Buffy 2×14: Innocence

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Joss Whedon | Director: Joss Whedon | Aired: 01/20/1998]

“The show works only if it resonates. That’s the most important thing in the show; people forget this. People like to talk about the monsters and the make-up and the fangs and the horns and the what-not. But the fact of the matter is, the only thing that separates this show from any other, if in fact it is separate, is the kind of emotional resonance that we can get to by playing the entire thing as true life. Just a little bit wonkier.” – Joss Whedon

Joss Whedon himself once called “Innocence” the most important episode of Buffy they ever did, and I think the reason why can be understood by looking at the quote above. As I’ve been analyzing Season 2 thus far I’ve been struck by just how thematically coherent the episodes leading up to “Innocence” — the ‘game changer’ — have been. What the opening episodes have lacked are consistency in execution, an occasional lack of subtlety, and taking risks with its characters.

“Innocence” elevates Buffy to an entirely new level by making life-altering changes to its characters and establishing the blueprint for how the show can operate at its best going forward. This is the very first time all of the characters’ most intimate emotions are laid out for all to see. What makes “Innocence” hold up so well in retrospect is that it’s the spark that sets the show on fire, with “Passion” [2×17] proving that the fire is here to stay. We will soon see a string of episodes that follow-through on what “Innocence” started, from “Phases” [2×15] turning Oz into a werewolf to “Passion” [2×17] killing off Jenny to “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19] forcing characters to confront themselves to all the mayhem in the finale.

One of the nice side effects of Buffy’s turmoil throughout “Innocence” is seeing her find strength within all the pain. When Buffy pulls out that rocket launcher — which is absolutely amazing — and tells the Judge, “That was then. This is now,” it speaks to a part of Buffy that will become more and more pronounced as the series progresses. In what represents one of the larger themes of the show, Buffy often uses modern sensibilities (and, when necessary, technology) to subvert the ignorant and outdated. This was a characteristic Buffy showed in “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01] and will be one we see with increasing returns starting in Season 3.

In “Surprise” [2×13] I felt that Buffy’s core mistake was losing herself in Angel via powerful emotions and lust, which blinded her to the lessons offered earlier in the season. These lessons provided a convincing case that Angel is not remotely a good romantic partner at this time in her life and that she is simply not mature enough to be able to avoid the myriad of consequences that can result from sex. In a nutshell, Dream Joyce in “Surprise” [2×13] was right: Buffy simply wasn’t ready for this yet. Buffy let her heart trump her mind in this decision. Consequences don’t pick sides though, and they are making their presence known.

This brings me to the Judge, who’s there to make us think about how we should judge Buffy for her actions, and how hard Buffy should judge herself. There’s no doubt that Buffy made a mistake, but the question remains of whether Buffy deserves to be punished for that mistake. The key for me is in noting that Buffy did not set out to hurt anyone and certainly had no idea that getting too close to Angel would set Angelus loose. I, personally, do not think Buffy deserves any kind of punishment for her actions, not to say she doesn’t have a lot to learn from them. We’ll soon find out that Buffy doesn’t feel the same way and judges herself harshly — too harshly, in fact.

Doesn’t it seem like the show is punishing Buffy for her actions though? Well, this is where the distinction between a punishment and a consequence must be clarified. The former is a conscious act that is done to another, or oneself, as a response to a prior action; the latter is simply the given reaction to a prior action. If a person decides to jump off a building they will likely be seriously injured or killed when they hit the ground. The ground isn’t punishing that person for jumping off the building, it’s simply the consequence of that action, and knowingly doing it is obviously a mistake.

Going forward Buffy will be facing the logical consequences stemming from her actions in “Surprise” [2×13] (being blind to the wildcard Angel represented) and “Innocence” (letting Angelus live). These consequences don’t exist to punish Buffy, but are simply the likely outcome of allowing someone or something to take you over. Some actions are inherently risky and dangerous, particularly for an adolescent. Buffy will need to accept responsibility for those actions, learn from them, and then forgive herself so she can grow from the experience and move on. It’s great that consequences, changes, forgiveness, and letting go are some of the key themes that will round out Season 2!

In the short term, though, Buffy is sadly going to have to go through a heck of a lot of pain before she’s able to move on. Having the intimate details of her love life spilled out in front of everyone is horrifying — no one deserves to be hurt like this, and I feel absolutely awful for her. Buffy’s not the only one to have hidden information exposed, as Xander and Cordelia’s unworkable relationship — who themselves have been a comedic parallel to Buffy and Angel — is also uncovered. With Angelus being unleashed, Angel’s dark past has become a public affair as well. Everything is coming out in the open. It’s become the opposite of what Drusilla said in “Halloween” [2×06], “Everything’s switching! Outside to inside.” Only now it’s switching inside to outside.

Another theme that “Innocence” touches on is shame. There’s a lot of shame going around, from Angelus towards Buffy to Willow towards Xander to even Angelus and Jenny towards themselves. There is a difference, though, between feeling ashamed and being shamed. The former can be used constructively in self-reflection over actions you feel were inappropriate while the latter is generally used to beat you down rather than to help you back up and to grow from your mistakes — this is where the judgment often comes into play.

With Buffy already feeling ashamed over her actions, Angelus goes the extra mile to try to shame her into self destructing. The scene at Angel’s place where he just ridicules Buffy and their night together is brutal and all-too familiar for young women who have put far too much emotional investment into guys that ultimately only wanted one thing. Those emotions aren’t any less real, which makes Angelus mocking them pretty tough to watch (in the good way). The dialogue in this scene is absolutely brutal, and is specifically engineered to target Buffy’s greatest insecurities. It’s also just plain mean (“it’s not like I haven’t been there before”).

Thankfully, Buffy is able to find the inner strength to pull herself together and demolish the Judge, which metaphorically sees Buffy declaring that she’s done allowing others’ judgment of her actions to keep her down. Going forward Buffy needs support, advice, growth, and love, not to be judged, punished, or shamed. Love — real love — utterly absorbs shame, which is why the love Giles shows to Buffy at the end is so powerful. Besides, despite how she may feel, Buffy is in no way at fault for what happened to Angel.

The speech that Giles gives to Buffy is incredibly beautiful and moving: “Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you that you acted rashly? You did. And I can. I know that you loved him. And… he… has proven more than once that he loved you. You couldn’t have known what would happen. The coming months are going to be hard… I suspect on all of us, but… if it’s guilt you’re looking for, Buffy, I’m not your man. All you will get from me is my support. And my respect.” I honestly couldn’t have said it better myself and completely agree with every part of Giles’ sentiment (although I might define the type of “love” he is referring to differently). Despite this heartwarming vote of confidence, it’s going to take Buffy a while before she’s able to accept forgiveness, let go of Angel, and fully reclaim her identity from Angelus.

This brings us to Buffy’s decision to spare Angelus at the end of the episode: “Give me time,” she says. Although understandable, Buffy’s compounding one mistake with another here. When there’s an opportunity to knock off a walking consequence you take it. Since Buffy wasn’t able to do it, the consequences will be that much more harsh and unpredictable, perhaps reaching a peak with — but not limited to — the death of Jenny in “Passion” [2×17]. It’s unfortunate that Angelus has to do some serious damage to those closest to her before Buffy is able to let go of her investment in Angel, which is yet another side effect of relinquishing a piece, or all, of your identity — it leaves you unable to respond to dangers.

True to its title, “Innocence” has a few important things to say about innocence. Buffy’s innocence is, of course, utterly shattered in this episode. Although innocence is lost, the spirit of it can still be reintegrated into the person. Buffy’s innocence might be broken by Angelus, but it’s healed in spirit by Giles. The same goes for Willow in regard to Xander (lost) and Oz (healed) and Giles in regard to Jenny (lost) and later Buffy (healed).

Buffy also discovers that while she may have lost some innocence, she is still an innocent in most of this, which is best represented by the final scene. Joyce’s attempt at a birthday celebration is disappointing (“I didn’t have time to make you a real cake” — yeah, that’s the whole problem Joyce), but I’m relieved that she at least devotes a bit of bonding time with Buffy. Joyce asks Buffy how her birthday went. Buffy aptly replies, “I got older.” Joyce responds, “you look the same to me,” which reinforces the notion that despite her recent mistakes Buffy’s still a remarkable girl with noble intentions and a great heart. Yet… Buffy has been changed by the experience, and there’s no real way around that. Her episode ending expression shows that she knows it, too.

A quick aside: the dream Buffy has after crying herself to sleep is another winner. It starts by recapping her time in bed with Angel the previous night and is very tastefully done, sporting great music by Christophe Beck that strikes the perfect balance of romance, mysticism, and foreboding. Buffy soon sees Angel appear in the sunlight, which I take to mean his human side. The human Angel is able to communicate with Buffy to out Jenny’s involvement, which so happens to lead to eventually restoring his soul. Very nice.

