Written by David Greenwalt
Directed by Scott Brazil
This episode opens in the Ominous Church/Cavern Set, where the little boy who became the Anointed is plonking small rocks into the 6-foot-deep puddle of blood. The Master can’t offer him any better entertainment? Darla arrives, her face having recovered from the jar of holy water Willow threw on it in “The Harvest.” The Master is officially Fed Up with Buffy killing his minions, and Darla is chomping at the bit to be the one who gets to kill her. The Master refuses with an intriguing line about Darla’s personal interest in the matter (what could that be about?) and then says he will send the Three instead.
Cut to a dark street corner, where three biker dudes are lighting each other’s cigarettes. Are they the Thr—oh wait, no, the Three are obviously the three vamp-faced medieval knights walking up behind them. Silly me.
The Bronze is having the weirdest party ever. Apparently the thing to do when you own a club and that club becomes infested with cockroaches is to throw a cockroach-squashing party! And Sunnydale’s exterminators must do a crap job, because it’s necessary to throw this party every year. Willow explains this quaint tradition to Buffy, who is too distracted by her depressing singlehood to pay attention. As she did in the previous episode, Willow brings up Angel, and they essentially rehash the conversation about how he would be difficult to date for logistical reasons. The main difference is when Buffy gets this sheepish grin and talks about how much she likes him. Willow feels this compares favorably with her crush on Xander, who is on the dance floor being a huge dork.
Xander bonks into Cordelia, and they have a snark-off which Xander wins before leaving to join Buffy and Willow. He is appalled by the lack of fun they are all having, but before he can try to fix it, Buffy leaves. On her way out, we see that Angel is over by the stairs, but when Buffy looks around, he’s pulled a Batman.
She’s walking home and keeps getting the “I’m being followed” prickles up her neck. It’s shot in a similar way to when Angel was following her in “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” but it turns out to be the Three. Instead of doing the polite thing and attacking her one at a time, they rush her together. She can only fight them off for a few seconds before they get her pinned against a fence, the leader going in to bite her throat.
After the intro theme, Buffy is still in this predicament. It looks very bad, until out of nowhere, Angel shows up, jerking the lead vamp away from Buffy. He looks super angry that she’s under attack, but Buffy is no swooning damsel in distress (even if this rescue was very swoon-worthy); she uses the distraction of his arrival to fight her way free of the other two vampires’ grasps. Angel gets slashed across the torso with a wrought iron bar from a window, but they both manage to flee. They run all the way back to her house, she yells for him to get in, and they barely manage to get over the threshold before the Three catch up. Angel tells her that vampires can only come in if they have an invitation, which is useful to know.
Buffy notices that Angel has bled through his shirt, so it’s time to play doctor. The jacket and shirt come off and holy crap does 26-year-old David Boreanaz have an amazing torso. I’m just gonna…pause this for a minute. Heh. Okay, Angel has an intricate tattoo of a griffin straddling the letter A on his back, which Buffy compliments. They flirt shamelessly while she bandages his wound, but before anything else can happen, Buffy’s mom comes home. Buffy tries to rush her upstairs, but once again, Buffy is terrible at subtlety (this is becoming my favorite Buffy character trait). Angel walks into view (fully clothed again, dang it), and Buffy claims he’s her history tutor. Joyce is not thrilled, but goes upstairs.
Buffy pretends to send Angel out, then sneaks him up to her room. With the Three out there, it might be too dangerous for him to leave. She offers him the bed, but he declines. She changes into her pajamas and he does NOT peek, unlike a certain other character I could mention. The grim revelation that Angel’s family was killed by vampires briefly ruins the flirty mood. Before Buffy can learn any more about him, he deflects by awkwardly complimenting her. It’s adorable, and a bit sad. They settle in to sleep, Buffy on the bed and Angel on the floor. Angel makes a comment that suggests he’s been single for a long time, which makes Buffy happy.
The next day at school, Xander is very alarmed and Willow very starry-eyed over Buffy’s tale of the previous night, which was evidently much more detailed on the Angel parts than the vampire attack parts. Giles waves aside the Plot B talk: they need to discuss the Three. It’s time for Buffy’s training to include weapons! Xander thinks Buffy should hide out at his house until the Three aren’t a threat anymore, a suggestion that has nothing to do with his jealousy, I’m sure. However, Giles says the Three won’t be a problem; the Order of Aurelius are big fans of vampire seppuku, so the Three will be offering up their lives in penance for their failure.
Cut immediately to the Ominous Church/Cavern Set, where the Three are doing exactly that. This seems like a serious waste of perfectly good minions to me. The Three had Buffy AND Angel on the ropes; they only survived because they were able to flee. Why not give the Three a couple more strikes before killing them for failing? Oh well. The Master talks to the Anointed about what a serious business it is to kill fellow vampires, and then Darla gleefully stakes them.
