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Old September 7 2011, 12:32 AM   #65
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Re: Once More, With Feeling: my big Buffy/Angel canon rewatch/reread/r

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The opening scene with Spike, Dru and the Judge shows that Spike wants to destroy the world at this point. So what changed between this ep and Becoming? It can't just about going along with Dru’s wishes - he is very impatient to start with the world destruction, because he’s bored. I think the difference is that Judge burning people would last a long time and involve a lot of mayhem and violence, which means fun for Spike, while the Acathla thing would have been a one-time irreversible apocalypse where the world would just end.

Dru shows her psychic abilities when she has a vision of Angel. She thinks of him being back as her family being back together, she likes having both him and Spike around. Spike is at this point as overjoyed to have Angel(us) back – they are still friendly, but the first signs of tension come with Spike’s skepticism and snarky comments about Angel for not having killed Buffy when he had a chance, which clearly annoy Angel(us). Dru on her part admires Angel’s special sadism –“You don’t want to kill her, you want to hurt her, like you hurt me”. Dru doesn’t resent him for the way he tortured her and drove her insane, she loves pain and destruction and admires his talent for inflicting it. She’s beaming when she talks about the way he hurt her, while playing with one of her dolls, which is bound and gagged, and by playing I mean sticking her nails in the doll’s eyes, similar to what she wanted to do to Dalton. We see the first hints of how this twisted three-way dynamic is going to work, and that Angel(us) is going to use Dru to get one over on Spike, when he says that nobody knows him the way Dru does, and takes pleasure in rubbing it in that Spike can’t go hunting with them because he’s in a wheelchair.

The Judge trying to burn Angel(us) and not being able to because he is “pure” with no humanity in him, together with the earlier scene of him killing a hooker in the alley*, was meant to convince the viewers that Angel had really gone evil, that it wasn’t a ruse. I’m not sure about the usage of the word “humanity” here, and “human” which seems to be confused with humane. We humans aren’t all compassion an d sweetness, we can also be ruthless and cruel, and enjoy inflicting pain the way that none of the other animals do. Killing and torturing people for fun isn’t human? Ask serial killers and war criminals. I really don’t see Angelus as some sort of mysterious metaphysical evil (like we were supposed to see the First). Tormenting one’s ex-girlfriend and showing off what a big bad macho guy you are is all recognizably human. So are his pissing contests with Spike.

*And, of course, he smokes and wears leather pants. Sure signs of evil! Except when they serve to show you’re doomed – the hooker he killed also smoked. Oh, the stereotypes…

I don’t care what AtS episode Billy wanted us to think, that he wasn’t misogynistic because he wanted to hurt everyone equally when he was evil – the misogynistic overtones in this episode are clear, from the fact that his first victim in the alley is a blonde hooker (which Darla was when she was human – and he chooses to insult Buffy by comparing her to a hooker) to the very personal way he is tormenting Buffy. He was very much meant to be the epitome of an abusive ex-boyfriend, hurting her in most intimate ways possible. If he had been ordinary enemy, she would have dealt with him easily. The most obvious example is the morning after scene, when Buffy, who had woken up to find her boyfriend gone, goes back to his place and finds him – and because it’s where they made love, and he’s shirtless again, it feels very intimate, and he pretends that he just doesn’t love her, playing the classic part of “boyfriend who acts different after you’ve slept with him, because he just pretended to love you to get you into bed”. His insults make no sense, BTW – he’s throwing anything he can think of: first he mocks her inexperience with men, then he compares her to a hooker? Geez, pick an insult and stick to it! Luckily for him, Buffy is too vulnerable in that situation so it works to maximum effect. It’s a really painful scene to watch, with Buffy wondering if she did something wrong and then crying and calling after him – too bad she couldn’t immediately kick him in the nuts. He enjoys reminding her of their past relationship –casually saying a mocking “I love you, too. I’ll call you”, giving her a quick kiss at one point, claiming her only ever pretended to love her, mocking her for supposedly “giving it up” too easily, and the grossest of all, after having killed Jenny’s uncle, writing the message to Buffy “Was it as good for you, too?” in the victim’s blood on the wall. There’s also a rapist overtone to his threats of killing Willow, saying it turns him on that she’s so “cute and helpless”.