Enough about Buffy and Angel though. Let’s talk about Angelus! How ’bout that opening sequence: Angel loses his soul, bites a women in an alley, and exhales her cigarette smoke. Angelus has arrived. Now that’s how you introduce a villain! I think it’s important to take a moment to identify just why Angelus is such a terrific villain. At the most basic level it’s a case of a good guy gone bad, which shifts the focus of the plot and is simultaneously scary and exciting. The former good guy, of course, can use all of his knowledge against his former allies, which adds a bit of spice to the character dynamics. It really works here because Angelus is Angel — not some completely separate entity — but without any guilt or conscious whatsoever to restrain the demonic impulses inherent in the vampire.

If we dig a little deeper we arrive at the metaphorical level, where Angelus stands in as a terrifying parable of the seemingly caring boyfriend who turns callous and indifferent after sex — something that is (sadly) all-too relatable for many girls and young women (in particular). This is the key metaphor for “Innocence”. It’s also what allows Angelus to cause Buffy so much pain. By going so all-in on Angel, he’s able to turn all of that intimacy and emotion right back at her so it cuts like a psychological knife.

The two key scenes that highlight this — at Angel’s place and at the mall — manage to squeeze out every drop of cruelty and pathos Whedon had at his fingertips. The earlier scene takes all of the intimacy Buffy feels towards Angel and stabs with her it while the later scene is both excellently choreographed and has a yet unparalleled intensity with which Buffy receives and delivers emotional and physical blows, each one being intense, personal, brutal, and suspenseful.

If we dig even deeper still we eventually see how Angelus fits into the show on a thematic level. This comes back to my description of how Buffy fundamentally tells its stories (see “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01]), which is that each villain represents an obstacle Buffy must overcome on the path to adulthood. Thus, Angelus — the very embodiment of the consequences of losing herself in Angel — is a major roadblock to growing up; Buffy must overcome the distraction of the adolescent boyfriend to further mature towards an adult.

Angelus says of his time with a soul, “What can I say? I was going through a phase.” It’s interesting that the next episode is titled “Phases” [2×15]. It also speaks to the common high school experience of seeing friendships and alliances in constant flux, sometimes even on a day-to-day basis. The fluid state of every current relationship in the show definitely plays into this notion. There’s also the physical phases, which relates to changes in adolescent bodies that can vary in age from person to person. Remember how “School Hard” [2×03] highlighted Buffy’s menstrual cycle when Xander pulled a tampon out of her purse and Spike made references of a “ripe girl”? These characters are all in a state of flux, in body, mind, and soul.

Buffy is not the only one that Angelus’ arrival has an impact on. The scene where Angelus makes himself known to Spike and Drusilla is another standout. Again, great directing and particularly framing by Whedon — I love the way Drusilla only partially appears in frame when she realizes Angel is losing his soul. Beyond that, the chemistry and interaction between these three characters (and obviously actors) jumps off the screen. Notice how one of the very first things Angelus does to Spike is ridicule and shame him for being stuck in the wheelchair? It’s hilarious and interesting that whether souled or soulless, Angel(us) does not like Spike and will always use Drusilla (“look over your shoulder, I’ll be there”) as a means to stick it to him.

Note that Angelus doesn’t seem to have any interest in destroying the world. He’s more interested in retaliating against Buffy, who made him “feel like a human being. That’s not the kind of thing you forgive.” Drusilla wants to wreck havoc using the Judge while Spike seems merely bored, with little motivation to enjoy life while incapacitated. It will be fun to see Angelus and Spike do a complete role reversal by the end of the season. Look to “I Only Have Eyes for You” [2×19] as the turning point.

As great as Buffy and Angelus are in “Innocence”, most of the other characters get some sparkling scenes as well. My favorite has got to be the scene between Willow and Oz in the van while waiting for Xander and Cordelia to retrieve the rocket launcher. Oz’s response to Willow’s ploy to get back at Xander is so aware and mature, particularly in contrast to Xander’s linoleum line. Understandably, this is totally the moment Willow falls for him. It is important to note that Willow’s initial motivation to lip-lock with Oz was very much motivated by spite and maybe even a little vengeance, giving us another brief glimpse of an unsavory side to Willow that will become increasingly visible as time goes on.

I need to take a moment to bring some attention to the phenomenal acting everyone brought to the table for “Innocence”, particularly Sarah Michelle Gellar. David Boreanaz, while not quite as good as Gellar, is extremely well-suited as Angelus. I’m impressed with how well Boreanaz can twist Angel’s inherent melancholic broodiness into an obsessive, darkly romantic, glee. Everyone’s great here, but few in entertainment can match Sarah Michelle Gellar for a believable intimate and emotional performance.

“Innocence” is one of several showcase episodes for Gellar throughout Buffy. Although we’ve gotten glimpses of what she’s capable of before, this is the first time she’s been asked to put it all on the table, from start to finish, and she sure does deliver. It’s not just the facial expressions either, but also body language. Take the scene in the library early on when everyone’s concerned about her. What Gellar does with her arms and waist subtly tells us that Buffy’s incredibly concerned but is doing her best to not allow anyone to notice it. Joyce, to her credit, could tell something was off right from the start. Willow is the next one to notice something’s gone very wrong. Those subtle tells are just enough to get across that something is off, but not enough to be obvious. Gellar strikes just the right balance most of the time yet can bring the house down when called to.

To wrap this up, “Innocence” delivers, to come back to Whedon again, “The two things that matter the most to me: emotional resonance and rocket launchers.” Emotional resonance isn’t easy to come by, at least for me. It requires likeable characters, intimate writing and directing, subtle setup, great acting, sharp execution, and honest follow-through. “Innocence” has all of these qualities and then some (rocket launcher!). It also showcases Buffy, the character, in her entirety, both at her lowest and at her best. Buffy can be incredibly vulnerable at times, but is equally resilient and strong. While a mistake might knock her down, Buffy will always eventually rise back up.

“Innocence” is genuinely a classic.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Drusilla being able to see the stars from within a building. In daytime.
+ The beautifully framed shot of Drusilla realizing that Angel has lost his soul.
+ Angelus saying, “To kill this girl, you have to love her.” Obviously this isn’t true, as we’ll find out soon enough, but that doesn’t mean she can’t be really hurt by it.
+ The speech about vengeance from Jenny’s uncle is very intriguing justification for how Angel’s curse works. I’m not sure I entirely buy it, but it’s intriguing nonetheless.
+ Despite Xander’s faults, he’s never been anything but loyal to his friends.
+ Xander being the one to come up with the rocket launcher plan. I like it. I can almost imagine Whedon sitting in his office having the same series of thoughts that Xander did when forming the plan.
+ Willow being able to put aside her disgust of Xander/Cordelia to focus on helping Buffy. This is Willow at her best.
+ The scene with Angelus in the school hallway is terrifying. I love the continuing intimate framing by Whedon when Angelus kisses Buffy and then throws her to the ground, backing out of frame like a predator whetting its appetite. Just incredible drama.
+ Buffy’s bedroom crying scene. The way she just curls up on the bed sobbing is extremely well directed and acted. I feel her pain even though I’ve never made her mistakes before — impressive.
+ Buffy’s violent outburst towards Jenny is understandable, albeit still startling.


* Giles saying “he’ll come after you” and “the coming months are going to be hard, I suspect on all of us” is so very true. Poor Giles (“Passion” [2×17]).




133 thoughts on “Buffy 2×14: Innocence”

  1. [Note: jkalderash posted this comment on April 5, 2007.]

    I just watched this episode again and am compelled to point out one moment that often goes unnoticed in all the amazing moments. Just after Angel reveals his evil-ness, the gang is sitting in the library, and we get this little exchange:

    Jenny: (to Buffy) But you didn’t know he had turned bad?
    Willow: How did you?
    Jenny: What?
    Willow: Well, you knew. You told me to get away from him.
    Jenny: Well, I saw his face.

    And your breath catches for a moment, because you think they’re about to realize Jenny betrayed them. And then the moment is over, and Giles starts talking about something else. It goes by very quickly, but it’s a wonderful bit of subtle tension.

    Feel free to delete this comment if it’s too random… I love this episode too much.


  2. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    OMG, how I love this episode so much. So much is revealed here, I love every scene in this episode. Angelus totally shatters Buffy in the bedroom scene. The whole episode really gets to me, I am absolutely in fear for the characters, what might happen. But my most favourite scene is the last one where Buffy just lets the candle burn. I´m crying like a baby in that scene.


  3. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 28, 2007.]

