Janes (a True Stan) and Nerdy Spice (a New Fan) are watching all of Buffy together and comparing notes.
Season 2, Episode 21: “Becoming, Part 1”
In this episode, we get Angel’s origin story. Which I guess should tell us exactly what’s about to happen to Angel. But I digress.
First, we see Angel as a flirtatious young drunkard in Ireland in the 18th century, right before Darla turns him. Then we see him in 19th-century London taking confession from Drusilla, who catches him in the middle of snacking on a priest. Drusilla had the second sight even while alive, and she’s convinced she’s cursed. Angel just gives her some Our Fathers and sends her on her way. I guess after that he fell in love with her? Then there’s a pretty darn awkward scene of Roma people in the Rumanian woods in 1898, casting the spell on Angel to bring back his soul and the memory of everyone he’s killed.
Finally, we see how Angel got to be the Vampire That Cares Too Much. In Manhattan 1996, Angel is sort of … a bum? He is possibly living off rat blood, also he is hanging out with Rune from Gilmore Girls, a demon named Whistler who urges him to “become someone.” He sends Angel over to Buffy’s high school to witness the first moment she’s called to be a Slayer. Angel also watches her first kill from behind a gravestone. Then he tells Whistler he wants to help the Slayer. Whistler tells him that living in the world is hard when you can’t be a part of it, and also remarks creepily that Buffy, who is about 1/20th as old as they are, must be pretty. [Yeah, she’s only fifteen here! Gross. –Janes]
In the present, Buffy is still intent on killing Angel. She’s patrolling every night with a supportive (for once… and it’s not going to last long, don’t worry) but not very helpful Xander, looking for Angel. Which distracts her from studying for finals week. Willow offers to tutor Buffy for free, which leads to them discovering the floppy disk behind Ms. Calendar’s desk that has Angel’s soul on it. Giles doesn’t think they can do it without greater knowledge of the black arts, but Willow eagerly says she’s been snooping in Ms. Calendar’s files and might know enough to do it. Ah, she’s already a little curious about that witchy lifestyle! (I am aware that at some point she becomes a witch, but I thought it was after Tara died.) Xander gets INCREDIBLY mean here and accuses Buffy of wanting to disrespect Ms. Calendar’s memory to get her boyfriend back, even though it was her last wish to re-curse Angel. Shut up, Xander.
Giles visits some kind of antiquarian expert who’s unearthed a giant obelisk with writing on it. You know, from all those archaeological digs going on in Sunnydale. Somehow, within seconds, Giles is immediately able to detect that it’s also a container when the supposed expert thought it was solid. He advises the guy not to open it up until they’ve translated the text. Yeah, I think I can translate that text for you: it says “reanimated baddie.” Drusilla gets a premonition about the tomb: it has a “surprise inside.” Shortly after, Museum Guy starts hearing whispers coming from the tomb, and like a big idiot, goes over to it and touches it instead of running out of the room screaming his head off. Surprisingly, though, his stupidity doesn’t kill him–it’s Drusilla, who’s arrived with Angel and Spike to take the obelisk. Angel helpfully translates the obelisk for Spike and Dru: it contains a demon named Akafla (no idea how to spell this, nor do I really care) [LOL –Janes] who was turned to stone just before he could swallow the world whole in one breath and send everyone in it to hell. Inside the obelisk, they find Akafla waiting, with a little sword in his chest. A worthy person can pull it out and allow Akafla to swallow the world like he planned.
Kendra’s Watcher somehow also gets a premonition about that demon and sends her over to help, along with a special sword that can slay the demon if all else fails. Once they figure out what’s going on with this demon, they decide Willow should definitely try to do the curse in case Buffy can’t kill Angel in time. And conveniently, Giles just has an Orb of Thesulah lying around. So apparently this orb thing is like a generic object, and Jenny just went to the magic shop and bought one of approximately a billion of these, and they’re so common that Giles is using one as a paperweight. Ok, sure!
Angel drinks the blood of a topless young man to become worthy to pull out the sword. How do you define “worthy” when you’re a demon, anyway? Like just really, purely evil? Whatever it is, it looks like Angel doesn’t have it, because even though he glows all over when he grabs the sword, he can’t get it. Drusilla starts to cry, but Angel throws a vase, because he has a plan. Buffy gets a very public message to meet Angel in the graveyard or else other people will die, from a witch in a hoodie who sets herself on fire in the front of a classroom. (Luckily everyone at Sunnydale has the memory of a two-year-old, so they’ll all presumably forget about it by tomorrow.) Buffy goes to meet him and leaves Willow to cast the spell while she holds off Angel. Kendra, who stays behind to protect everyone, offers Buffy her stake, “Mr. Pointy.” Uh… moving on.