Buffy, on her part, is already starting to disassociate the “Angelus” persona from Angel, her boyfriend. It’s the easiest way to deal with the horrible situation. In the crucial fight scene at the mall near the end of the episode, Angel(us) himself call her on it, that she’s just doing it as a defense mechanism:

Buffy: You’re not Angel.
Angel(us): You’d like to think that, wouldn’t you? It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you made me the man I am today!

The scene between Jenny and her uncle was meant to make some sense of the happiness clause, by making it clear that the Gypsies are all about vengeance, to the point that they don’t care if innocent people get hurt when Angel reverts back to a killing monster. But I’m not sure if it makes sense – once he loses his soul, he is not suffering from guilt anymore, right? So what do they have to gain from it? I choose to think that the clause was just a side effect of the curse rather than a planned part of it: maybe the Gypsies said something like, Let him have the soul to torture him, and as a result, when it is not torturing him, it goes away. It works better metaphorically: maybe someone who’s done so much evil as Angel can’t ever be perfectly happy knowing what he’s done, so if his conscience – his soul – isn’t keeping him from achieving perfect happiness, it can be said that it’s malfunctioning?

So far I’ve been analyzing Angel’s character in all this, but the story in season 2 was really mostly about Buffy and the major trauma that her first love has turned to. It starts as “boyfriend turns evil after you sleep with him”, as seen most obviously in the morning after scene. But quickly it becomes about Buffy’s feelings of guilt for being the reason that Angel lost his soul (which is going to be a major theme in I Only Have Eyes For You), Buffy blaming herself for the deaths of people he killed, and finally Buffy feeling guilty for having to kill him. Those words, “you made me the man I am today”, must have tormented her for a long time. (Years later, she’ll find out that she can also be the reason for a vampire getting his soul back; Spike could say the same words, only they would mean something completely different.) SMG’s acting it so great in showing Buffy's pain. One of my favorite scenes is the haunting, atmospheric dream Buffy has after getting back to her room, not being able to even look at the cross he gave her, and collapsing in bed in tears. The dream flashback to Buffy and Angel making love is the first sex scene in the show, and it is very subtle, as fits the situation, with sad music and shots of red bedsheets and their faces and hands with the Claddagh rings, and Buffy’s memory of Angel telling her “I love you” – then it fades into his vampface and then someone’s mysterious funeral, with Angel standing in the daylight and Jenny as a mourner, which makes Buffy realize Jenny had a role in it all. (Who is in the coffin? Jenny’s uncle? Angel as Buffy used to know him?)

Willow also has a major emotional turning point herself. First it’s catching Xander kissing Cordelia. Of course, she’s overreacting, she has no right to decide who Xander should or shouldn’t date. But, for Willow, it’s not just about jealousy – to her, Xander dating Cordy is a major betrayal. It’s not about him kissing another girl – she’s dealt with that before – it’s that the girl is Cordy. In the world of high school, Cordy was the enemy, someone who bullied Willow (and Xander), she was everything that the two of them hated, and Xander dating her is, from that POV, as bad as if he were dating Darla or Drusilla. Heck, maybe even worse. It’s also the moment when Willow decides to stop waiting for Xander; she could understand him being in love with Buffy, she could see why he would love her. But this makes her realize that, in her own words, Xander would rather be with someone he hates, than be with her.

Then there’s the scene with Oz in his van, when Willow tries to turn to him for comfort: in Joss’s words, it’s the scene when Willow falls in love with Oz (and with her, a huge part of the audience as well), because he refuses to kiss her, in his perceptive, calm, matter-of-fact way, telling her at the same time how he feels about her but that he would prefer their relationship to be real and meaningful. It’s probably not a coincidence that this scene comes right after Xander’s statement that teenage boys are always thinking about sex, even when looking at linoleum – Oz’s role is to challenge the stereotype.

