that red signifies both desire and rage, but as Angelus reminds us in his voiceover monologue, they're just two sides of the same coin.
Aside from that, what I'd really like to talk about in this episode is what goes mostly unsaid: Angelus's refusal to kill Buffy. As a viewer, I get irritated by dialogue that skirts around the point, either when characters aren't asking the questions that directly address their concerns, or when the right questions come up but there's no response that answers them, and nobody in the scene points that out. In this case, it begins when Giles explains that Angel is using a classic battle strategy to provoke Buffy, perhaps goad her into a mishap, but this comes after Cordelia asks point-blank why he doesn't just kill her.
Provocation and mishaps are kind of irrelevant once your enemy is dead. Angel has access to Buffy's bedroom, and not only hasn't used it to kill her, but revealed himself to her through the portrait he left behind. What's he really about?
Given that Buffy immediately brings up Angel's history with Drusilla and how this applies to Joyce's safety, maybe it's assumed that Angel doesn't want to kill you is too obvious to be stated outright. Maybe the characters, or even the writers, just don't want to dig into all the creepy implications of it.
But I do! I've already talked about this in my "Innocence" review, but if you note the time stamps of these posts you'll understand why I've forgotten most of what I've said in one by the time I move onto the next. If I'm repeating myself too directly, take it as evidence of my convictions about these theories.
Anyway, we know why Buffy is reluctant to kill Angelus, but those reasons shouldn’t apply the other way around. He’s evil, and evil doesn’t register residual affection from having loved someone. Not only is the Slayer a major threat, as Spike keeps reminding him, but she’s the one who "made him feel like a human again," and he hates her for that. Angelus isn't stupid, so logically, he should secure both his safety and his revenge as quickly as possible, but instead, he's playing games with his enemy.
We know that when a person becomes a vampire, they lose their soul and with it their ability to make moral choices. We also know that they retain their human memories and certain personality traits, and that there’s a lot of variance in how much they seem to change after they've been turned. The lore has its inconsistencies, keeping the fandom eternally occupied with debating them, but this much seems clear: virtue can't exist within an evil heart.
So what happens to the good and righteous parts of a personality when there’s no soul to support them? My fanon is that they can’t vanish, due to the attached memories, so they transform to an “evil” trait of equal intensity. Thus when a vampire is no longer capable of love, his feelings of love turn to hate. This points back to the duality of "passion" and suggests that Angelus understands exactly what happened to him when he lost his soul.
I am counting love as a virtue, by the way, and will stand by that through any further discussions of what a vampire with or without a soul can do. Romantic love could be waved away as a justification for lust, if you want to go there, but what Angel felt for Buffy went beyond that. It even went beyond Buffy. He had become someone who could value her happiness over his own, and from there, someone who could care for the well-being of others. Inverting those values results in a sadistic interest in hurting others, with Buffy singled out as the one whose suffering and fear meant the most to him.
That’s where it gets creepy.
Buffy and Angel: The vampire genre often comes equipped with a rape metaphor, and I feel like it’s the elephant in the room for this episode - not necessarily canon, but my own analysis of it. It’s not actually a metaphor anymore, either, because Angelus wants more than blood from his victim. There’s a line in the shooting script which may have been cut because it’s too overt: “You know, even when I feed off other girls, the name I call out… is yours.” (Yes, I reworked this and used it in “Older.” It was too good to waste.)
The audience knows that Angelus won’t attempt to rape Buffy because it’s not that kind of show (yet). Does Buffy know? Why does she think he came into her room? Does Giles know? Would he say so if he did?
Like I've said before, this dynamic sparked a lot of my initial inspiration for an AU in which the circumstances for Angel losing his soul, and Buffy’s reaction to it, are slightly different. In “Older,” he wants to hurt her and everyone knows it, and it’s also clear that he still lusts after her. I won’t, and wouldn’t, actually write a rape attempt, but for Buffy the possibility is hanging there, and she might now have to consciously think about it. She might also have to face the possibility that on some level, she’s still into him, too.
Sidebar on that -- the shooting script begins with a really weird description of Buffy dancing at The Bronze, and I have to wonder what we were supposed to take from that scene:
On the dance floor, BUFFY shares a "friendly" dance with XANDER as WILLOW and CORDELIA watch from a table.
WE CIRCLE around just outside the perimeter of the crowd, always focusing on the sensuously gyrating Slayer on the floor.
In any case, it’s not coincidence that Angel’s post-soul warpath is centered on Buffy, and I wonder if she finds some comfort in that. One of my favorite moments this season is Willow pointing out, “You’re still the only thing he thinks about.” She might not grasp the full significance, but it’s there.
Giles and Jenny: Well look at that, I haven’t even gotten to the major character death in this episode yet. All the sadfaces in the world couldn't express this. Jenny is such a wonderful character and such a huge loss to the cast, but that's exactly what makes her murder emotionally effective and the show great. It even gets an extra level of tragedy in her sincere (and intelligent!) attempt to repair the damage she's done, and in the reconciliation between her and Giles.
If she had stayed, it probably would have been at the expense of a different character (Oz, I hear, was on the chopping block at this juncture). If we're going to speculate about what else would have happened, my guess is a few more bumps in her relationship with Giles, and eventual marriage...possibly even a pregnancy, although I wouldn't want to see that in Whedon's hands. I also would have liked to see her become a second mentor figure to the Scoobies, especially Willow, and hone her own magical abilities some more. Maybe a few more of her family members or pagan contacts would have shown up to cause trouble or save the day. Maybe she would make friends with Joyce!
