Brother Luca's Global Mailings
2.14: Fallen Angel
It makes a difference. Buffy, and the audience, is prepared for her enemies to try to kill her; we’re not prepared for them to make her cry. I guess I had imagined his heel face turn as just reverting him to the vampire he had been before the curse, with the time in between having little significance to him even if he had remembered it. A soulless being shouldn’t even be able to care enough about someone to hate her, right?
The Buffy and Angel Show: Therein lies the true genius behind the way Angelus is written. He remembers but can’t understand what he felt for Buffy, and he cares because it infuriates him. For a soulless being, there’s nowhere for that kind of emotion to go unless it’s converted into an obsessive hatred. This is the final proof of Angel’s love, right as Buffy loses it: nothing can erase what she is to him, even when his own soul is erased from his being. You can see it in his Claddagh ring, which he turned around on his finger but can’t bring himself to remove. It’s a wedding ring and he’s not divorced.
This persistent connection comes up a few times in the dialogue, from Giles (“He'll come after you particularly”), from Willow (“You’re still the only thing he thinks about”), from Angelus himself (“She made me feel like a human being. That's not the kind of thing you just forgive”), but it’s never spelled out, as it shouldn’t be. Buffy’s ability to get through this rests on her understanding that Angel did truly love her, that she wasn’t wrong about who he was when she made the decision to sleep with him, and she has to come to it on her own.
As devastating as it is for her to learn that she was inadvertently responsible for breaking the curse, the hardest parts of the episode come before that. The scene in his apartment is so awful because she doesn’t know yet that this is a foe who will say anything to hurt her and knows how to do it for maximum effect. He presents himself as apathetic -- the exact opposite of what’s actually going on. Buffy might not be ready to kill him by the end of the episode, but once she knows that he’s not the man she loved, she’s no longer his victim.
What I’ve always found fascinating about the Buffy/Angelus relationship, though, is that he’s fully capable of killing her, but he doesn’t want to. He makes this clear almost immediately and I don’t think there’s ever a reason to think he’s changed his mind, up until he concocts the Acathla plan. Part of the reason I began writing “Older” (if I’m remembering right after so long) is that I wanted to explore that dynamic more directly, with Buffy being fully aware of it the whole time and able to question it.
Why is she so valuable to him? Is he simply having fun with his new toy, or is there a long-term plan? Nobody brings up the possibility that Angelus wants to make Buffy into a vampire, but we know that there are echoes of his game with Drusilla. Maybe he just doesn’t want to give Spike and Dru a chance to object, or maybe it’s more important to him that Buffy suffers for as long as possible without the easy escape of death.
Of course there’s the explanation Angelus gives to Spike -- “To kill this girl, you have to love her” -- but I think that was essentially meant to pacify him with a promise that the killing part would eventually happen. Spike thinks in terms of conquest and can’t understand the fascination with suffering that Angelus and Drusilla share. It’s still a great little monologue, not least for the undertone of respect for the Slayer. Spike considered himself good at killing Slayers and failed to comprehend this one on a personal level, which puts her forever out of his reach (in every sense, but I’m getting ahead of myself). Angelus may hate what he was with a soul, but he’s still conscious of what it taught him about Buffy.
It’s also a massive relief, just when we need one, to see that Angel himself is the one who nudges Buffy from her post-rejection meltdown into her Boss Slayer mode. Okay, so it’s through a dream and not the real Angel, but we don’t know exactly how Buffy’s dreams work and it doesn’t seem like they work the same way every time, so some part of Angel’s actual soul may be involved. And if not, it’s still Buffy’s own subconscious, her sharp instincts, her Slayer gift pulling in the image of Angel to let her know that all is not as it seems. The anonymous funeral makes a fantastic setting for him to point out Jenny Calendar, and that’s all Buffy needs to take matters into her own hands and go hunting down the answers.
We already knew she was a hero but this turning point is crucial. All hope of a happy future has been taken away, so she carries on without hope.
Willow and Oz: The “Willow kissage” conversation in the van convinces me that no matter how adorable these two are together, what they have (or will have, at this point) goes much deeper than cute. It’s such a mark of his character that he can so easily find the words to explain to her -- compassionately! -- that he likes her, that he knows she’s not over Xander, and that he’s not going to demean himself by being her fallback guy.
I also think that this is exactly what she needed and from here on in she is over Xander, albeit temporarily. It’s really nice to know that the next episode focuses on Willow/Oz, both for their own sake and to let us heal a little from Buffy/Angel.
Anyway, here’s an (unnecessarily) extended version of that van conversation.
Do you want to make out with me?
With me. Make out. Do you want to?
That time you said it backwards.
Forget it. I'm sorry.
Well do you?