Innocence is also Xander’s major cool moment – proving that he isn’t stupid or a loser as he’s so often called, especially by Cordy and himself, he’s the one who comes up with the solution how to kill the Judge. It turns out he has kept the memories of some of the soldier skills and knowledge he had in Halloween that he uses here to do a great impersonation of a soldier, steal the rocket launcher from the army base and assemble it. Wait, so why is this the last time we hear about those special skills of his? I’ll chalk it up to Plotty McDevice.

Cordy shows a bit of jealousy because of Xander’s devotion to Buffy, and first signs that she’d like their relationship to be something more. Xander believes that their relationship is just about physical attraction and doesn’t mean anything, as he tells Willow, but that’s probably a reaction to the way Cordy shut him down in Surprise when he wanted to make their relationship public. Instead they’re still insulting each other at every turn, she by calling him stupid, he by calling her a slut and trashy (he tells her to wear something “trashy…er” even though what she was wearing wasn’t trashy by any stretch of the imagination). This episode is full of guys doing big macho acts – Angel(us) and Spike are full of macho crap in S2, and on the more ordinary, less scary level, there’s Xander’s impersonation of a macho soldier boy that the real soldier totally buys.

The Judge does live up to his reputation when he burns an ordinary man in the mall in a graphic scene, before he’s stopped from doing the same to a bunch of other people. The rocket launcher is such a fitting way to kill the Judge, instead of the medieval weapons Buffy normally uses. Like the TV sets that fell on him, the legendary medieval monster gets easily defeated by modern technology. Once again, old prophecies turn out to be easily subverted, since Judge was supposed to be invulnerable to “no weapon forged” (this is a bit like the prophecy from Macbeth). I love that his last words are asking what is going on, clueless to the end, while Angel(us) and Dru are jumping to save themselves, and Dru whines and screams like a child, again, proving that it’s not just an act, that’s what she’s like, despite the strength and power she also has. Like Buffy kicking Angel(us) in the nuts, it’s like pulling big mythical villains down to the ordinary human level where they are less scary.

Angel(us) was right that he couldn’t kill Buffy with force – when they finally have their big fight, she beats and kicks him in the nuts and could have killed him if not for her emotional attachment. With personal insults and Angel(us) provoking Buffy, the fight evokes their conversations from When She Was Bad in reversed roles, when Buffy was trying to provoke him. It happens when they are both soaked wet from the broken sprinkler, a visual parallel to the last scenes of Surprise. Water imagery is used a lot for Buffy/Angel (just like fire imagery will be used for Buffy/Spike.) The memory it evokes might be making it even harder for Buffy to kill him. And… here we come to the part that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s understandable that Buffy can’t bring herself to kill him yet. But why didn’t she catch him and put him in a cage or chained him up so he couldn’t roam free and kill people? I’m willing to overlook it for the sake of the episode being so great, but still…

One of the most moving scenes is the conversation between Giles and Buffy in his car, when Buffy blames herself and thinks he must be disappointed in her, but Giles refuses to blame her. (Joss was aware of the danger that the story could be seen as a “Sex = Bad!”, heroine being punished for sex.) Their relationship in the second part of season 2 is really beautiful. I’m not surprised to hear Joss say in the DVD commentary that David Greenwalt’s reaction to that scene was “She has the best father in the world!” Followed by “She has the best mother in the world!” said about the last scene, though, to be fair, Joyce still has no idea about Buffy having had sex, let alone anything else that happened as a result. Still, it shows how important it was that Buffy, in the hardest times, had the support of her family and friends. There’s also a moment that shows how close the friendship between Buffy and Willow is, when Willow is the first one to realize what has happened to Buffy.

Joyce told her the first thing in the morning that she looked bit different, but in the last scene, she tells her she looks the same. Despite the popular idea, the girl didn’t really change significantly after losing her virginity. The entire storyline is an inversion in a way – it’s the boyfriend who underwent the transformation and who lost something very important. On one level, the title might be pointing out that things are never going to be the same, for the show and for Buffy, who’s been through a major formative trauma of her life and entered the difficult world of adulthood where things are really complicated (as she was starting to understand in Lie to Me). But on the other hand, Buffy hasn’t really lost her innocence and her moral certainty and she still knows who she is.

