Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
At the factory, Spike is anxious about his and Drusilla’s plan to destroy the world, because now Buffy and Angel know where they are and that the Judge is active. Also, the Judge still isn’t up to full strength. Drusilla is optimistic, and then she suddenly gets struck with a vision about Angel, which makes her sob…then grin. Uh oh.
We return to Angel’s apartment, and Buffy is still in Angel’s bed. He’s not though, and she sits up and looks around in confusion. Angel is out in the alley, and something is very wrong. He collapses to the ground. A…um, red-light district businesswoman notices him while she’s having a smoke, and she comes over to help. He gets up again, his back to her, and then he whips around in vamp face and drains her blood so enthusiastically that he then exhales the smoke from her throat.
Okay, two things. One, there is no way his face would be clean after a feeding like that. It’d be more like this:
Two, HELLO THERE ANGELUS. Wait, no, I’m not supposed to be excited about that. I’m supposed to be horrified and worried. It’s just hard. Back in high school, my friends and I all agreed that if we ever encountered Angelus, we’d pretty much go willingly to our deaths. I’m not sure that’s changed. He’s one of my all-time favorite villains, and somehow he’s even sexier than Angel. But I can keep the fangirling under control enough to properly sympathize with the characters in this episode, I promise.
It’s morning! Buffy carefully sneaks into her house, and her mom finds her just as she’s going up the stairs. Buffy is rather jumpy, worried that Joyce will somehow know that she spent the night having sex. These fears are unfounded, although Joyce does notice that something’s different.
At the library, the Scoobies minus Buffy and Angel are trying to figure out what to do. Buffy and Angel haven’t checked in, and there’s no evidence that the Judge is still missing any parts. Xander wants to go to the factory to rescue Buffy immediately, but Cordelia thinks this would be pointless and suicidal. He snaps at her, and for the first time in the history of their verbal sparring, she actually seems hurt. Willow agrees with Xander, and they’re about to storm straight over to the factory when Buffy arrives with the bad news that the Judge has been reassembled. She’s confused and worried because nobody has heard from Angel. Everyone goes to class while Giles keeps researching.
Willow catches up to Buffy in the hall. Her best friend senses are tingling, but she doesn’t know what to do. Jenny overhears some of their conversation.
At the factory, Drusilla is naming stars, and Spike is watching affectionately. He wants to know if she knows what’s up with Angel, when the man himself arrives. He’s rather more snarky than we’re used to, but acting like a good guy. The Judge grabs him and nothing at all happens. Oh hey, that means Angel’s totally evil now. Crap. Spike and Drusilla are delighted, and it seems like Angel is sort of automatically in charge. The welcome back party for Angelus is a lovely sustained shot that lasts for most of the scene. We see that Angel’s Claddagh ring is now heart pointing out. Spike mocks Angel for being wrapped around Buffy’s finger, to which Angel responds by snarling in his face, then smacking a kiss on his forehead. Angel wants to target Buffy specifically before they bring out the Judge.
Willow’s on the phone with Buffy, trying to reassure her that Angel is alive and okay. She still can’t find him. Xander gets sick of researching and goes to see how Cordy’s doing in the stacks. So far, they’re just finding more of the same about the Judge. Xander apologizes for being rude to her earlier. Cordelia isn’t very appeased, but she’s still down for a make-out session. When they break away, Willow is standing there, looking deeply hurt. She runs away. Xander pursues, and Willow totally lays into him. She’s not so much angry as heartbroken. Xander picked their lifelong rival and the girl who has bullied Willow personally for years over her. Of all his possible make-out partners, Cordelia hurts the most.
Buffy walks up to her house, then turns around and leaves. She goes to Angel’s apartment instead. He’s there! And he’s shirtless.
She’s deeply relieved, but that doesn’t last long, because he starts being super callous about their night together. He’s talking like the douchiest of douchebags. He turns to leave, and she tries to get him back with an “I love you,” to which he responds with an indifferent “Love you too,” and then leaves.
