“Becoming: Part 2”
Written by Joss Whedon
Directed by Joss Whedon
The cop who showed up at the very end last time has brought friends, and they arrest Buffy. (Does that happen? Do scared teenage girls get arrested on crime scenes? Wouldn’t they ask her questions first? Why are they already convinced she’s Kendra’s killer?) She punches the cop who tries to cuff her, and then the other cop TRIES TO SHOOT HER. What the hell is wrong with Sunnydale’s police?
Nothing about this investigation is the way it should be. They should be calmly asking Buffy questions and telling her not to leave town, not pointing a gun at her when they first see her next to Kendra’s body (with neither a weapon nor blood on her), immediately arresting her, and then shooting at her when she resists. Also, how did they even find out something was happening in the library? Did Snyder hear noise and call them? Regardless, Buffy gets away.
At some later point, wearing different clothes, Buffy sneaks into the hospital to see if her friends are okay. Xander, a cast on his arm, finds her. Xander’s so downcast that he can’t even make off-color jokes. Willow is in a coma from head trauma. Buffy thinks the attack means that Angelus knew they were doing the curse. Willow’s parents are in Arizona, but they’re going to get in touch with Oz. Cordelia shows up. She was so scared that she just drove and drove, but now she’s back. None of them knows what happened to Giles.
What happened to Giles is that Drusilla’s minions hauled him back to the mansion, where Angelus plans to torture him until he tells him how to wake up Acathla (and also for the fun of torturing someone, since it’s been a while).
The same detective from “Ted” shows up at Buffy’s house with his partner to question Joyce about Buffy. Nice continuity with using that same actor, but I’m still having serious issues with this investigation. He tells Joyce to call if Buffy comes home.
When Buffy goes to Giles’s apartment, she finds Whistler instead. She has no patience for his habit of beating around the bush. He tells Buffy that the fight against evil is always a solo fight, and she’s going to have to be ready to give up everything.
She leaves, tired of listening to Whistler, and a cop car pulls up next to her. The cop points his gun at her and tells her to put her hands on her head. Pretty sure it’s against protocol to point a weapon at an unarmed civilian, even a murder suspect.
Before the officer can arrest Buffy, Spike shows up out of nowhere and beats him up. Buffy is shocked and very confused. She starts fighting him, but he’s actually here to team up with her. He tells her Angelus has Giles and is torturing him. He wants Buffy to help him kill Angelus so that he and Drusilla can ride off into the sunset. He’s not interested in destroying the world (and even he clearly sees the irony there), because lots of the things he likes are in the world, so that’d kinda suck. Buffy is deeply unimpressed by Spike’s motivations and very much hates him, but she’s kind of out of options.
Cordelia leaves Xander alone in Willow’s room. She’s still in a coma. He holds her hand and tells her he needs her, and she needs to wake up. It’s a very touching moment, possibly the first moment where we really see how much she means to him. He tells her he loves her, and she starts to wake up! But alas, the first thing she says is “Oz?” Ouch. Sorry, Xander, you missed you shot. Oz arrives, and they are super cute as usual.
Giles is tied to a chair, and his hands are bloody. Angelus is watching him, cleaning his glasses for him. Giles still hasn’t told him anything. Torture resumes.
Buffy and Spike are walking up to Buffy’s house when Joyce drives up, and she starts yelling, worried and confused. Unsubtle Buffy tries to explain Spike’s presence by saying they’re in a band together. She’s not buying it, but then a vampire jumps out at them. Joyce gets a lovely close-up look at his fangs and lumpy forehead. Buffy and Spike tag-team him. She has no choice now. She has to tell Joyce the truth.
Oz is still tending to Willow, and she and Buffy are on the phone. Willow doesn’t have brain damage, luckily. Buffy has completely given up on the notion of re-cursing Angelus. Buffy’s plan is to attack the mansion before daybreak to save Giles and kill Angelus before he can wake up Acathla. Joyce and Spike are sitting in the living room, awkwardly. Joyce vaguely remembers him from that time she smacked him with an axe.