    Here’s another neat moment, often interpreted as a throwaway. At the end of the scene where Angelus, Drusilla, and the Judge are headin’ up and movin’ out from the factory to the mall (leaving Spike behind), Angelus snarks at the Judge, “Don’t you look spiffy!” And the Judge slo-mo’s back, “Spif-fee?” This is great because in that moment they summed up the two things that will lead to the Judge’s demise – the fact that he is so ponderous in thought and action, and the fact that he’s spent five hundred years with his head in a box and don’t know nuthin’ about modern life.

    Thus, while Angelus and Drusilla are frantically diving off the landing to save their skins, the Judge stands there like a moron and asks, “What’s that do?” Neat bit of foreshadowing, eh?


  4. [Note: Nix posted this comment on September 30, 2007.]

    Er, LibMax, I don’t think it counts as foreshadowing to prophesy something which comes to pass five seconds later. πŸ™‚


  5. [Note: Austin posted this comment on October 2, 2007.]

    Dude, I never really got why there would be such a weird clause that would cause Angel to lose his soul if he achieved true happiness, But I just read a line in The Watchers Guide that was cut from this ep that has Jenny’s Uncle saying:

    You are an abomination, The day you stop suffering for your crimes, you are no longer worthy of a human soul.

    I don’t know about you but that really explained a lot especially the part about him no longer being worthy of a human soul. I really think they should have left that in there


  6. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 13, 2007.]

    The “freeze frame” analogy is so sweet. Oz is a wonderful character and it´s great that he´s willing to wait for Willow.
    I´m doing a marathon of all the seasons and right now I´m in the middle of S2, so I just watched this episode again yesterday and I tell you, this is an amazing episode. Of course, all of you know that but it gets better and I love it with each viewing. Really a masterpiece.


  7. [Note: jkalderash posted this comment on February 4, 2008.]

    Oh, one nitpick – the timeline of this episode is completely wonky. I never really enjoy the final scene with Joyce because I’m thinking, “But Buffy’s birthday was three days ago!” Also, Xander tells everyone to meet in half an hour, but then their plan doesn’t go through until the next day. Small blemishes on a pretty much perfect episode.


  8. [Note: buffyfan14 posted this comment on April 24, 2008.]

    i agree where has her mum been for the last three days ?

    apart from that wonky timeline i love this episode and it is in my top ten for ever.


  9. [Note: lee posted this comment on May 4, 2008.]

    excellent episode. Angel was def at his best wen he was Angelus, much more interesting and a better actor 2. and the flashback scenes surrounding angel in the 1700’s were brilliant


  10. [Note: Paula posted this comment on November 17, 2008.]

    I came here to complain about the timeline, but I see other people have already done that πŸ™‚ I have an idea, though, that the Scoobies did in fact go to the army base that same night but Whedon figured he had to go through the important Buffy scenes all together, so scenes were placed out of sequence.

    One thing I realized only this second time I watched the episode is how close both Spike and Angel(us) were to getting staked right here. (Had the Scoobies found Spike at the factory, you just know what would have happened to him, what with being wheelchair bound and all.)

    Also, starting from Surprise, Spike as a character with his expressions, gestures and manner of speech really is firmly established. (Before this, there’s rather a lot of stuff that makes me go “but that’s just not like him at all”!) And gotta love the scene early in this episode where he watches Drusilla so absolutely adoringly while she lies on the table talking nonsense about naming stars. I’d forgotten exactly how great all this Spike & Dru material is, I really had!


  11. [Note: Paula posted this comment on November 19, 2008.]

    An additional thought… I find it interesting (although plotting-wise, it was of course also necessary) that while Angel got to know Buffy so well, Angelus grossly underestimates her spirit and courage the way he does in this episode. I guess it shows that it’s Spike who has all the experience fighting Slayers, and Angelus who has been avoiding them. Angelus only sees a vulnerable teenager in love. Spike might have understood the whole “a Slayer forges strength from pain” angle and taken it into account rather better.


  12. [Note: Emily posted this comment on March 4, 2009.]

    I just want to point out two contrasting scenes: When Angel and Buffy get out of the sewers and go to his apartment in “Surprise”, it’s pouring rain outside. This is in direct contrast to the scene where the water goes off in the mall and Angelus and Buffy fight. I don’t know if I’m explaining it well, but it was raining the last time they were together as Buffy and Angel, and it was “raining” the first time they fought each other as Buffy and Angelus.

    I also liked how he was trying to hurt her by ridiculing their sexual experience, and she countere by kicking him where it hurts. Nice.

    Great episode. I think Joss was really aiming for feelings of intense hurt on the part of Buffy fans (especially Buffy and Angel fans), and he succeeded.


  13. [Note: Sam posted this comment on March 28, 2009.]

    Dear Lord, do I love this episode, as I think does everyone. It blew the show–and all of TV–wide open.

    Buffy blowing up The Judge with that rocket launcher is the greatest “You go, girl!” moment in pop culture history.


  14. [Note: Kate posted this comment on September 5, 2009.]

    The first heart wrenching episode. This is MY favourite episode of them all, it has everything and …..I can’t continue. It’s bittersweet how Buffy is at home with her mum for her birthday. and who DIDN’t love the rocket launcher?

    I read somewhere this was Joss Whedon’s fave episode (even though i thought that was because this episode was watched by the most viewers of the entire show)


  15. [Note: Nix posted this comment on September 19, 2009.]

    For an undeniably brilliant work emotionally this is very technically sloppy. There are other instances of garbled timelines besides those mentioned (e.g. in the scene where Angel bites Willow, at night, there is clearly full daylight visible through the diamond-shaped trellis outside the doors). Worse than that is a couple of examples of really blatant mismatched cutting.

    The worst has to be in the climactic rocket-em-up in the shopping mall. When the camera pans over to the doors for the first time there’s a slim black man laden with shopping bags climbing the stairs: he passes two people halfway up. It takes him ten seconds to get halfway up and there is nobody behind him. The camera pans to the doors, Smurf et al come in, and it pans back, by which time five more seconds have passed — and the black man is gone, replaced with an elderly man in a khaki coat, moving very slowly, who has somehow got all the way from the bottom to the top of those stairs in less than five seconds. (Plus, he keeps moving as if nothing is happening despite being faced by half a dozen vampires and a giant smurf in chain mail, but I can chalk that up to Sunnydale Syndrome.)

    It’s an obvious intercut whoopsy, and it’s not the only one. It’s just in a really important place and it leapt out at me.


  16. [Note: Shelby posted this comment on September 22, 2009.]

    Definitely an excellent episode, but I’ll always find “Passion” to be superior to this one, at least on the heart wrenching level. Though, much is revealed here and it sets the stage for what is to come. Plus, I can’t get enough of Oz at the end “Uh…arm!”. Classic.


  17. [Note: Lee posted this comment on January 12, 2010.]

    This was a disappointing episode for me. What ruined it? I didn’t care for how Whedon handled Angelus’ emergence. I found it very anti-climatic and a little boring. I don’t understand why critics and fans have made such a big deal about this.


  18. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 11, 2010.]

    I also liked the last scene with Joyce and Buffy together on the couch and Joyce stroking Buffy’s hair. It reminded me the same way Buffy lovingly strokes Dawn’s hair. Buffy has the same devoted love in her for Dawn as Joyce for Buffy. A beautiful continuity when we see it in S5,6,7. But it also is a bit sad, when you realize what lies ahaid 3 seasons later.


  19. [Note: Nia posted this comment on May 12, 2010.]

    I always figured that Joyce and Buffy celebrating her birthday three days after the fact was just the way it can be with single working mothers. One cupcake with a candle and hoping you don’t have to sing “happy birthday”. Joyce and Buffy didn’t sit down and eat dinner together every night and everything that comes with that kind of family unit. Joyce was busy with work and Buffy was busy with work (school, slaying). Joyce wasn’t a bad mother but most of the time she had no idea what was happening in Buffy’s life.

    It was so sad that Angel was saying Buffy’s name like a mantra to try to stave off turning into Angelus. He thought if he could just hold onto his love for her it wouldn’t happen. But it was experiencing perfect happiness with Buffy that was causing him to revert to Angelus so it was a bad idea to be thinking of her to stop it from happening.

    I felt so sorry for Willow. I cannot imagine having an unrequited love for my best friend my entire life and then to see him kissing the girl that picked on me and made me feel like a nobody, a geek-loser for years. To have fantasies of marrying him and for that day when he finally wakes up and smells the hottie. And there he is with the girl that called me names and mocked my clothes and that we started a hate club about. “You’d rather be with someone you hate than to be with me.”


  20. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 14, 2010.]

    Now I’m starting to get why so many people love this show. What a great episode! “Surprise” was excellent, but this one was just amazing. I’m now officially hooked, I think.


  21. [Note: Lizzie posted this comment on June 28, 2010.]