Jenny is talking to her uncle, who is explaining that their clan serves only vengeance. She still wants to let Angel work with them, but her uncle tells her that it’s too late, because Angel already lost his soul. The curse was designed to make him suffer; if he’s not suffering, if he’s happy, then it breaks. Like true love’s kiss, only in the worst way possible.
Willow comes back to the school. Xander is relieved, but Willow is still not happy with him. They’re still trying to get past the “no weapon forged, it took an army” thing with the Judge, and this gives Xander an idea! The lights go out, and Angelus is there! He’s being creepy, guys. Don’t fall for it. Don’t fall for it! Willow, stop going towards him. Xander, why are you just doing what he says? Jenny shows up with a cross just in time for Angelus, in vamp face, to grab Willow by the neck. Before he can hurt her, Buffy arrives. She tries to get through to him, but there’s nothing to get through to. Xander waves Jenny’s cross in Angelus’s face, making him drop Willow. He grabs Buffy, kisses her hard on the mouth, and throws her against the wall before leaving. Buffy is now rather catatonic with horror.
In the library, everyone’s reeling from Angel’s transformation. Willow goes to Buffy to see if she’s okay. She’s really not. It occurs to Willow that Jenny knew before any of them that Angel was bad. Giles thinks something must’ve happened to change Angel, and he asks Buffy what it was. This sends Buffy even deeper into her spiral, and Willow figures out what happened. But things aren’t entirely awful, at least regarding the Judge. Xander still has a plan. He tells Cordelia and Willow to meet him with Oz’s van at Willow’s in half an hour.
At the factory, Angelus is gloating over how much he’s hurting Buffy, but since he’s only doing it emotionally, Spike isn’t very impressed. Drusilla is; it’s how he started with her. Yikes.
Buffy goes home. She finds the cross Angel gave her and starts crying. She pulls off the Claddagh ring Angel gave her, falls on her bed, and sobs.
Flashback to sexytimes! Then it changes to a funeral scene, where Angel tells Buffy she has to know what to see. What Buffy sees is Jenny. She comes marching into the school in the morning and slams Jenny into her desk right in front of Giles. Giles is appalled, but when Jenny admits that she’s from the clan that cursed Angelus, he’s shocked. Jenny confirms Buffy’s suspicion that her and Angel’s night together was what broke his curse. Giles realizes what they mean and gets very British about it. Buffy wants to curse Angelus again, and Jenny offers to take her to see her uncle.
Cut to her uncle’s hotel room! But his visitor is Angelus, not the good guys. Crap.
So, it’s been a whole day now, and it’s night again, and Xander, Cordelia, Willow, and Oz are just now pulling up to a military base (Sunnydale ALSO has a military base?!?). That was a really long half-hour, guys. Xander and Cordelia (dressed in what I guess is a trashy outfit) sneak through the fence. A soldier with a gun stops them and demands to know what they’re doing there. Xander whips out some surprisingly convincing soldier talk, and the guy lets them go inside the armory. Inside, Xander explains that he still remembers everything his Private Harris persona knew on Halloween.
In the van, Willow asks Oz if he wants to make out with her. Yes, he does, but he wants to wait until she wants to make out with him too. Right now, she just wants to make Xander jealous. It’s the most adorable speech ever. Willow recognizes this, and stares after him with an equally adorable smile.
Buffy, Giles, and Jenny arrive at Jenny’s uncle’s place. They find his body and a gross message written on the wall in his blood. Buffy’s determined to kill Angelus now.
At the factory, Angel, Drusilla, and the Judge are all set to head out, but Angelus mocks Spike a bit for his wheelchair first. Drusilla kisses Spike goodbye, and then Angelus sweeps around, taking her hand from Spike’s face and leading her away. Foreshadowing!