Xander and Cordelia: One of the handful of Buffy quotes I heard before I was ever interested in the show was “I’m seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.” I don’t have a good answer for why I wasn’t immediately interested after hearing that.
But anyway I kind of love Xander/Cordy in this episode. Both of them are at full snark, but they’re starting to actually apologize to each other and offer sincere praise. Cordy sticks around to help with research even when she’s angry at Xander, and Xander chooses Cordy as his teammate even when it would be easier in the moment to reject her.
Of course, Willow finding out about them is excruciating, and it should be. Xander was Willow’s closest friend, Cordelia was her biggest bully, and all of them are teenagers. None of them dealt with it perfectly but all of them tried…well, except maybe Cordy, but she’ll get there.
Spike and Dru: Hey guys I found it! I found the exact moment that Spike and Dru’s relationship begins to fall apart! It’s right here in the shooting script:
Be just like old times.
He runs his hand along Dru's arm.
Spike's smile slightly drains.
It doesn’t require much analysis: Angel returns, Dru prefers him, Spike gets jealous. Since it’s the foundation of Spike’s entire character arc through the rest of the show and the spinoff, though, it’s intriguing to watch how it plays out. Looks like there was a little more Spike/Dru in the script, too:
Have a good time.
You'll be able to hear the screams. I promise.
Giles and Jenny: Here’s another beginning-of-the-end neatly summarized by stage directions.
I just want to help.
She looks pleadingly at Giles. There's no joy, nor anger in his reply. Just a decision.
She said get out.
They’ve got a better chance at reconciling than Spike and Dru, because they’re both sane humans, but that also makes it sadder that they’re breaking up at all. I don't really blame either of them. Jenny made a whole pile of mistakes which all started long before she ever came to Sunnydale, and she did try to back out of her family vengeance gig, albeit unsuccessfully, once she had a chance to look at it objectively.
As for Giles, yeah, he could come to the same conclusion that I just did, but he has a duty to his Slayer. The word “decision” is perfect, indicating that Giles is consciously choosing Buffy over Jenny with both of them there to witness. He can't put the decision off until things have cooled down because Buffy needs him now, and he can't compromise without putting doubts in her head that even his tearjerker speech at the end couldn't have fixed.
Giles and Objects: Giles gets two categories this time because his relationship with Jenny is important but I also have screenshots to embed.
But thanks for the offer.
You! Evil one...
Evil one? Oh, man, now I've got hurty feelings.
What do you want?
A whole lot. Got a lot of lost time to make up for. Say, I guess that's kind of your fault, isn't it?
The Gypsy holds up a cross, which Angel knocks out of his hand, grabbing his neck.
You gypsy types, you go and curse people, you really don't care who gets hurt. Of course, you did give me an escape clause, so I gotta thank you for that.
He pushes the old man back so he's sitting on the bed.
You are an abomination. The day you stop suffering for your crimes, you are no longer worthy of a human soul.
Well, that pesky critter's all gone. So we can get down to business.
He kneels in front of the old man.
Don't worry, it won't hurt a bit...after the first hour.
This is the very end. The actors got everything across perfectly -- Buffy's numbness, Joyce's concern, the way they don't talk it out but just hold each other -- but there's also something so powerful about the metaphor of this final sentence.
They sit, Joyce playing gently with her daughter's hair. Buffy letting her eyes drift shut. The candle flickering bravely in the dark.
When the stage directions have words like "freakingdom" it makes me smile just for the Buffyspeak saturation, but sometimes I also have thoughts like "wow, that's such a perfect description of that scene," and then remember that I've got it backwards. The cast and crew are just that good at portraying a scene based on a writer's description.
It's maybe ten minutes later. Everyone is gathered in the library, in various stages of freakingdom. We do not see Buffy yet.
Same for this, except that when you read it, instead of picturing the scene, you feel like you're there.
The son of a bitch actually winks at her.
Character introduction for Angelus's first victim. I wonder why they wanted her to be a pseudohooker?
ANGLE: A WOMAN
of ill, if not actively professional, repute. She comes down the alley tentatively, a cigarette in her hand.
- The rocket launcher solution makes me so happy. "No weapon forged" does seem fairly absolute unless you have the presence of mind to put it in historical context. Xander deserved this win and Buffy deserved to wield a rocket launcher.
- Apparently the anonymous funeral isn't actually anonymous. The script says it's Angel's, even though he's there himself.
- The scene cuts when Xander tells Cordelia to meet him in a half hour. It's night, and we see Buffy go to sleep and then wake up in the daytime and confront Jenny during a class. When we return to Xander and Cordy, it's night again. Long half hour! This is a very sneaky plot hole that you might not even notice unless you're studying the episode carefully to write a play-by-play AU, in which case it will have you tearing your hair out.
- Vid: That Blue Thing