    I don’t know why, but I feel the need to point out the difference between Angel and Angelus. HUGE. Angel wants to keep the soul because he knows how much damage he can do if soulless, even though it is a torment to have to go through redemption. Angelus wants to stay soulless to have free rein in his “love for the art of killing” or whatever. Angelus doesn’t give a flying cow about Buffy, and wants to torture her as much as possible before killing her. Then there’s Spike. Soulless chipped Spike falls for Buffy. He follows her around “making moon eyes” at her. He claims to love her. Takes care of Dawn after Buffy dies to keep his promise to her. Agrees to be her “sex slave”. Tries to rape her when she rejects him. Spike realizes he’s not good enough for Buffy. Sets out to the other side of the world to get a soul after going through a tedious trail. When we see him again, he’s going crazy. He recovers. Goes back to the same personality of always, but doesn’t do evil stuff. Dies to save the world. Pops up in Wolfram & Hart and it’s the same ol’ Spike (that isn’t evil). There’s really not much difference from the evil chipped Spike and the souled chipless Spike. Just that he doesn’t do bad stuff by choice. So, does that make souled Angel a better souled person than spike, or does that make soulless Angelus an eviler person than soulless Spike?- excuse me, vampire.

    Those are the questions that haunt me…


  22. [Note: Lizzie posted this comment on June 28, 2010.]

    Also “do you wanna make out with me?” “what?!?” I LOVE Oz. The way he says “what” is just awesome. haha.


  23. [Note: jensk posted this comment on July 29, 2010.]

    i adore the part where buffy takes the stake out of her hair, and it all falls down, and angelus goes Why Miss Summers, you’re beautiful

    This episode is just amazing all round. Rocket Launchers!!!!!!!!!


  24. [Note: kay123 posted this comment on July 30, 2010.]

    haha Jensk, the Episode you’re referring to is “Go Fish”. Thats where Angelus says that line.

    I agree, this episode is one of my faves. Buffy is all about the human emotions. And I love the psychology of this series.


  25. [Note: 2ndTimeAround posted this comment on August 22, 2010.]

    I love this episode, and I think your commentary is dead on! “From good to fantastic & meaningful” = exactly.

    The only thing that bothers me about this episode is this: how does Angel(us) get into Jenny’s Uncle’s house [to kill him]? I thought vampires had to be invited in.

    Other than that (even with that)- love it!


  26. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    105 points.

    I do have a couple of nits. First, since Buffy kills The Judge with a weapon forged by man, then I assume that what we’re supposed to think is “The Judge can’t be killed with old-fashioned weapons but it’s easy enough to kill him with modern technology.” That’s very lame.

    Second, more Batman moments with Angel not seizing the chance to kill Buffy (would have been very easy before she knew he was Angelus), and Buffy walking away after kicking him in the nuts. Can be somewhat explained via character motivations but it’s still quite the stretch.

    Ah but everything else is so great.

    Oz must be the most romantic person I’ve ever seen. I’m straight and I’m still in love. Willow, you don’t know how good you have it!


  27. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    Oh, and help me out … The Judge can’t kill vampires? That’s why Angelus lives? What about Dalton then?

    The actors who portray Spike, Angel(us), Buffy, and Giles were at their very best in this episode, they really delivered.


  28. [Note: MissKittyFantastico posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    The Judge can’t kill things lacking in humanity–I’m assuming this means really evil things. Dalton is a vampire, but he’s kind of a wimpy vampire. I think the idea is that since he’s more weak and bookish rather than murderous and out to destroy everyone, he’s not bad enough for the Judge not to kill him. Angelus, having no redeeming qualities, is absolutely fine.


  29. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    Hmmm OK thanks. I can live with that. Presumably, Spike would have been in a world a trouble had The Judge come after him.


  30. [Note: John Roberts posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    OK I guess I get the Batman stuff — Angel has bigger plans for Buffy than immediately killing her plus that’s his modus operandi, and Buffy ain’t quite ready for the staking. Withdraw that nit.

    Favorite bits of an extraordinary episode –

    1) Spike mouthing off to Big Blue, which cracked me up since that’s a reference to the Chess Computer (Deep Blue) and this particular Judge ain’t exactly a rocket scientist, so to speak.

    2) Giles chasing Jenny out of the room with “Get Out” — that’s one man who thinks first with his head and only second with his, ummm, equipment.

    3) Oz gently rebuking Willow.

    4) Buffy curled in fetal position on bed.

    5) Giles saying “If you’re looking for guilt, I’m not your man.” He’s better than any real dad.


  31. [Note: Jason posted this comment on September 23, 2010.]

    As far as Angelus not killing Buffy (before she knew what he was), and Buffy later not killing Angelus when he was down, I would agree that these are lame “Batman” moments if these characters were simply programmed to kill, like the Terminator. But in both cases, their inner conflicts are more complex, and I think their delays aren’t just a convenient plot device.

    Angelus has a cruel streak, and doesn’t just want to kill Buffy, he wants to torture her for how she made him feel. (Spike will later comment, in some bemusement, on Angelus’s special feelings for her.) As for Buffy, I completely buy her statement that she just wasn’t ready to kill Angelus yet. It just feels completely believable to me, even with all her training. It’s a decision, later in the season, that she will express terrible guilt over.


  32. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on April 18, 2011.]

    I love how this episode opens by subverting Joss’s subversion of the blonde girl in the alleyway: this blonde girl in the alleyway IS helpless and DOES get killed. (Btw: I don’t assume that she’s a hooker.)

    I love Angelus so much more than boring old Angel.

    I also love Spike’s incredulity at Angel’s obsession with Buffy, and his “You’ve really got a yen to hurt this girl, don’t you?” Fast forward to S4, and he’s one to talk. πŸ™‚

    Re: Lizzie’s question: “So, does that make souled Angel a better souled person than spike, or does that make soulless Angelus an eviler person than soulless Spike?”

    I come down on the side of Spike here. I think his chip is irrelevant to the question, because his chip can’t and doesn’t necessarily curb his desire to kill, it can only train him not to try.

    At no point does soulless Angelus (hey – that’s redundant!) ever express love, or a desire to obtain a soul. He never evolves as a person. But soulless Spike does come to love Buffy (or, for the people who refuse the possibility of a soulless being loving anything, he expresses love and believes he feels it) and actively seeks out a soul. For Angelus, a soul is punishment, but for Spike, it’s a much-desired reward.

    I think Angelus is Angel’s true form, and he’s only trapped within the soul of Angel by way of the gypsy curse, emerging every so often and declaring himself to be ‘free’ to prove my point. I know there’s some evidence of this that I could draw from AtS, but I’ve only watched it once so I can’t recall it exactly!


  33. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on April 18, 2011.]

    Ah ha:

    Willow: Angel!

    Jenny: He’s not Angel anymore. Are you.

    Angel: Wrong. I am Angel. At last.

    I take him at his word here!

    (Sorry for the double-posting – wish we could edit these!)


  34. [Note: Dana posted this comment on June 12, 2011.]

    Tragically amazing episode… there’s only one thing that really bother’s me. In the final scene when Giles gives his whole understanding speech, he starts by saything something about how Buffy acted rashly… how so?

    Did she act rashly by meeting a guy and by knowing him for 1 1/2 years, or by falling deeply in love with this guy… or by letting him proove his love by doing everything possible to keep her safe and alive?

    I find that some people choose to analyse their relationship and sum up Buffy’s first sexual experience as an example of the consequences of pre-mature sex. She loved him and he loved her. I don’t think that anyone is at fault either way. And she did not act rashly.


  35. [Note: Artemis posted this comment on June 13, 2011.]

    Thank God I’m not the only one who noticed that Angelus walked right on in to Jenny’s uncle’s house. I was like, “Excuse me? Who gave you an invite, mister?”

    But, yeah, I’m sure it wasn’t that big of a deal…his accent was a little annoying…

    To me, this episode felt like the death of Angel and the rebirth of Angelus. I knew that Angel wasn’t coming back anytime soon. That’s what made this a hard episode to watch over again. (Even though I do.) When I was younger and first watched the show, I was madly in love with Angel, and when he lost his soul, I was like, “Oh, okay. That’s cool. No difference, really, right?”

    You can imagine how wrong I was.


  36. [Note: Kaitlin posted this comment on August 20, 2011.]

    Angelus could walk right into Jenny’s uncle’s room because it was a hotel room. It’s been established elsewhere on Buffy that vampires don’t need an invite for hotel rooms.


  37. [Note: Brad posted this comment on October 18, 2011.]

    One possible foreshadowing from a line of many in a show that just keeps getting better in comparison to most of the stuff coming out now: At the end when Buffy says, “I’ll just let it burn.” Did anyone else notice this is the same line used in the OMWF musical in the “Walk Through the Fire” song? I love the subtle continuity!


  38. [Note: x factor posted this comment on December 26, 2011.]