Xander brings Buffy the present he got her at the armory. She likes it. Jenny wants to help, but Giles sends her packing. The Scoobies, who now include Oz but not Angel or Jenny, head to the factory, but the villains are already gone. Except Spike, but he’s staying out of sight. Oz has an idea of where they’ve gone.
At the mall, Angel, Drusilla, and the Judge arrive with a bunch of minion vamps. The Judge fries a middle-aged guy unlucky enough to be right there on the exit stairs. Buffy and the Scoobies come marching in, hero style. Buffy doles out assignments. She shoots the Judge with a crossbow to get his attention. Then picks up the ROCKET LAUNCHER Xander stole for her and shoots him in the chest. Angelus and Drusilla realize what’s about to happen in time to jump to safety, but the Judge is stuck in the middle ages, so he has no idea. He gets blasted into bitty chunks. Buffy tells everyone to pick up the pieces, and she goes after Angelus. (Ew, Quest for Camelot posters on the walls.)
Angelus’s fist finds her face before she finds him, and he starts with the douchebag talk again. They fight. He’s doing better than her until the douchebag talk helps her mentally separate Angel and Angelus enough to really get into it. But when she gets him on the ropes, she can’t bring herself to stake him. He’s smug about this, until she kicks him in the crotch with Slayer strength.
Giles drives Buffy home. They sit in the car for a moment. Buffy’s blaming herself for all of this, but Giles refuses to indulge her. She had no idea what would happen. He’s in her corner all the way. *wibble* In the house, Buffy and Joyce watch a black-and-white movie and have cupcakes. An actress sings a thematically appropriate song. Joyce can tell that something is wrong, but Buffy isn’t talking about it.
“Innocence,” like “Angel” and “School Hard,” is a series game-changer. I think these three episodes are actually the stepping-stones that take Buffy the Vampire Slayer from silly, fun high school horror to the kind of show that sticks with you. “Innocence” proves that this show will not pull any emotional punches. Beloved characters can not only die; they can turn evil. There is never a safe moment for everyone to enjoy themselves, because that’s usually when these gut-wrenching twists will happen. Welcome to the Whedonverse.
Oh, Buffy. Someone needs to invent a way to hug fictional characters. She spends the first half of the episode torn between feeling abandoned by Angel and being terrified for his life (did he go back to fight the Judge, or did he just leave?), only for Angelus to make his debut by thoroughly sullying their night together with his douchebaggery. She and Angel made love, and it was her first sexual experience, so for him to make so light of it is deeply painful. But it turns out that the truth is even worse than that Angel is just a jerk who’s been pretending to love her to get in her pants. He lost his soul. The most important parts of himself, the parts she loved the most, are gone. Because of her. She spends the second half of the episode feeling like she’s the one who murdered the man she loves and replaced him with a monster. After all, Angel was willing to stop. If Buffy hadn’t overridden his hesitation, he’d still be here. It doesn’t matter to her that she only wanted to be close to Angel; she still blames herself for the consequences. She also can’t bring herself to kill Angelus, even though he’s made it abundantly clear that he isn’t Angel. It’s all too fresh. The parallels between Buffy and Drusilla continue, but they’ve taken a far more sinister turn. Now that we’ve seen what happens to Angel, we know that the Drusilla threatening Angel’s life in Buffy’s dreams was actually Buffy. And in “Innocence,” Drusilla figures out that Angelus’s plan is to do the same thing to Buffy that he did to Drusilla.