Best lines:
Willow: I knew it! I knew it! Well, not 'knew it' in the sense of having the slightest idea, but I knew there was something I didn't know. You two were fighting way too much. It's not natural!
Xander: I know it's weird...
Willow: Weird? It's against all laws of God and Man! It's Cordelia! Remember? The 'We Hate Cordelia' club, of which you are the treasurer.

Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class... You know, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause that would never happen. I think about kissing you. And it's like everything stops. It's like, it's like freeze frame. Willow kissage. I’m not gonna kiss you.
Willow: What? But freeze frame.
Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you're trying to make your friend Xander jealous, or even the score or something. And that's on the empty side. See, in my fantasy when I'm kissing *you*, you're kissing *me*. It's okay. I can wait.

Buffy ILYs: The second time she tells Angel „I love you“. This time it's in the devastating morning after scene, when she's in shock and crying and cannot understand what is going on and why he's acting like that. He casually replies „I love you, too“.

Shirtless scene: Angel(us), in the morning after scene in his room, as an echo their love scenes from Surprise.

Spike Badass-o-Meter: Well, he’s in the wheelchair, so he can’t do much except snark. But his snarking is top notch here, as seen in the fact that he manages to drive Angel(us) quite angry. He also continues to treat the Judge with no respect and mock him for taking so long to do anything and get on with the world destruction: “Preparing looks a lot like sitting on your arse”. On the other hand, he is happy that Angel’s back because it means they’re “four against one” are these are the odds he likes against Buffy. Another sign that Spike might be more pragmatic than interested in challenge and proving himself as a fighter, or at least that’s how he was portrayed in S2 as opposed to Fool for Love.

What the slashy heck: There’s a charged moment when Angel(us), despite attempts to act cool, gets obviously enraged when Spike says it made him sick to see Angel as Slayer’s lapdog - he even sounds like he’s roaring as he grabs Spike by the shirt and gets into his face, but then instead of hurting him in some way, gives him a quick kiss on the forehead. They all just laugh, but it’s the last sign of affection between them in S2, and Angel(us) is going to soon start tormenting and humiliating Spike, probably in a large part because he was more bothered by Spike’s comments than he’d like to admit. It’s one of those moments that encapsulate their weird ongoing rivalry/friendship/frenemiship.

Nicknames: Spike calls the Judge “Big Blue”; Buffy calls him a Smurf because of his skin color, even though he’s otherwise very little like those little cartoon creatures.

Pop culture references: The Smurfs.
Angel(us) seems to know a few things about Broadway, too, not just about ballet: he mockingly compares himself to a young actress who went to fulfill her Broadway dream and got her chance when the main star sprained her ankle, which I’ve been told is a plot of s musical called 42nd Street. The parallel to Spike being temporarily disabled and Angel(us) taking his place as the Big Bad is obvious.

The film Buffy is watching in the last scene is the 1936 musical Stowaway with Shirley Temple, Alice Faye and Robert Young. It’s a scene in which Faye and Young are dancing and she’s singing the song“Goodnight, my love”: Goodnight, my love/My moment with you now is ending/It was so heavenly/Holding you close to me. And then as Buffy is snuggled next to her mom on the couch: Remember you’re mine, sweetheart…

Foreshadowing (?): The funeral scene from the dream, with Jenny as the mourner, makes me think of another funeral scene in a few episodes, where Jenny will be in the coffin.
Watching Spike and Angel(us) talking about Buffy feels so different after you’ve seen the entire show, from the irony in hindsight of Spike saying it made him sick to see Angel as “Slayer’s lapdog”, Angel telling him that Buffy is too strong as a Slayer and loving her is the only way to hurt her, to Spike being curious about Angel’s obsession with Buffy, to Angel(us) explaining that the reason he resents her is because she made him feel human. I don’t think feeling human is such a terrible proposition to Spike as it is to him.
Funny how Spike is at this point still impatient to get the world destroyed, while Angel(us) doesn’t care (because he’s more interested in Buffy). By the end of the season they’ll switch roles. Spike says he won’t be in the wheelchair forever – it’s gonna be Angel’s downfall that he forgot about that.

Rating: 5 out of 5
Treason, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

my Buffy/Angel rewatch

Last edited by DevilEyes; September 7 2011 at 02:42 AM.
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