    Pinnacle of BTVS right here. I dont think you can find a more engaging, entertaining, and poignant hour of television anywhere on this planet. Effortless weaving of plots, subplots. Characters that talk and act like themselves. Every single scene was effortless. The brilliant scenes/quotes are almost too many to list.


  39. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 26, 2011.]

    I loved this episode, it turned the show in to what it is known for, the addressing of Buffy having sex was a good thing in my book. In every horror flick, the young blonde who gets killed has sex at some point so for Joss to address this in his show gets a big thumbs up, conducive to both Buffy and the show! I love the scene with Giles and Buffy in his car and a rocket launcher!!! Kicks Ass!


  40. [Note: Ariela posted this comment on May 6, 2012.]

    The Judge wasn’t killed [by a modern weapon], he was just split in little bits and pieces. It remains true the premise that he can’t be killed by any weapon forged by man, in fact, it is necessary to keep the parts appart after he blows up. (In response to comment #27)

    Sublime episode!


  41. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 7, 2012.]

    I think he was essentially killed by a weapon that wasn’t forged but put together on an assembly line.

    It’s one of the scenes I love most in this show, one of the funniest breaches with clichΓ©. Yes, there are all these demons and monsters and supernatural things in this world. But Buffy can still blow up the Judge with a rocket launcher. Wesley can still shoot Skip with a pistol. Xander can even give Glory pause by hitting her with heavy machinery. Just because you’re fancy and supernatural doesn’t mean you can ignore all the laws of physics, apparently. And that makes sense to me.

    Plus you got to savour the look on his face as he is about to get hit and has no clue what is going on.


  42. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 17, 2012.]

    This episode rocks. It’s a turning point for everyone. I think my favorite Xander moment is when Cordelia snips at Xander something like, maybe you’ll find some info if it’s in an I-Can-Read Book and Xander just stops in the doorway and has a look on his face like, this girl, I cannot win, shoot me but I like her and it’s literally like a long five second look before the scene change. I like that Willow finally got some closure by telling Xander off. Yes, why couldn’t Xander ever like you Willow? I think everyone wants what they can’t have for a long time… until they learn to get over it.Also, everyone must have been really flustered to just take Xander’s plan at his word. And Cordy’s trashy outfit was hidden under her coat so I didn’t really see the point. They got in that military base a little too easy. Surely it’s standard procedure to ask for military ID? But all worth it for the rocket launcher scene. Loved Angel and Drusilla jumping in slow motion. Best birthday present indeed.I like how Xander is always willing to go charging into any dangerous situation blindly just to save one of the girls that he loves. And yes, he would do that for you too, Cordy.Angelus is 2000 times more interesting than Angel. So I’m gonna enjoy him until he turns back into a shivering puppy in chains. Like someone said above I don’t fully believe that she wouldn’t kill him knowing full well the kind of violence and evil he’s capable of and how many lives she put in danger just by letting him go but ultimately it fits with the story. Part of growing up means that you learn there are consequences for your decisions.


  43. [Note: MrB posted this comment on July 14, 2013.]

    The curse as described makes little or no sense in that there is no good reason for the Gypsies to set up the curse with that kind of escape clause leading to Angelus’ return.

    The problem is that there was an incredibly easy fix. All script-doctor-extrordinaire Whedon had to do is have the Uncle explain that even their curse has limitiations; if Angel could somehow manage a moment of perfect happiness, the curse would be broken and Angelus would return. It would be a better explanation for Jenny being their and her actions.

    25 words or so would have fixed a terrible plot hole.

    This has always been a problem and something that was blatant enough to bring me out of the scene and go “Huh? That doesn’t make sense!”



  44. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 28, 2013.]

    In the gypsies’ eyes, Angel does not deserve to be with someone who gives him perfect happiness and makes him feel human. The moment he doesn’t feel pain because of his past is the moment he doesn’t feel the need to redeem himself for his crimes. The only way to take care of that is to lift the curse, thereby taking away his soul and humanity. Forgive me if this doesn’t make sense. It’s easy for me to understand it but not so easy for me to explain it. But I do agree with you, it could have been explained a bit more. But, in my opinion, it’s not a big enough problem to deprive this episode of a perfect score… πŸ™‚ But that’s up for Mike to decide… πŸ™‚


  45. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on July 28, 2013.]

    I think I get it:

    They don’t see a difference between Angel with a soul and Angel without one, so they feel that if Angel meets people who are willing to give him a happy life in spite of his crimes, then they should be punished for taking his side against his original victims. As such, in the clan’s mind, they should be exposed to his crimes for themselves until they’re forced to kill him for sparing him of the original punishment.


  46. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on July 29, 2013.]

    It’s more like they don’t want Angel to live as human (as Jenny’s uncle pointed out in this episode). Angel doesn’t deserve to be human… so when he is given a moment that makes him feel human, his soul, his humanity is taken away from him. The moment he lives as human is the moment his curse can’t do what it was designed for, in fact all it would be doing is giving Angel the closest thing he can have to a normal life. In essence, it wouldn’t be much of a curse anymore, it would be a gift. I hope that made a little more sense.


  47. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on July 30, 2013.]

    I never had a problem with the way the curse was explained. Jenny was sent there to make sure that Angel was miserable, that his curse was still in place, and that he would never experience a moment of happiness. It makes perfect sense to me.


  48. [Note: Josh Man posted this comment on August 19, 2013.]

    So, so good, and absolutely agree that this was a huge turning point for the series. The first episode of Buffy I ever watched was after this episode. Angel was evil when I began the show. It changed how I viewed the earlier episodes when I got caught up in between seasons 2 and 3.


  49. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on August 20, 2013.]

    You’re kidding, right? What you are saying is literally explained word-for-word in the episode, so I don’t see how you could view that as missing when it’s right there.


  50. [Note: Jen posted this comment on September 11, 2013.]

    I used to think the whole premise of the curse was a bit off as well. I mean, it made sense that the gypsies wanted to punish Angel with eternal guilt. But to have him revert back to the dangerous monster he’d been before the curse took effect seems a bit foolish on their part.

    I also think that to inflict the maximum amount of pain on Angel, Jenny’s uncle should have allowed Jenny to explain the happiness clause. That would probably have put an end to Angel’s relationship with Buffy. Or at least it would have put a cloud over it.

    But, maybe the original gypsies never expected Angel to feel happiness again. Or perhaps the wording of the curse provided an accidental loophole. For example, if the wording of the curse was something like “I curse you with eternal guilt,” then maybe Angel not feeling guilty for one moment would just kind of break the magic, just like a bad line of code can cause a computer program to crash. So in that case, maybe Jenny’s uncle was more like, “Oh, if anyone finds out that gypsy curses aren’t 100% foolproof, then that’s such bad PR for our clan! All the other gypsies will laugh at us!”

    But yeah . . . probably not so much.


  51. [Note: Seele posted this comment on September 12, 2013.]

    The explanation that I like the most is: since they care about vengeance, not justice, their focus would be on how Angel needs to suffer for eternity, and that if somebody who knows his sins still makes him happy enough to forget his punishment, then they should have to deal with the crimes that they apparently didn’t feel he should be punished for.


  52. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 23, 2014.]

    ADMIN NOTE: This episode review has been completely rewritten. In light of this, references to the old review have been edited out of the the above comments.


  53. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 23, 2014.]

    No offense taken! I wouldn’t be putting the time into rewriting these reviews if I didn’t feel they needed it. I am hoping that this process will begin to speed up a bit in Season 3 and then really pick up in Season 4+, where hopefully fewer changes will be needed.


  54. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on January 23, 2014.]

    I have to say, Mike, that the re-written review is nothing short of fantastic. If I had a hat, I would take it off to you – you’ve managed to cover just about everything that I could think of in relation to this episode.

    I once read somebody comment that perhaps the surest sign of the level of quality that BtVS achieved as a show in its second season is that it could produce an episode like “Innocence”, and yet that episode is not the best of the season – or even the second-best. I think that’s right, and I look forward to your future revisions.


  55. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 23, 2014.]

    Thanks! It’s great to know that these rewrites are resonating with people.

    I totally agree with the sentiment of that other comment you read. It’s incredible that, as great as “Innocence” is, “Passion” and “Becoming Pt. 2” are even better. I can’t wait to get going on the final stretch of Season 2 — so many emotional, scary, brutal, haunting, and resonant episodes in this stretch. πŸ˜€


  56. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on January 23, 2014.]

    Reading your review makes me remember how good of an episode this was. It really has an argument as the best Buffy episode – though I think the judge stuff is perhaps a bit too cheesy for that to be my opinion. There is just so much happening this episode.

    The review is really well written, and I agree with most of it, but of course I’m going to end up commenting on something I disagree with. Don’t take it as my overall opinion of your review.