While Buffy fights with Angel in the graveyard, Willow sits on the library table and tries to cast the spell. Only in the middle of it, a bunch of vampires come and attack everyone. They’re not very good at it, though; the Scoobs manage to hold them off, except Willow, who gets smushed under a bookcase. Buffy’s about to stab Angel when he laughs and reveals that this was all just a decoy, so she runs away instead of killing him. Why, Buffy?! Just kill him first! Finally, Kendra and Drusilla get into a climactic one-on-one fight (hooray, girl power). Drusilla says some kind of incantation over Kendra: “Be in my eyes.” Then she whips Kendra in the neck with her nails, and she and her crew kidnap Giles. Somehow this kills Kendra, even though it is just a literal scratch.
Buffy is just a touch too late. She arrives in the library to find Kendra dead on the floor. Then we see a gun pointed at her and hear someone yell, “Freeze!” This would be a cliffhanger, but I feel like anyone who needs a gun pretty clearly can’t take Buffy.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Hey, it’s Darla! I missed Darla.
- Angel’s Irish accent is very convincing. Haha JK. It is terrible.
- Cordelia puts up with Xander’s fish stick rendition of his and Buffy’s patrol with a soft smile on her face. Girl must be in love, because Xander’s performance skills definitely don’t warrant that expression.
- Buffy drops a pencil behind the desk and almost but doesn’t discover the lost floppy disk with Angel’s soul on it. Then she gets deja vu and… drops the pencil again, and finds the floppy disk. Are we supposed to think Buffy’s got second sight too? Or am I forgetting a time when she actually dropped a pencil…?
- That horrified look Buffy gives Xander when he callously says he wants to kill Angel is kind of belated. I would give Xander that look for EVERY DAY OF HIS LIFE.
- Continuing the saga of Willow’s inexplicable fashion choices, I’m pretty sure that now she’s just wearing nurse’s scrubs.
- Rightfully having decided that any proper word to describe Xander’s behavior in that scene doesn’t belong on network TV, they have Willow say it on the phone to Buffy so we don’t hear it. “You kiss your mother with that mouth?” Buffy says. Heh.
- “Akafla turned to stone, as demons sometimes do”? They wrote that on the tablet?
- Wait, Kendra’s dead?! There isn’t even any blood! If her jugular had been cut there should have been some major gore.
Notes from a True Stan:
- When Darla “cuts” her own chest, her fingernail is not even close to touching her skin. She’s literally just smearing fake blood on her chest with her fingertip. I know they had no budget, but they could at least try!
- Should Buffy really be telling Angel ahead of time that she’s “taking the fight to him”? Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of an ambush?
- Poor Drusilla. She just wanted to be a nun. She and Darla both had such tragic lives.
- Love when Drusilla pretends to have a vision and Angel gets all excited, and then Spike says, “No, you ninny, she read it in the morning paper.” Hee.
- Hm, Giles says that if Willow performs the spell, she may “open a door she won’t be able to close.” I wonder how much of Willow’s arc Joss already had planned at this point.
- Just your weekly reminder that Xander is SUCH an asshole. He insists that cursing Angel again is a terrible idea, even though it would, you know, prevent more people from getting killed. He uses Ms. Calendar’s death as an excuse, then somehow manages to be an asshole to Giles, the one who’s actually grieving Jenny. And then of course he accuses Buffy of having selfish motives, even though he’s the one who is clearly motivated by insane jealousy. Hatred.
- Aw, the Bangel theme plays while she looks at the Claddagh ring. So sad!
- My closed captioning tells me that Kendra speaks in a [Jamaican accent], which seems generous.
- My partner has this funny thing where he constantly brings up Acathla and thinks the whole idea of Acathla is hilarious. “He’s the most powerful Big Bad that Buffy ever had!” he frequently exclaims. “He can suck the whole world into hell and he was only in two episodes!”
- Giles is one of the New Agers who uses the Orb of Thesulah as a paperweight! Hee!
- It’s so weird to me that Rune was supposed to be a regular in Angel, because he immediately bores me.
- Pre-Slayer Buffy is giving off all of the Bianca Stratford vibes.
- Buffy is so lucky that the first vampire she kills just patiently waits for her to stake him in the right place.
- This scene where the vampire immolates herself is so surreal and filmed so weirdly, I always forget it isn’t a dream.
- Is there a secret tunnel in the library stacks? How do vampires always sneak up from behind them?
- Poor Kendra. Brought back for literally two scenes, just to get killed by a fingernail. RIP.