Willow finds out about Xander/Cordelia, and she is distraught. She takes it all out on Xander, and while Alyson Hannigan’s acting makes it impossible not to sympathize with her, she did kind of sit passively by the entire time she was crushing on him. At least Xander actually asked Buffy out. Willow just waited, looking on with longing but never acting. Xander can’t help that he never reciprocated those feelings, and it’s not wrong for him to be with Cordelia. But of course it would hurt for Willow to see that. Cordelia and her gang have bullied Willow all her life. Xander kissing her would feel like a betrayal even if she didn’t have a crush on him. Thankfully, Oz sets Willow straight about her attitude. He rejects her advances in such an endearing way that she stops hurting over Xander and stops seeing Oz as a backup plan. But all that romantic stuff aside, I really love how perceptive Willow is about Buffy. They’ve grown so close as friends. She doesn’t need Buffy to tell her what happened with Angel to figure it out, and she hurts for her. I feel like it’s a bit of a missed opportunity that they didn’t have a scene alone together to go with Buffy’s scenes with Giles and Joyce.
Xander is willing to risk his life to go rushing after Buffy. We’ve also seen that he’ll do this for Willow. Despite heroic moments like in “Some Assembly Required” where he got Cordelia out of the fire, he hasn’t really shown the same devotion to her. When Cordelia realizes how far behind Buffy and Willow she still is in his estimation, it hurts her. Despite the outwardly snarky disdain she shows Xander, she really does care about him, and she wants it to be mutual. Xander realizes the error he made, so he goes to apologize. It’s the sweetest, most relationship-like moment the two of them have had. Xander is also the one who saves the day, thanks to his rocket launcher idea. I like the Xander in this episode. Please can we keep him? He’s wonderful. I also sympathize with Cordelia more than I ever have. She can be very endearing once she drops her emotional walls a little (although she was also pretty endearing at Buffy’s party).
Giles spends the first half of the episode being very British, not realizing that he might need to tread carefully around Buffy regarding Angel. But as soon as he knows what’s going on, he’s 100% on her side. Even at the expense of his own relationship with Jenny. I don’t see Jenny hiding her identity as a Gypsy as a huge betrayal. Everything else she’s revealed about herself has been true, and the secrets of Giles’s past nearly got Jenny killed. If it was just for his own sake, I don’t think Giles would have kicked Jenny out, but this is about Buffy. Buffy didn’t know what would happen if she and Angel consummated their relationship, but if Jenny had spoken up sooner about why she was in Sunnydale, they might’ve been able to do something to make sure Angelus couldn’t come back. Giles’s final scene with Buffy in the car is a really beautiful parallel to when she showed him nothing but acceptance and support in “The Dark Age.” This is Buffy and Giles at their best.
Angel is gone, so this section of the review is now about Angelus. The differences are staggering, and major kudos to David Boreanaz for this performance. Angelus walks, talks, and even dresses differently than Angel. You could pick just about any screencap with him in it, and I'd be able to tell if I'm looking at Angel or Angelus. Angel is bowed down with guilt; Angelus stands tall and radiates confidence and self-satisfaction. And no wonder Angel is wracked with guilt all the time. Angelus doesn’t just kill people; he destroys them emotionally first. Angel has been using his powers of perception and insight to help Buffy defeat monsters for a year, but Angelus uses them to manipulate people with scalpel precision. Of course he would want to make Buffy into his next Drusilla. I doubt very much that any woman has ever been as deeply in love with him as Buffy is, so she represents a unique opportunity. He can hurt her in ways it wouldn’t be possible to hurt anyone else. But it’s not just about hurting her—it’s also about cleansing himself of the memories of Angel’s love for Buffy. It’s a fascinating parallel to Angel’s own desire to be redeemed from Angelus’s evil. Neither persona can just let go of what mattered to the other. Each has to attempt to destroy everything the other stood for.