    I think you are being harsh on Buffy here. I don’t believe Buffy really did anything wrong. It’s harsh to call not killing Angel a “mistake” because Buffy simply could not do it. That’s like saying when someone drowns that not swimming was a mistake. It was not a conscious decision not to kill Angel, it was an inability to follow through with what she knew needed to be done. It’s weakness, not error, and it’s really difficult for me to blame someone for that. And I still think it’s natural for teenagers to feel a strong lust like Buffy does here, but we had that argument in the Surprise comments.

    There’s two themes that really stand out to me, and you touched on both. I believe they are very interconnected. Innocence and justice. The loss of innocence is Buffy realizing that severity of consequences does not always fit what the action was. That justice doesn’t always happen, and life is not always fair.

    The symbol for justice is often a set of scales. A lot of the time the scales are unbalanced, something as simple as having sex can have disproportionately severe consequences. Something as understandable as not being able to kill someone you were once obsessed with can result in horrible things.

    I believe the destruction of the judge with a rocket launcher at the end of the episode is symbolic. The loss of innocence corresponds with the loss of the Judge. Right isn’t always rewarded and wrong isn’t always punished. It was time for Buffy to put away the things of the past, the “indestructible” principles of right and wrong she held and move into the next stage of her life. That’s what the killing of the “indestructible” judge meant. She had to move on knowing that even if she did all the right things, wrong could still come of it. That’s a tough and painful lesson to learn all at once.

    OK, I got wordy. That doesn’t usually happen to me. Great episode. Great review. I like Passion quite a bit less than most, so maybe you’ll be able to convince me otherwise when that episode rolls around.


  57. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 23, 2014.]

    We’re probably not going to agree on the mistake part, and I think we’re mostly in agreement on the rest, so I’ll just say that knowingly making a poor decision because you’re weak is a classic example of a mistake — Buffy knows that letting Angelus live puts a lot of lives at risk. I’m not sure why pointing that out is “harsh”. How can we grow if we don’t take responsibility for our mistakes and work to prevent them from happening again? As I pointed out in the review, I’m not advocating for Buffy to be punished here — that, I feel, would be harsh — but there are, of course, certain consequences.

    I really do feel for her and recognize how difficult doing what needs to be done will be, but sometimes life demands us to push forward with what we know is right, no matter how hard it might be.


  58. [Note: Amalie posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    Did anyone notice the colors in the last scene when Buffy and Joyce are on the couch? White, white, white and then Buffy’s shirt: GRAY. The color really stands out and highlights the loss of innocence.


  59. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    It’s a bit of a running motif in the second season. The very first shot in “When She Was Bad” had the camera panning onto a gravestone with one word “GRAY” carved on it.


  60. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    I actually changed my mind on the Buffy not killing Angel thing. Technically, I suppose it is a mistake. I still have trouble putting any blame on Buffy for it though. The point is the consequence is disproportionate to the action, meaning proper justice was lacking. Which is the same point you’ve been making all along.


  61. [Note: MrB posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    – QUOTE –

    I actually changed my mind on the Buffy not killing Angel thing. Technically, I suppose it is a mistake. I still have trouble putting any blame on Buffy for it though.

    That’s one of the things that makes BtVS interesting. If Buffy made the “right” decision all the time, she would be just like Kendra and who would want to watch Kendra the Vampire Slayer? She would also end up dead with no real affect on the world, just like all the other slayers. It is Buffy ability to make other, sometimes wrong, decisions that is her most important trait.


  62. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    I get what you’re saying, but it’s possible for Buffy to have some fire and personality without making large mistakes. It’s a Hollywood fallacy that disciplined people must always be square, boring, and uncreative. Remember that Buffy will become a better slayer when she embraces Giles’ training in Season 5, and that she gets beat by a common vampire in “Fool for Love” not because of technique but because of cockiness. Look to Faith in Season 3 for too much of that approach. Balance is what we’re looking for here, and knowing your limits.


  63. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]

    This is a truly excellent review, Mike. If I ever make up my mind for that “favourite reviews” thread on the forum, this one’ll be a contender.

    In the “mistake or not” argument, I can kinda see both sides. I mean, it obviously was a mistake in that killing Angel here and now would have saved quite a few innocent lives down the road and letting a dangerous killer go is not smart, and Buffy knew it.

    But at the same time, it was not an avoidable mistake like that fight in “Fool for Love.” That was Buffy getting sloppy. This was Buffy being Buffy. The person she was at this point in time is a person who does not kill her boyfriend, however dangerous he has become, before she’s either tried everything to save him or she’s seen first-hand just how dangerous he has become. This is not a Buffy who should have known better. She did know better. She just couldn’t.

    Hollywood does celebrate the “maverick” over the disciplined professional, and Buffy herself is a part of that tradition. According to the show’s mythology, part of what makes her such a great slayer is that she doesn’t follow the Watcher’s rules, but relies on friends and family. I like this in Buffy, but in general I do agree that it gets tiresome how stereotypical this has become in Hollywood.

    I don’t think that’s what we’re seeing here, though. Disciplined people do not have to be square and boring… but neither do they avoid making mistakes. They’ll just make different ones than impulsive people. Characters must make some mistakes to be interesting, because making mistakes and then dealing with the consequences is such a very important part of life.


  64. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on January 24, 2014.]


    I pretty much agree with you. I just know that you can minimize the severity of many consequences by making consistently smart decisions in life, which doesn’t have to exclude having a colorful personality or spontaneity (key: within limits). That’s what I was getting at.

    In Buffy’s case it’s incredibly forgivable: she’s very young, naive, and hasn’t had any consistently positive role models to help guide her growing up. Plus, her mom’s perennially absent and her dad’s a douche — poor parenting is definitely a factor here. It’s no surprise she acted as she did, though unfortunate.

    It does make for excellent drama though and obviously gives us plenty to talk about! πŸ™‚


  65. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on February 5, 2014.]

    Loved the review, it makes me wanna watch the episode right away.
    But yeah, this was the moment that Buffy (both the character and the show)started to change and grow.


  66. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 13, 2014.]

    One point to remember. The gypsies cursed ANGELUS with a soul, not Angel. The soul was meant to make him suffer for his crimes so if he managed to find away to stop feeling the pain of his soul he would lose it.

    In truth Angel is just a not-so-innocent bystander in all this. The curse is all about Angelus.


  67. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on February 14, 2014.]

    That’s not quite right, though. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Angel and Angelus are separate. Then the curse doesn’t end when Angelus stops feeling the pain of his soul, it stops when Angel experiences true happiness.

    My problems with the curse are not with the ensouling of Angelus, that makes sense. It’s the fact that once the true happiness is experienced, he loses the soul again. That’s a net change of nothing. You haven’t solved anything, you’ve just tortured a vampire for a little while before bringing the bad guy back out again. Why wouldn’t you have him turn to dust when he experiences true happiness?

    And that whole Angel/ Angelus thing gets confusing in Angel Season 4. Before then I would have said, same vampire, one consciousness, just a different outlook on their actions depending on whether there’s a soul or not. But in AtS S4, at one point in Orpheus they have Angel and Angelus fighting each other in dreamland. So there’s two consciousnesses? How does that work? Does that mean there’s an evil Spike lurking in the back of the head of ensouled Spike?


  68. [Note: FaithFanatic posted this comment on February 14, 2014.]

    Angel S4 also makes the case that Angelus is awake and fully conscious when Angel is in control, which flies in the face of what we knew before. I think this is addressed in MikeJer’s review of Release.


  69. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on February 14, 2014.]

    Regarding your second paragraph, I think it makes sense. The reason Angelus went after Buffy is because, at that moment of true happiness, Buffy made Angel feel like a human again. Angelus hated that. In fact my explanation is supported in the episode “I Only Have Eyes for You”. After Angelus and Buffy kissed (due to the ghost possession), Angelus shoved Buffy off of him as though she were something dirty (in this case, human). Then, later on, we’re shown Angelus washing himself at the mansion, claiming that he experienced love. Well, not to get all preachy, but love is one of the things that make us human. Angelus resented the feelings of love he had for Buffy when he had a soul because it made him feel human. Angel with a soul is happiest when he is human. To continue to feel human, for Angel with a soul, would mean that the curse ceases to be a curse. It is a gift.

    The only way to solve that problem is to take the soul away from him so that Angel without a soul has to live with the memory of love (with the memory of being human). That’s torture for Angelus. Also, I must point out the difference between vengeance and justice. Vengeance is to make the person who originally did the wrong suffer pain. It’s enacted as a way of retaliation. It’s enacted out of hate. Justice is to show the person who did the wrong that they did something wrong. It’s enacted with the hopes of setting things right, setting things in their proper place. Justice is just, while vengeance itself is a wrongdoing. The gypsies cursed Angel out of vengeance as Ms. Calendar’s uncle pointed out in “Innocence”. What they did was wrong. It wasn’t done out of reason. It wasn’t supposed to make sense or set things right. It was meant to make Angel suffer.