Back at the library later that day, Buffy opens Giles’s weapons cabinet and is psyched to learn how to use the crossbow. The weapons cabinet is in the book cage, where they locked Hyena!Xander the previous week. Did none of the kids know about those weapons then? Why did they lock a serious threat in the armory? *sigh* Whatever. Anyway, Giles insists that the crossbow comes later; first Buffy has to master the quarterstaff. Buffy lays him out on the floor with the quarterstaff in about ten seconds. Time for the crossbow!
That evening at Buffy’s house, Angel is still in her room. I used to be really confused by this. Why did she expect him to still be there? She sneaks food from the dinner table into a big plastic baggie for him and everything. But I’ve thought about it, and it’s probably because of that nasty wound he got. She expects him to need a lot of rest after that. So anyway, she gives him the food and has an enormous foot-in-mouth moment when she thinks he read her diary. She is deeply mortified, but he cuts through her babbling by telling her that he spends a lot of time thinking about kissing her.
Well, why think when one can act? They kiss! It starts out slow and sweet but quickly heats up. Then he breaks away all of a sudden and turns around. Buffy tries to pull him back, and when he faces her again, we see that he is a VAMPIRE. Oh no! Buffy screams, Angel dives out the window, and Joyce comes rushing in to see what was wrong.
The next day at school, Buffy is still reeling. She doesn’t understand what Angel’s been doing this whole time if he’s just working for the Master. Willow is sympathetic. Giles doesn’t see how Angel could possibly be a good guy if he’s a vampire. Xander is thrilled that his biggest competition is now disqualified. *smacks Xander over the head* Buffy definitely isn’t over Angel yet, though, which horrifies Xander. Cordelia walks by, ranting about knock-off dresses or whatever.
Cut to a poorly lit cement hallway. Angel enters, then goes into a basement apartment. It’s a really nice set. Darla is waiting for him there. Looks like he’s the “personal interest” the Master said she had. They haven’t seen each other for about a century, and she doesn’t approve of his current lifestyle. He hasn’t been hunting people, he’s been helping the Slayer, and he’s been living “above ground.” Uh, two things. First, basement apartment. Second, are you really going to tell me that you prefer living in a sewer, Darla? Then again, you do look remarkably well-groomed, so I guess you’re making it work. Kudos. She tries to remind Angel of how fun it is to live like a normal vampire. It looks like she’s been spying on him and Buffy, too, because she knows Buffy knows he’s a vampire.
The Scoobies are researching Angel in the library. Giles finds record of Angelus, “the one with the angelic face” (Buffy and I concur). They know this means Angel, because he has the same tattoo described in the text. Xander is horrified that Buffy has seen this tattoo. Angel is at least 240 years old, but there’s been no record of him hunting for the better part of a century. Willow thinks this means he could be a good vampire after all, but Giles (for Plot A reasons) and Xander (for Plot B reasons) disagree. Buffy is torn.
Down in the Master’s lair, Darla is plotting to get Angel back. She thinks if Buffy attacks him, he’ll kill her to save himself. The Master is delighted with this plan.
That evening, Buffy and Willow are attempting to study for their history test, but they give up after about two seconds and start talking about boys again. Willow has fantasies about Xander kissing her, but the idea of acting on them terrifies her. According to Buffy, Angel is an unbelievably good kisser. Behind them in the bookstacks, Darla is eavesdropping. Buffy doesn’t think she can bring herself to fight Angel, because he’s never done anything to hurt her. Judging by Darla’s expression, she thinks she can do something about that.
Cut to Buffy’s house, where Joyce is working on bills when there are suddenly a lot of eerie creaking noises. Darla is lurking outside the house! She comes to the door and tricks an invitation out of Joyce by pretending she’s another of Buffy’s history tutors. (I’m not sure what it says about Joyce that she believes Buffy would have three different history tutors.) Darla is not trying very hard to scale back her creep-factor—lots of unsubtle vampire innuendos—, but Joyce is a Muggle, and she doesn’t pick up on it.
Outside, Angel comes walking up, evidently hoping to clear things up with Buffy. He chickens out before he can knock, though, and starts to leave. Then he hears a scream, so he runs around back and bursts into the kitchen. Darla tosses a bleeding, unconscious Joyce into his arms. With the blood right in his face, he vamps out. Exit Darla and enter Buffy! Oops.
The next scene opens with Angel coming crashing out the window of Buffy’s house. Buffy tells him if he comes there again, she’ll kill him. Looks like Darla’s plan is working! Buffy gets Joyce to the hospital. She’s going to be fine, but she’s very confused. Buffy is furious at herself for not dealing with Angel sooner. She’s on the warpath now. Giles advises caution, so Buffy breaks out the crossbow.