Season 2, Episode 22: “Becoming Part 2”
We pick up right where we left off: poor Kendra is dead, and the cops have caught Buffy crouching over her body. She has no weapon, but the cops immediately arrest her because Snyder intimates that she’s a troublemaker. Then she decks one of the cops and starts running away, and another cop shoots at her! While she’s running away! (I mean, yes, cops do this all the time, but usually not with tiny white girls.)
Buffy sneaks into the hospital to make sure everyone’s okay (wearing her idea of an “incognito” outfit, namely a completely normal outfit with an adorable black beanie), and finds out that Willow is in a coma. Cordelia and Xander are fine, too, but eventually they realize that Giles is missing. Turns out he’s being tortured by Angel and co., because they think he’ll know what Angel is doing wrong with the Acathla ritual.
The police catch up to Buffy pretty quickly (see: beanie), but she gets help from an unlikely ally: Spike. He informs her that most vampires, while they like to “talk big” about the end of the world, understand that it’s not entirely practical. “I like this world,” he says, mostly for things like “dog racing” and “Manchester United” (hee!), but also because wiping out humans means wiping out their primary food source. Yeah, that does seem like an oversight.
Buffy takes Spike back to her house, and somehow doesn’t think to come up with a cover story for her mom, so they quickly improvise that they’re in a band together (ha!). Unfortunately, a vampire attacks them right at that moment, and Joyce sees Buffy stake him. Buffy has no choice but to just tell her: “Mom, I’m a vampire slayer.” Oh shit!
Joyce has some wild reactions to this news that are clearly meant to parallel the coming out process–”Are you sure you’re a Slayer?” “Have you tried not being the Slayer?” “This is because you didn’t have a strong father figure, isn’t it?” This is an–interesting parallel that I’m not sure how to interpret. Eventually, Buffy loses patience and points out what a truly terrible mom Joyce has been: “Open your eyes, Mom. What do you think has been going on for the last two years?” (My partner laughed out loud here, because, um, YEAH.) “How many times have you washed blood out of my clothes and you still haven’t figured it out?” Yikes. She yells that, like her mom, she wishes she were normal, but she’s not, and she has to go save the world. “Again!” Joyce tries to stop her, Buffy shoves her away, and Joyce says the words she’ll end up regretting: “If you leave this house, don’t even think about coming back.” Aw. Sad. Then Buffy goes back to the library–the crime scene she just fled!–and Snyder expels her from school. Jeez, rough day for Buffy.
Meanwhile, Angel has been torturing Giles for hours, but he still won’t tell him how to awaken Acathla. He’s so brave! Drusilla hypnotizes him with her psychic powers and appears as Jenny, and he’s so delirious that he reveals Angel’s blood is the key to awakening Acathla. (Wait, what? Can anyone who wants to awaken Acathla do it, or is Angel particularly evil/worthy for some reason? This whole Acathla thing is so high-stakes yet underdeveloped, it’s hilarious.)
Willow wakes up from her coma, and decides to try cursing Angel again. She sends Xander to tell Buffy what she’s doing, but at the last second he changes the message to “Kick his ass.” WHAT. THIS IS ACTUALLY UNFORGIVABLE WHY DOES HE EXIST.
As Willow does the spell, Buffy sneaks into the mansion with Xander–who rescues Giles–and rather dramatically announces herself by beheading one of Angel’s lackeys. Doesn’t seem like the best strategy, but then Spike joins her, so that adds an element of surprise. She and Angel get into a fairly bad-ass swordfight while Spike knocks Dru out and drives her out of town. In the middle of the fight, Angel manages to get his blood on Acathla, and Acathla slowly–very slowly–begins to wake up. At one point, Angel gets Buffy’s sword away from her, and they have this immortal exchange:
Buffy gets the upper hand in the fight, and is about to kill Angel, when finally Willow comes through with the spell. Angel collapses and tearfully asks her what’s going on–he doesn’t remember anything. Buffy is understandably suspicious (she didn’t even know Willow was trying again!), but then she realizes it’s really him. They embrace and kiss, but then she sees that the portal to Hell is opening behind them and remembers what she has to do. She kisses him one more time, says, “Close your eyes,” just like Darla did before killing him the first time, and then stabs him with her sword and sends him to Hell.
The next morning, Joyce finds Buffy’s clothes gone and a note on her bed. The Scooby gang hasn’t heard from her, but they surmise that she must have won the fight, since they’re all still standing. They speculate that she wanted to be alone, and Xander openly hopes that she had to kill Angel before the spell could work, because he’s consistently the worst. Buffy is actually watching them from afar, wearing the telltale baggy jeans of deep depression. She takes one last look, gets on a bus, and leaves Sunnydale.