  70. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on February 14, 2014.]

    To continue to feel human, for Angel with a soul, would mean that the curse ceases to be a curse. It is a gift. The only way to solve that problem is to take the soul away from him so that Angel without a soul has to live with the memory of love (with the memory of being human). That’s torture for Angelus.

    I think you are overstating the “torture” Angelus would feel with knowing he loved at some point. It would be the same thing he felt when he was first made a vampire, and he got over that pretty quickly. In fact, I think Angelus was sort of enjoying himself torturing Buffy, other than that one scene in “I Only Have Eyes for You” where a spell took hold of him, there wasn’t a lot of torture going on.

    Easy solution to “curse ceasing to be a curse” is to dust him at that point instead of just having it break. The sum total of what that curse had done by the middle of Buffy Season 2 is make Angelus a little peeved that he had to wait a little while to reveal his true nature again, which isn’t a particularly harsh punishment for what he had done to that point.


  71. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on February 14, 2014.]

    I don’t think it would be the same thing as when he first became a vampire. Remember that what truly turned Liam (human Angel) into Angelus was the teachings of Darla and the murder of his family (the only ties he had to his human roots). Becoming a vampire didn’t necessarily turn him into Angelus. It was the constant presence of Darla (the teacher) and the complete irradiation of his human ties. And you’re right. Angelus was enjoying himself when torturing Buffy. Many people do when they take revenge on someone, which is what, in my opinion, Angelus did. He punished Buffy for making him feel human and he enjoyed it more than he did with his usual taunts. In fact his feeling of being human along with his hatred of humans themselves (yes I say hatred; what else would the scene at the end of “I Only Have Eyes for You” suggest?) serves as a reasonable motivation for him bringing forth Acathla in “Becoming”.


  72. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 15, 2014.]


    I think Angel and Angelus are two separate personalities. The personalities share some traits but to dramatically different ends. What makes the character so compelling is the fact that Angel is not a perfect man by any stretch. He is impulsive, self-centered, capable of violent anger, and heedless passion – which are qualities we overlook because he is handsome and charming. (Think how much starker the contrast is between human Spike and Vampire Spike. Human Spike was a very good man. He never wanted to lose his soul. He was a victim. Angel was already on a very bad path when Darla met him.).

    One of the great things about Whedon is he always challenges the audience. He loves to shock us into the truth. For instance, even when Angel is killing Teresa, it is easy to forget just how serious the situation is and just how close Buffy came to failing her destiny through her love for Angel. Whedon responds with the murder of Jenny Calander. By showing just how awful Angelus really is he forces us to acknowledge just how reckless Angel was in allowing Buffy to fall so head over heels in love with him at that point in her life. He knew better and he let his passions rule him.

    Back to the curse… Symbolically speaking the curse is in fact a blessing that is intended to remind Angel to never forget the consequences of his own weaknesses. As long the soul pains him, he remains on the right path. Once he loses that reminder of his weaknesses, he allows them to get the better of him with terrible consequences. The gypsies, however, did not see it that way. For them the curse was a punishment for Angelus. It is not as if they knew anything about Angel. How could they know that the ensouled Angel would become a hero and a champion? (Despite Whedon’s professed atheism, the fact that the curse would have such a wonderful unintended consequence is a sign of Providence.). The gypsies were blinded by their rage and did a terrible thing. It turned out be a great good fortune because of the choices that Angel makes.

    That is why the curse is such a complex and confusing thing. It is both a curse AND a blessing without which Angel the man might never have become a hero.


  73. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on February 15, 2014.]

    I think one of the most fascinating Buffyverse episodes in terms of giving us insight into Angel is “Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?” It shows how much of a jerk Angel can be, even with his soul. In fact, when Angelus is cycling through Angel’s memories in “Orpheus”, the one lonely positive that seemed to stick out was when Angel saved a puppy, and even then he was a jerk to the lady afterwards.

    It’s not the soul that made Angel a hero. It was Buffy. The soul doesn’t keep Angel on the right path. It only enabled him to be able to see the path. It took teaming up with Buffy to actually follow it, and that drive continued even after Buffy wasn’t a part of his life.

    In terms of the recklessness of being with Buffy, maybe someone who’s got more encyclopedic Buffy knowledge than I do can answer this, but did Angel know all the stipulations of the curse? Did he know that experiencing pure happiness would turn him back into Angelus?

    On the original topic of the problems I have with the curse, I understand the “punishment for Angelus” idea, I just don’t understand why the curse ended with the soul being removed and him turning back into Angelus if the curse was broken, from the Gypsies perspective. From the thematic perspective of the show it makes a ton of sense. In story, not quite so much.


  74. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on February 15, 2014.]

    To address your points even further. The gypsies were not trying to solve any of the problems Angelus caused. What they did was done out of vengeance. Vengeance is a way of getting back at someone. The moment that someone dies is the moment that the pain (possible pain or otherwise) they suffer because of the vengeful punishment they have to endure ceases or becomes impossible to sustain. So long as Angelus/Angel (one whole being? I’m not sure.) lives so does the (possibility of) the curse. Also, this line delivered by Jenny’s uncle shows the true meaning of the curse:

    – Vengeance demands that his pain be

    eternal, as ours is. If this – this girl –

    brings him even one minute of happiness.

    That is one minute too many.

    “Vengeance demands that his pain be eternal…” It can’t be eternal if he’s dead (theoretically speaking).

    Another thing, is that if Angelus is consciously aware of what’s going on while Angel lives out his life (out of the presumption that they are two separate beings), isn’t it reasonable to assume that Angel experiences the same thing as Angelus lives out his life? While this argument would have a lot more merit if season 4 of Angel had given more of a solid foundation to the mysteries surrounding Angel’s curse, this explanation does hold a grain of possibility. Furthermore, it could be that it was beyond the gypsies capability to design a curse that resulted in death once Angel experienced a moment of pure happiness. Remember that, unless it is caused by forces of great power, vampires can only be killed by sunlight, holy water, beheading, and a wooden stake to the heart. I think Jenny’s uncle explained at one point that the gypsies are not wizards. Well if that’s the case taken literally, then I doubt they would be able to turn Angel to dust once the curse is broken. I agree though that the mysteries surrounding Angel’s curse were not explained very well… but oh well, such is a minor flaw of the series.


  75. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on February 16, 2014.]

    I think the whole soul/curse/true happiness thing makes sense, though if you look at it in two respects: 1) vengeance vs justice and 2) the fact that Angelus was truly suffering from his experiences as Angel with a soul.

    Let’s elaborate further on the vengeance vs justice aspect of all this. The gypsies acted out of vengeance. To them, Angelus had to suffer. So killing him, as I pointed out in my previous post, would have ended his suffering. Furthermore, if they had set the curse up to kill Angel once he experienced true happiness it would make the actual curse prior to his moment of happiness meaningless. Also, why kill him later on rather than killing him immediately. What’s the point of giving him the curse. Surely if they could have programed the curse, so to speak, to kill Angel once he experienced true happiness, they could have killed him immediately without going through the trouble of giving him the curse. Killing Angel, like I said, makes the curse meaningless, as all it does, is ends his suffering. Back to the vengeance vs justice thing (before I get too far off topic). What the gypsies did was out of vengeance. It was mindless. It was blind. And what’s more, it was stupid.

    Jenny’s Uncle: “And now she will have to kill him.”

    Jenny: “Unless he kills her first! Uncle this is insanity! People are going to die”

    There you have it with this peace of dialogue. Jenny Calendar cites the problem with the curse. It was insane, she says, and people are going to die. She cites the problem and tells us the consequences. And sure enough, she and her uncle die not only as a consequence of Buffy’s and Angel’s blind moment of passion, but also because of the gypsies blind and stupid need for vengeance. Vengeance always aggravates the issue. Had Angel died, justice would have prevailed over the vengefulness of the curse, thereby solving any problems that might have happened. But that’s not what the gypsies wanted. They didn’t care to solve any problems or to help those possible people in the future that would suffer as a result of bringing Angelus back. They wanted vengeance; they wanted him to suffer period. They didn’t care to kill him (which, like I said, would have ended his suffering).