In Angel’s apartment, Darla is taunting him about Buffy wanting him dead now. She tries to convince him that her way of living is better, and he reaches his breaking point. One way or another, things are about to change dramatically.
Crossbow-wielding Buffy goes to the Bronze. (Isn’t the Bronze closed for fumigation? As in, full of cockroach-killing fumes that are also not healthy for humans to breathe? Why is this the ideal location for a showdown?) Meanwhile, at the hospital, Giles discovers from Joyce that it was actually Darla who attacked her, not Angel. He rallies Willow and Xander and they head out.
Angel is lurking in the poorly-lit Bronze. He and Buffy exchange banter that’s less flirty and more threatening. He keeps jumping around in the shadows while she tries to figure out where to aim the crossbow. The only actual fighting they do is one kick each. Then she aims the crossbow at him and he freezes. His face shifts back to human features and he dares her to kill him.
Instead of shooting him through the heart (which we know she can do, based on a vengeance-y training montage a few minutes ago), she shoots the wall next to him and demands an explanation for his behavior since they met. This is the only time Plot A has felt so personal for her, and she’s struggling with it.
Angel admits that he's the vampire who killed his family, and all their friends, and everyone else he felt like killing for over a century. However, he wasn’t the one who attacked Joyce. We finally learn why, in spite of Giles’s insistence that vampires can only be evil, Angel hasn’t hunted humans for so many years. Unlike other vampires, he has a soul. He’s had to live with the memories and guilt of what he did for his first century and a half as a vampire. His existence is a living hell. He concludes his speech by telling Buffy that this still doesn’t mean he’s human—he wanted to kill her.
Buffy drops her crossbow and walks to him, baring her throat. She’s called his bluff. Maybe part of him wants to kill her, but the soul is what’s in control. She has no intention of killing him anymore, and she has implicitly accepted him as one of the good guys. Judging by his expression, this means a great deal to him. I don’t think it would be a stretch at this point (even without relying on knowledge of future episodes of both shows) to say that people who believe in him have been few and extremely far between.
The moment is broken by Darla, who isn’t happy that her plan didn’t work. Giles, Willow, and Xander are on their way to stop the fight and tell Buffy who really attacked her mom (although Xander is still living in his fantasy world where Angel is unambiguously a Plot A threat and therefore not a Plot B threat to his crush on Buffy). Darla reveals that she is the vampire who turned Angel, and that they have a very long, very intimate history. She’s angry enough at Buffy for stealing Angel’s affections that she’s not pulling punches anymore. She brought guns to a crossbow fight. The first bullet hits Angel, incapacitating him for the moment. Then she starts firing at Buffy.
Giles, Willow, and Xander are close enough to hear the gunfire, so they hasten their approach. Buffy shoots Darla, but misses her heart, so it does nothing but make her pause and taunt for a bit, then keep shooting. Just when Darla corners Buffy, Angel rears up and stakes her in the back. She has time to stare at him in shock and betrayal before she turns to dust. He looks at Buffy, then turns and walks away.
The Master is in a towering rage over Darla’s death. The Anointed assures him that they’ll have their victory soon, Darla or no Darla, even if Angel is on the Slayer’s side.
Back at the Bronze the next night, club-goers are enjoying the newly cockroach-free, bullet-riddled atmosphere. No, wait, apparently someone cleaned that up too. Angel has come to see Buffy and find out how she and her mom are doing. The two of them talk about how nothing between them can ever work, but they’re gazing very intently into each other’s eyes while they’re saying it. They kiss. When they pull apart, he has a huge welt on his chest in the shape of the cross necklace he gave her.
I freaking love this episode. I’ve watched it more times than any other episode in the entire series. At one point, I think I actually had it memorized. This is easily the best episode of the show so far. On top of that, we’ve known Angel is a vampire for half of one episode, and he’s already the best example of the tortured vampire trope in the entire genre. Serious props to both Davids involved (writer David and actor David). The inclusion of Angel’s story opens the series up to much deeper themes than it’s had so far. The focus will no longer always be about the problems teenagers face as they grow up; it can also be a show about serious universal issues like redemption and free will.
All the episodes up to this point (except “Teacher’s Pet”) have had elements of “things are not as they seem.” People who look like innocent humans are actually vampires. Jesse has been turned into a vampire when we thought he was going to be part of the main group. Amy is actually her mom. The Anointed is actually a little boy. The zookeeper was behind it all along. All of these twists have built up the expectation that the reveal of Angel as a vampire is all there is to it. Buffy finds out her crush is actually evil, and she has to deal with it. The real twist is that he’s not evil, but it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well without all those earlier twists to build on. It was masterfully done, and it raises the standard of the whole show from kitschy teen horror to something with the potential for serious lasting impact—which is exactly what it has had in the nearly 19 years since the episode aired.