Regarding Giles, I think this is a centerpiece episode for his character arc. The shooting script says it better than I could:
WE MOVE UP TO GILES' FACE. His eye are almost impassive, filled with scary cool rage as he hefts the bag to his front door and, with a grim determination, slips out into the night. He's a man on a suicide mission.
There's also this one, but it's a bit less respectful of his coolness and a bit more stating the obvious.
Giles is in shock, showing no emotion, mostly because… well, because he's in shock.
So much changes for him. Not only has he lost his soulmate, but he'll never be able to forgive Angel. He reached an important milestone with Buffy, though -- painful, but necessary.
Giles and Objects: Yes, of course we're still doing this.
My Willow Tree: The restoration spell at the end of the season is what I usually think of as Willow's first dive into magic, but I guess it's really this episode. Of course, everyone else is doing the disinvitation spell too, so it's probably not meant to have much to do with Willow's arc, but one can easily imagine her enjoying the process and wanting to find out more.
Incidentally, here's the script for the Latin part of the spell that she recited. As far as I can tell, the translation is correct, but there are at least two spelling errors.
"… his verbes, consenus rescissus est."
(by these words, consent repealed.)
Willow also gets a personal loss here, in the form of some tropical fish which were probably expensive but fortunately were not puppies. If you want to preserve Angelus's scary image, try not to picture him scooping them out of the tank one by one and then waiting for them to dry out enough to string on a chain (apparently a 14k gold one. Did Willow decide to keep it?).
After a great start to his relationship with Willow, Oz is nowhere to be seen for a few episodes. I miss him, but I can see why there wouldn't be much for him to do at the moment, and it would be hard to fit in his reaction to losing Miss Calendar.
Xander and Police Stations: Cordelia of course is present, but she doesn't do much except misunderstand the invitation rule, and there's nothing new to note about her and Xander. One thing I did notice while writing my fanfic is that it's really easy to fit her into the plot whenever someone needs a ride. Her superpower is car.
There's not really much to say about Xander himself, either. They're still giving him the annoying jokes, and still sometimes cutting them out before they get too annoying:
So… about-ay ee-thay ampire-vay…
Spike and Dru: The cracks really begin to show here. If you have any experience with weak-willed boyfriends, it doesn't need much analysis: Drusilla is perfectly happy to take care of Spike, but there's no more illusion that she needs anything from him. Stable, healthy couples can get through times like these because we don't keep track of who's supporting who; the tables can turn at any time. Needless to say, Spike and Dru are neither stable nor healthy.
Even when he's given a soul, Spike will never lose his need to be needed. He might reach a point where he can accept with some level of grace that the woman he wants doesn't necessarily want him back, but he can't be alone and he can't be at the bottom of the pecking order.
I think one reason I love Drusilla is that none of this would apply to her. She's fine. She's insane but she's somehow completely fine.
On to the remaining shooting script quotes. There aren't quite any character introductions in this one, but the magic shop is apparently called "Dragon's Cove" and its owner is "JuJu Man." Plus there's yet another instance of a nameless student becoming Jonathan (these are the kids looking for books on Stalin):
All eyes turn as two STUDENTS step into the library. They both freeze at the four pairs of eyes fixed on them.
For fun stage directions, we have this:
Garlic strings and about a dozen crosses dangle from the rearview mirror like bulky Christian air fresheners.
For a slight extension of a scene which gives us another cute joke:
How did it go?
I don't know, it's my first.
Well, what did you tell Grandma when you…
I don't think she knows…
This next one, as far as bonus content goes, isn't all that fascinating. All of the dialogue that Willow, Buffy, Joyce, and Giles have when Angelus is watching the first three of them through the window was written into the script, but it looks like most of it was removed or changed anyway. Well, I did go through the trouble of formatting it for you, so here it is.
So, was it horrible?
It wasn't too horrible…
Buffy reacts to the (UNHEARD) RINGING TELEPHONE.
(over the phone)
Giles! Hey, we finished the sp-
Jenny… Ms. Calendar… she's been killed…
It was Angel…
-Willow picks up the phone.-
Willow. Angel's killed Jenny.
Willow CRIES OUT, --
What? No… Oh, no…
-the first sound WE CAN ACTUALLY HEAR OUTSIDE, as the faint MUFFLED PAIN leaks out through the window, into the night air.
Joyce enters, sees Willow crying, goes to her, holds her.
Willow! My god, Buffy, what's wrong?
Has something happened?
Finally, there's an extension to the conversation that Buffy and Giles have at Jenny's grave. It's poignant, but it's really just restating what Angelus says in his opening/closing monologue. We don't need to be told that they understand why people need to have emotions, because of course they do.
Sometimes, I wonder if any good ever comes of it.
Comes of what?
Falling in love. Letting your emotions call the shots for you. Because if there is an upside, I sure haven't come across it.
You're right about that rule of yours. You're the Watcher, I'm the Slayer… we don't have the luxury of passion. It just
gets in the way. Life's easier without it.
Yes. It's just not… life.
Okay, I've got one more image here, and I figured I should find the most lighthearted place for it, but this is not a lighthearted episode so there was no place for it, so here it is at the end.
- Was the Orb of Thesulah ever sold as Buffyverse merchandise? It's so simple, just a plain little glass ball, but I would totally buy one if it came in some nice packaging with an "Orb of Thesulah" label.
- Snapping a neck with one's bare hands might be the coolest style of murder. Don't blame me for telling the truth.
- Claddagh watch: Angelus is definitely still wearing it, heart pointed out.