Buffy returns to the living room to talk tactics with Spike. Spike wants to get Drusilla out and the two of them will never come back. Buffy will only let him take Dru if Giles survives. Joyce keeps asking a lot of nervous questions. Apparently she did think Buffy killed Kendra. Buffy loses patience with her very quickly, and that’s the last straw for Joyce. She demands an explanation. It’s a bit of a huge revelation to drop on her so quickly, and she doesn’t handle it well. She isn’t seeing that it means Buffy was never a delinquent like she thought; she’s just seeing that Buffy isn’t listening to her. She tells Buffy that if she leaves, she won’t let her come back. Buffy leaves. Joyce instantly regrets making that ultimatum.
Willow still wants to do the curse. She’s very determined. There’s basically nothing else they can do to help Buffy, so the other kids agree. Willow sends Xander to tell Buffy what they’re up to.
Angelus is still torturing Giles, and there’s a really pretty painting/silk tapestry thing on the wall.
Even after everything Angelus has done to him, Giles is still full of snark. Spike wheels in, pretending he needs the wheelchair, and he tells Angelus that Giles won’t be any good to them dead. Angelus is suspicious of Spike’s non-violent attitude, but Spike has another idea for how to get information out of Giles. He calls Drusilla in.
Buffy is at the library to get Kendra’s special sword. Snyder walks in. He doesn’t care if the police will eventually realize Buffy is innocent; he feels he has cause to expel Buffy, and he does. Buffy’s parting line to him (as she draws the sword and he recoils) is kind of annoying: “You never got a single date in high school, did you?” So? Neither did I. (Unless you count making kung-fu short films with this guy I liked in junior year.) I wasn’t interested in dating in high school, and I don’t feel like I wasted my time there. If her point is that Snyder wanted to date in high school but was always rejected by the girls he asked, then I guess that’s fine (and probably true). She walks away with the sword, and Snyder pulls out a chunky ‘90s cell phone and calls someone in the Mayor’s office. Awesome.
It’s Drusilla’s turn to get info out of Giles. She uses her psychic abilities to first read something in his mind, and then to make him think she’s Jenny. “Jenny” promises that they’ll be able to be together, and he tells her that they have to get Angelus away from Acathla, because if Angelus uses his own blood, he’ll be able to wake him up. Then they kiss. The camera pulls back, and it’s actually Drusilla. Angelus wants to just kill Giles now, but Spike hastily points out that he might’ve lied, so they need to keep him alive. Spike and Angelus go from impressed to nonplussed about Drusilla’s discovery as Drusilla keeps making out with Giles (but can you blame her really?). Drusilla stops kissing him, and he realizes what he just revealed.
Buffy goes back to Giles’s apartment to ask Whistler for more info. If Angelus uses his blood to wake Acathla, then only Angelus’s blood will put Acathla back down. Buffy’s fine with that. She doesn’t think she has anything left to lose. Whistler isn’t so sure.
Buffy’s on the way to the mansion and Xander finds her. She tells him his job is to get Giles out while she’s killing vampires. Xander does not pass on Willow’s message about the curse. Instead, he says that Willow said to kick Angelus’s ass. (You’d think I’d be in rant mode now, but I’m actually the angry kind of calm, which is much worse.)
Angelus is doing the ritual again, now with his own blood. He says “And now, Acathla, you will be free.” And then he adds another line, which I’m pretty sure wasn't part of the ritual. “And so will we all.” I think this goes back to what I was saying a few reviews back, about how Angelus is so disturbed by his memories of the human emotions that came from his soul, particularly after getting possessed by Grace Newman’s ghost, that he just wants to end everything.