Souls in the Buffyverse
How souls work in the Buffyverse has been a topic of serious debate (mostly because the writers weren't very consistent). Why is there such a huge difference between Angel and Angelus? Why can’t the Judge burn Angelus when he could burn Glasses Vamp and didn’t like Spike and Drusilla’s attachment to each other? My theory is that the personality is divided into three parts. There’s the physical body, which supplies selfish human desires. Everyone has things they want and things they’re tempted by, but no two people have the exact same set of temptations and desires. The second part is the mind, which houses intellectual capacity, the ability to reason, memories, knowledge, skills, and abilities. These too differ widely from person to person. Finally, there’s the soul. The soul provides the most essential piece of personhood: free will. Without it, there’s no way to rise above selfish desire. At best, without the soul, the neutral mind can postpone acting on desire until a more advantageous time, but it can’t prevent it. The soul is good. It gives the mind reasons to genuinely overcome selfish inclinations, and it punishes it for failing. The soul is where guilt, remorse, humility, and concern for others are housed. Most importantly, it’s where selfless love is housed. The body is capable of lust. The mind is capable of respect. The soul is the only part capable of love.
Vampires aren’t just the body and mind minus a soul, however. They also have a demon in place of a soul. It seems to me that the demons in vampires don’t have personalities of their own. There’s plenty of personality left behind in the mind and body they take over, even without the soul. The demon is just bloodlust and a desire to kill. The body is merely selfish; the demon is evil. Therefore, vampires are two parts human (the selfish and neutral parts), one part demon. There’s nothing in there to fight against the evil of the demon or the selfishness of the body, so vampires will always be selfish and evil, even if they have vastly different personalities.
Angelus is Liam’s body + Liam’s mind + vampire demon. Angel is Liam’s body + Liam’s mind (now including all of Angelus’s memories) + vampire demon + Liam’s soul. The presence or absence of Liam’s soul makes a profound difference, but Angel and Angelus aren’t really two different people, because Angelus isn’t really a person. Liam’s soul was terrible at overcoming the selfish desires of his body when he was alive, hence all the drinking and whoring. Liam was wasting his life, but he still wasn’t evil. He never wanted to hurt anyone. That came from the demon and the absence of the soul. When Angelus gets cursed, Liam’s soul is forced into an eternal struggle against the evil desires of the vampire demon, and these are desires he’s much better equipped to handle. The Kalderash people were massive jerks, though, because Liam’s soul had nothing to do with Angelus’s crimes, but it’s still the part of him that’s going to suffer for them.
I consider the fact that Angel has no memories of wherever Liam’s soul was while it wasn’t in his body to be evidence that memories are housed in the mind. (Season six spoilers.) Buffy remembers her time in heaven, though. So I think that normally, when someone dies, the mind and the soul both move on to wherever they’re going next. But when a person gets turned into a vampire, the soul gets kicked out by itself, and the demon latches onto the mind instead. These souls can’t really move on until the vampire dies and the mind is released from the demon. This would add an element of mercy to what Vampire Slayers do. They aren’t just killing demons, they’re freeing trapped souls.
I also have a theory about why Angel’s curse would break if he achieves perfect happiness. Human souls aren’t designed to be attached to dead bodies. They repel each other like matching poles on magnets. The curse goes against nature, binding a human soul to a dead body. Even if Angel doesn’t want to lose his soul, the soul is still automatically struggling to get out of this dead thing it’s trapped inside. When Angel is miserable, his soul is weaker. Not so weak that he gives in to the demon, but weak enough for the curse to hold his soul in place. The happier he gets, the stronger his soul becomes, until eventually, it’s simply too strong for the curse to hold. I do not think the Kalderash wanted Angelus to ever be freed again. They must’ve realized that he would come after them if he did. But because their motivation for cursing him was vengeance, they were only thinking about making him suffer. They trapped his soul when they should’ve tried to trap his demon.
“I’m naming all the stars.”
“You can’t see the stars, love. That’s the ceiling. Also it’s day.”
“I can see them. But I’ve named them all the same name, and there’s terrible confusion.”
“So do you guys steal weapons from the army a lot?”
“Well, we don’t have cable, so we have to make our own fun.”
12/14/2015 12:07:27 pm
Love that last paragraph! First time I've heard a theory for that dumb curse that actually makes it make sense. Headcanon accepted.
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The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.