Notes from a New Fan:
- Principal Snyder, of course, assumes Buffy is at fault for the murders. Guys, I’m still waiting for that whole “Principal Snyder was recruited specifically to be the principal of a school on a Hellmouth” revelation to come back. Is it gonna come back?!
- Buffy is now a wanted fugitive, so she visits Willow (one of her purported victims) in the hospital, wearing a black beanie. Sure, Buffy. I’m sure that will work.
- Question: if Xander’s conscious, shouldn’t the cops know by now that Buffy didn’t do it?
- I gotta say… this scene with Buffy and Spike… I kinda like it. I feel like I am in danger of being like a really dumb fangirl about these two in a few seasons. [Yeah, I’m not a Spuffy shipper, but they are SO much more fun together, it’s insane. –Janes]
- Wait, is Xander saying he loves Willow, like, he loves her? It’s hard to tell. Then again, maybe the fact that he doesn’t say something rude to Oz the second he shows up would indicate he just meant regular love, like a friend.
- I totally jumped when that vampire came out of nowhere to attack Mrs. Buffy on her way into the house!
- I kind of judge Mrs. Buffy for being so confused when Buffy reveals her secret identity… shouldn’t her response be, “Ohhh, now it all makes sense!” (Ha, and then Buffy basically makes the exact same point.)
- Buffy left Spike alone with her mom in the living room?!?!?!?!
- Poor Mrs. Buffy actually tries to make small talk. With Spike. “So do you live here in town?” She is just not ready for this. [The Joyce/Spike relationship gives me life. –Janes]
- Wow, a lot of people throwing shit in this episode. Angel with that vase? Mrs. Buffy with the glass?!
- I feel like even as an emo teen who just (well, not just) broke up with her boyfriend, Buffy obviously has more than one thing to lose. Like, her mom. Willow. Giles. Xander, I guess.
- I feel like this would’ve gone better for everyone if Spike had just staked Angel instead of trying to beat him with a tire iron.
- Giles is worried Xander is just a fantasy conjured by the vampires, until Xander points out, “Why would they make you see me?” Heh. Point for self-awareness, I guess.
- I enjoy both Buffy and Angel’s swordfight faces. Buffy looks sort of like she’s entering a password she’s not sure she remembers. Angel looks like he’s peeling off a Band-aid.
- Whoa! I really wasn’t sure if Buffy was about to jump into the vortex herself, or throw Angel in. This would be so shocking… if I weren’t absolutely sure Angel is coming back.
- Sarah McLachlan plays after Angel gets sucked down into hell. Fitting! I love this song.
- Me when I realize the kids don’t even know if Buffy survived the fight: Jeez, at least send them a text. Oh wait. There was no texting.
Notes from a True Stan:
- Ew, Buffy makes a joke about Xander hugging her as an excuse to “cop a feel.” It’s not funny if it’s probably true. [Ugh, I almost commented on this, but then I just blocked it out altogether. So gross. –Nerdy Spice]
- It’s the same detective from “Ted”! He must really have it in for Buffy.
- Our mom only knew a little bit about Buffy, but she always loved Spike because he’s a Manchester United fan.
- On rewatch, the sexual tension between Buffy and Spike was so obvious from the start. She literally stares into his eyes and says, “I hate you,” and then they just sort of smolder at each other.
- LOVE that when Xander finally tells Willow he loves her, she calls out for Oz. Serves him right!
- It’s a little weird that they’re using so many star-crossed lover-y tropes in the Xander/Willow relationship. She has an unrequited crush, he gets jealous of her boyfriend, she gets jealous of his girlfriend, he says “I love you” when she’s unconscious–in a season finale, no less. Were these two originally supposed to be endgame or something? If so, I’m so glad the writers changed their minds.
- My partner, when Spike tells Angel not to kill Giles: “Aw Spike is manipulating Angel! Angel’s so stupid!” He is kind of stupid.
- Now that Spike’s whole scheme has played out, I really don’t think the wheelchair ruse was necessary for any of it.
- It’s interesting that Whistler really plays up the “you’re always alone” theme to Buffy. Between this and Willow’s attraction to the dark arts, it feels like this season really seeded everyone’s arcs for the rest of the show.
- Wow, this stunt double looks nothing like Angel:
- Wait, how does Spike knock out Drusilla by squeezing her like an anaconda? Vampires don’t breathe!
- Sarah Michelle Gellar’s acting is SO GOOD this episode, but especially in the scene where she kills Angel.
- No matter how many times I watch this, I always tear up when “Full of Grace” comes on.
- What a great episode, and an even better finale. IMO only one of Buffy’s finales beats this one (fans will most likely know which one I’m talking about).