Buffy announces her presence by beheading a minion. Spike attacks Angelus with a crowbar, and Buffy fights another minion. Drusilla tackles Spike off of Angelus. Buffy fights the other minion while Spike fights Drusilla. Xander heads for Giles. At the hospital, Willow starts the curse. Xander gets a delirious Giles out. While Buffy is occupied with the minion (who she finally stakes) and Spike with Drusilla, Angelus gets up and pulls the sword out of Acathla. Uh-oh. Spike knocks Drusilla out…by…choking her? What? This makes as little sense as Angel not being able to do CPR because he “has no breath.” I distinctly remember at least two moments on Angel when some idiot tries to choke him out and he basically mocks them for trying that on a vampire, who doesn’t need oxygen to function and can therefore not be knocked out by either an air choke or a blood choke.
Halfway through the curse, Willow suddenly gets taken over by some kind of powerful force. She switches from saying the curse in English to Romanian. Oz and Cordelia are both unnerved. In the mansion, Buffy and Angelus start swordfighting. Despite all the crowbar hits Angelus took from Spike, he’s a pretty formidable opponent for Buffy, giving her the longest, closest fight she’s ever had on the show. He gets Buffy on the ropes, disarming her and closing in. It’s about then that Spike finishes knocking Dru out, and he notices that Angelus is about to kill Buffy. He shrugs and leaves.
Angelus stalks towards Buffy, and he says “So that’s everything, huh? No weapons, no friends, no hope. Take all that away, and what’s left?” Then he goes to stab her through the FACE, and she CATCHES THE BLADE and smacks the hilt into his face. Her answer? “Me.” She is BACK in this fight, and she immediately has the upper hand this time. Just when she’s winding up for a finishing blow (Which, incidentally, looks an awful lot like one designed to decapitate. Wasn’t she supposed to use his blood to put Acathla back to sleep? How will she do that if he’s dust, exactly?), Willow finishes the curse. The Orb of Thesulah vanishes, and Angelus’s eyes fill with the same golden-white light as in the 1898 flashback.
Angel is back. He’s very confused, but happy to see Buffy! The Buffy/Angel theme starts playing. Buffy slowly lowers the sword, completely taken aback. She doesn’t know how it happened, but she knows it’s Angel. He hugs her, and she hugs him back, so glad it’s him that she seems to be in pain. But behind him, Acathla is waking up. The portal to hell opens. Angel wants to know what’s going on, but she tells him not to worry, and they kiss. She’s crying. She tells him she loves him, tells him to close his eyes, kisses him again, and then impales him with the sword. He still has no idea what’s going on, so he reaches a hand out to her. The portal closes, taking him with it.
Buffy walks past her house. Inside, Joyce checks Buffy’s room. She finds a note on the bed and Buffy’s empty closet. She sinks down onto Buffy’s bed, crying.
The Scoobies, including Giles with casts on his broken fingers and Willow in a wheelchair, talk about what happened. They keep calling the curse a “cure,” which seems really weird. Soullessness isn’t a disease, it’s a state of being. Anyway. They’re all confident that Buffy will show up soon (since the world didn’t end), whether or not the curse worked in time to save Angel. Buffy watches them from the sidewalk in front of the school, a duffel bag over her shoulder, wearing her sad overalls again.
She walks away, then catches a bus out of town.
Hoo boy, “Becoming: Part 2” is a very different finale than “Prophecy Girl.” This time, Buffy’s life isn’t what’s at stake. No, just everything else. One of her friends died and two others were badly injured. Her Watcher was tortured. She was expelled, kicked out of her house, and accused of murder. And then, she had to sacrifice the man she loves to save the world. If “Prophecy Girl” was about Buffy learning to put her calling above her life, then “Becoming” was about Buffy learning that she has to keep fighting even if she loses all the things she thought she was fighting for. It’s a fantastic conclusion to an excellent season.