Buffy’s intuition and capacity to forgive and accept others play a major role in this episode. At first, before we know about Angel’s soul, these qualities seem like they’re going to be her downfall. Buffy has always thought with her heart more than her head, and now she’s in a situation where she has to make life-or-death decisions regarding someone she has very strong feelings for. Logic would suggest that because Angel is a vampire, he must be evil, but her instincts still tell her otherwise, and she’s deferring to them. When it appears that Angel has hurt her mother, she reacts with the same kind of rage we saw in “Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,” but when she confronts Angel in the Bronze, her need to know how she could have been so wrong about him is what saves the day. When it does turn out that Angel is good, Buffy’s instincts are validated, and she comes out a stronger character than ever. Watching this episode again also helped me realize some of the deeper reasons I've always loved Buffy and Angel together, but which I don't think I ever quite managed to articulate before. Buffy is an outcast from human society because she's the Slayer, and Angel is an outcast from human society because he's a vampire with a soul. They're kindred spirits, two people trapped in limbo between the human world and the demonic one. And before Buffy knew what Angel was, she still saw him as a fellow outcast. He had no friends, he was always showing up alone, and like her, he was taking serious risks. Add all that to David Boreanaz's ridiculous good looks, and of course she was going to start falling for him.
Willow continues to live vicariously through Buffy’s romantic life. She hasn’t changed at all but her support for Buffy is really important, because it’s not coming from anywhere else.
Giles intrigues me in this episode. He starts out firmly believing that there’s no way around vampires being automatically evil, but you can tell there’s just a sliver of doubt when the empirical evidence fails to prove that Angel has been hunting and killing as usual for the last century. He still doesn’t have any ironclad reason to believe Angel isn’t evil when he learns that Darla was Joyce’s real attacker, but he goes to tell Buffy the truth anyway. I really like this hint that Giles is capable of questioning what he believes to be established facts. He can and does think for himself.
Xander’s crush is still entirely characterized by jealousy and selfishness, so I guess he really didn’t learn anything from “The Pack” after all. He’s way too happy that Angel is a vampire when he should be concerned for his friend and how she’s going to deal with this.
Cordelia’s really only in this episode for two moments of drive-by Queen Bee behavior, although this may be the first time she’s pitted against Xander rather than Buffy or Willow.
Obviously this episode is huge for Angel’s character development. He goes from being just the gorgeous mystery guy who occasionally helped Buffy (and gave her jackets and necklaces) to being a vampire with a soul who’s spent the last century tormented by his past evil and still struggles with his demonic nature on a daily basis. This is the first time watching this episode where Angel’s behavior in the Bronze has made sense to me. Maybe it was obvious and I just never picked up on it before, but he isn't going there to kill Buffy, he's going there to get her to kill him. He tells Buffy “I wanted to kill you tonight,” but earlier, he told Darla “I want it finished.” When he said that, he knew Buffy blamed him for the attack on her mom. She hated him and wanted him dead. He may have a soul, but he’s still a vampire, so there is a part of him that will always want to kill Buffy, no matter how much the soul cares about her. Helping Buffy has been the first thing in a hundred years of tortured self-imposed exile to give his existence meaning. If she wants him dead, then what’s the point? I think his line to Darla was about wanting to end his own life, not Buffy’s. Then, when Buffy bared her neck to him instead of trying to kill him, it proved she could still trust him after all, so it rekindled his hope. It did more. He’s never been able to challenge Darla before, but he kills her to save Buffy’s life. His expression afterward (and the fact that he leaves) proves that it really hurt him to do this, but Buffy already means more to him than all his history with Darla. Unlike Xander's crush, Angel's feelings for Buffy come across as going much deeper than his hormones, and it's not about him. He flirts with her and gives her a necklace and a jacket, yes, but there's no sense that he's doing any of this as a deliberate ploy to win her approval or to claim her (unlike Xander's bracelet). His first priority is helping her, even if it means he gets his arm or ribs sliced up. It's a very selfless motivation, and it's an excellent foundation on which to build lasting love. It's interesting that Angel's cross necklace saves Buffy's life, where Xander's engraved bracelet almost gets her killed. (In case anyone wasn’t clear, Angel has always been my favorite character.)
“How is it you always know this stuff? You always know what’s going on. I never know what’s going on!”
“Yes, well, you weren’t here from midnight until six researching it.”
“No, I was sleeping.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.