I’ve kind of already covered what’s going on with Buffy in this episode. She loses everything and still finds the strength within herself to choose the world over the one thing she still has left to lose. But when it’s all gone, she’s a murder suspect who’s been expelled and kicked out of her house (as far as she knows, not having encountered Joyce since their fight), so even though the Scoobies would definitely be there for her if she went to them, it would be a huge risk to stay in Sunnydale. Buffy is both incredibly admirable and incredibly sympathetic here. She’s more of a hero than ever, but it hurts to watch her struggle through all this. Regarding her fight with Joyce, I don’t think Joyce is a bad parent. I actually think it’s kind of wonderful how flawed she is. For two years now, she’s been dealing with her daughter’s reputation for delinquent behavior, complete with a criminal record for arson. The only line from Joyce that really shocks me is when she sounds relieved to find out that Buffy didn’t kill Kendra. Did she really believe Buffy did it until then? She did watch Buffy knock Ted down the stairs, leaving him apparently dead. After that, she tried to cover for Buffy with the police. So maybe she does think Buffy might be capable of something like that, but her instinct is to be protective anyway. I don’t think for a second that she genuinely wanted Buffy out of the house. She made her ultimatum in anger and instantly regretted it.
Last episode, Giles told Willow that if she did the curse, she’d be opening a door she might not be able to close. This is absolutely what happens when she succeeds with the curse this time around. We can see the moment that door opened, and those of us who have seen the entire series know that it never closes. When Willow, fresh out of a coma and definitely still physically weaker than usual, insists on doing the curse, it’s the culmination of all the strength she’s shown over the course of the season.
There’s an interesting moment for Cordelia when she comes to the hospital. She’s kicking herself for being such a coward and running away. Willow’s resolve to act is very obvious, but Cordelia’s is subtler. I don’t think we’ll be seeing her act like a frightened little girl again. Her feelings for Xander have been growing softer and softer ever since their first kiss. She’s been aiming less and less vitriol at him lately. I think she might actually be in love with him now.
Xander. What the hell, Xander. I don’t think I like him very much at any point in this episode. Just as Cordelia’s showing signs that she loves him, he’s realizing he might love Willow. His confession is the kind of moment that would’ve been extremely welcome at the beginning of the season, but not so much now. I guess I can’t really be angry with him for realizing he loves Willow. Nobody can help what emotions they feel, and so far, he hasn’t done anything about it. But what I darn well can be angry about is his lie to Buffy. Willow and Buffy both trust Xander completely, and he betrays their trust because he hates Angel. He makes what Willow’s doing meaningless, and he deprives Buffy of the chance to plan her battle strategy with full awareness of the situation. Maybe Buffy still wouldn’t have been able to stop Angelus from pulling the sword out of Acathla if Xander had told her the truth, but it’s entirely his fault that she was completely unprepared for the possibility that she would have to send Angel to hell rather than Angelus. Did he think Buffy wouldn’t do it? Does he have that little faith in her priorities?
I’m not sure we would have guessed in S1 (at least, not before “Prophecy Girl”) that Giles is strong enough not to break under torture. Not only does he not break, though; he figuratively spits in his torturer’s face. There’s no way he’s helping the monster who killed the woman he loves get what he wants. So, of course, the woman he loves is exactly the way to get under his defenses. That scene is so heart-wrenching.
I think Angelus sees Giles as his equal as much as Buffy is. Buffy is his primary nemesis because she and Angel had a much deeper emotional connection, but after Buffy, Giles is the one Angel was closest too. They worked together, both onscreen and off, enough for Giles to invite Angel into his flat. I don’t think everything Angelus has done to Giles has merely been an extension of his plans for Buffy. In the brief moment where we have Angel back, I think it’s a mark of how much he loves and trusts Buffy that when she impales him with a sword, his only reaction is to reach out for her.
“The whole earth might be sucked into hell, and you want my help because your girlfriend’s a big ho? Well let me take this opportunity to not care.”
“In order to be worthy, you must perform the ritual…in a tutu. Pillock.”
“You’re not real. It’s a trick. They get inside my head, make me see things I want.”
“Then why would they make you see me?”
“…You’re right. Let’s go.”
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.