    Now onto my second point. Let me get this straight; Angel and Angelus are the SAME, contrary to what I may have mentioned in my previous post. They’re two sides of the SAME coin. That means, whatever Angel suffered because of his soul, Angelus suffered the same thing. Angelus felt and remembers the same pain Angel went through. The curse hurt Angel, therefore it hurt Angelus as well for the same exact reasons. To add on to this, Angelus also resented the fact that he fell in love with Buffy (Angel fell in love with Buffy, meaning Angelus did and still does love her too) and that he experienced a moment of true happiness as well. No matter how hard he (Angelus) tried, passion ruled his actions against his will (as cited in “Passion”). This was perfect motivation for his deeds in “Becoming” (trying to destroy the world and all). But the true meat of the matter is that Angel and Angelus are the same person meaning they both suffered pain from the gypsy curse. Killing Angel/Angelus would have ended that suffering whether or not it is the Angel with a soul or Angel without a soul you are killing.


  76. [Note: Jay posted this comment on March 7, 2014.]

    Several years late to the conversation, but there are some differences (albeit subtle) between soulless chip less Spike (aka BTvS S2 Spike) and soulful chip less Spike (aka late BTvS S7 / ATVS S5 Spike). The earlier version of Spike was a bit more immature; he was extremely impulsive and prone to throwing tantrums. The later versions of Spike, while he outwardly behaves the same, he is quite a bit different. He’s more patient and thoughtful and has a greater ability to empathize with others besides Buffy. There’s still some element of impulsiveness (e.g. him running off to confront Dana in ATS 5×11’s Damage), but it’s less extreme. Soulful Spike also seems to have a much greater control over his bloodlust (arguably better than Angel); we seem him struggling to stop himself from biting Willow in S3, despite the fact that he needs her help. But I feel like we don’t actually know that much about chip less Spike (both soulful and soulless) in general; I think one of the faults in the series is that Spike spends the majority of his existence in Buffyverse being soulless and chipped.

    I agree with the point that Angel and Angelus are the same person, albeit Angel is “more” than Angelus with the soul; both are personas that he assumes. To some extent, Angel seems to suffer from some sort of multiple personality disorder. Angel didn’t become Angelus overnight; we see in flashbacks in early 20th century China, soulful Angelus is trying to rejoin the Whirlwind, his vampiric family, refers to himself as Angelus, but cannot kill humans other than low-life criminals. Also, soulful Angel seems to be reluctant to harm his vampiric family until they threaten his human friends (ATS S2 and BTVS S1). In fact, soulful Angel seems to go to great lengths to PROTECT Spike in BTVS S2’s “School Hard” by deliberately not helping the Scoobies out with dealing with Spike and in S3’s “Lover’s Walk” by running interference with Buffy whenever she raises her stake against Spike.

    The soulless Angelus we see in BTVS S2 and ATS S4 are quite different from the Angelus we see in flashbacks. The modern day Angelus is boisterous, uses minions, and fights super powered enemies like Buffy and Faith; however, the Angelus we see in flashbacks is family-oriented and plays it safe by catching easy prey. It’s interesting to note that the fight between Angel and Angelus happened before the soul was restored.


  77. [Note: telephoto1 posted this comment on March 10, 2014.]

    Awesome review. I’ve been rewatching BTVS courtesy first of FX reruns and lately, a newly acquired DVD box set. I just watched this ep last night. Wow. It was like watching it for the first time all over again because it evoked some emotions on a personal level (more on that below).

    The acting here is top notch all around, especially SMG who as usual hits it out of the park. David Boreanaz finally hits his stride playing the evil Angelus as well. The scene of Buffy crying on her bed after the realization that it was she who cost Angel his soul and things would never be the same again is heart rending…but for me the final scene with Buffy and Joyce finally cracked my shell and got this straight male a little misty. It was impactful in terms of closing a sad chapter of what’s to become a heartbreaking season, but it also hit home on a personal level. In particular it was the scene from the Shirley Temple movie “Stowaway” they were watching, with Alice Faye singing “Goodnight My Love”. My mother was a big fan of old movies and she had all the Shirley Temple movies including that one…and I remember her singing that very song. You’ll have to forgive my digression; in a few days it will be two years since Mom’s passing.

    Anyhow…Great choice of song to end the episode with (though I might be a little biased). Buffy is symbolically saying goodbye to her love, her innocence and her childhood here. Great stuff.

    Also-addressing a couple of comments from earlier…
    a)I think that Angel had no clue what would happen if he and Buffy consummated their relationship, otherwise he would never have done it. In fact after he leaves his apartment and falls into the alley, he actually calls out to her for help as if he doesn’t know what’s happening except that it’s really painful.

    b)Buffy is totally in character by not killing Angelus at this point in her evolution. Though she is totally heartbroken and on one level hates Angelus, she’s still in love (and always will be throughout the remainder of the series) with Angel. After all, she’s just 17 years old and has just given her virginity to him. That is beyond huge for a teenage girl… and I think SMG portrays this flawlessly throughout the episode. As I said above, the bedroom crying scene is heartbreaking and IMO ranks a close #2 behind her sacrificing Angel to save humanity in “Becoming, Part 2” as the singularly most heart wrenching scene (not episode, but scene) in the series. We all know BTVS has plenty of tear jerking moments, especially in S5… but the release of genuine emotion here is on par with Becoming Pt. 2 and The Body in my opinion.

    Forgive my long winded comments. Again, great review of a great episode.


  78. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 6, 2014.]

    I was reading through the earlier comments and the whole Angel/Angelus debate, and I don’t have anything to add that hasn’t already been said. But, I do notice that this debate is about Angel’s two personas, but there are actually three. Remember human Angel i.e Liam? The guy was a jackass. He was impulsive, stupid and useless and definitely a far cry from souled Angel. I guess my point here is that despite the fact that Angel is a complex character, I never seen to understand the core of WHO Angel is when all is said and done. Is he still Liam? Or is he actually Angelus who’s just been tamed by a soul? Or is he actually souled Angel? Which personality is actually, truly, him? I’m sorry if I’m not being able to clearly put across my viewpoint, it’s a little difficult to describe. But that question always lingers… Did Angel get his old soul back when he was cursed? (The soul of Liam?), I think not because Liam was very different. However, it is possible that it’s the same soul as someone pointed out earlier, Angel wasn’t a champion back here. He becomes a hero and learns to fight for the forces of good because of Buffy and then carries on doing so. It’s Buffy’s impact on his life that has changed him into the Souled Angel we now know. Because the old Angel (as we see in aTs flashbacks), wasn’t a real gem either. He saved the puppy, but he was rude to that lady. Also, he let a man die and stole his money. (Or something like that…I’m forgetting exactly what it is he did) so I assume the Angel we know is the Angel who has been highly impacted by Buffy’s influence. But when it comes down to it… Who is Angel? Which one of these three personalities is actually him? I mean yeah…probably all of them are different sides of the same coin…But it still confuses me.

    Also, I can’t believe nobody mentioned the Angelus kissing Spike on the forehead thing. Wait a second I’m having a fangirl moment.
    Okay, I’m good.

    I love this episode to death. I never found anything great about it until I watched it for the second time, but now it resonates with me. Sarah Michelle Gellar is one of the greatest actresses of her time. Kudos to her! I mean, she’s done a lot of emotional scenes, but her expressions and body language are what gets to you in the end. Superb job. Oh, and this episode sets a tradition of bad birthdays for Buffy. *sigh* I know how she feels.

    The Oz and Willow moment was spectacular, I love how straight-forward and nice Oz is. He’s able to talk awkward without being awkward! His speech to Willow made me all misty-eyed, that’s the sweetest thing ever. If a guy said something like that to me I’d be halfway to Swoonland already. xD
    Anyway, I love almost all of the episodes from here on out, my favourite Angelus arc and some amazing, impactful episodes are on the way! Oh, how I love Season 2.


  79. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on May 6, 2014.]

    I believe that Angel and Liam are the same person, except Angel has had 200 years of being Angelus to affect his character. Which may make them not the same person. I don’t know, identity was the part of philosophy I never liked.

    But there’s no way of knowing if are souls are created equal or not, because the show never bothered to tell us. Both no and yes would make sense.


  80. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 7, 2014.]

    I’ve always thought of Angel’s identity as interestingly complicated.

    I mean, first you’ve got the larger question of how much continuity there is between a vampire’s identity and that of the living person before he or she was vamped. The show establishes that being vamped means “a demon sets up shop in your body”–i.e., it’s not “you” anymore–but that the demon does get your memories. It’s also obvious from lots of evidence that the demon appears to inherit at least some of your personality traits–more in some cases than others, seemingly. (Personally, I sort of like to think that this depends somewhat on how “forceful” the personality of the demon that happens to get your body is.)

    So, Angelus was a demon in Liam’s body, possibly with some residual characteristics inherited from Liam (there are certainly quirks of demeanor that can bee seen as common between them, for example)–though probably fewer inherited characteristics than many vampires have, since Angelus was deemed entirely devoid of humanity by The Judge. (Also interesting here is the very fact that he stopped going by the name “Liam” when he was changed–suggesting a strong break from his living persona.)

    My understanding about ensouled Angel is that he’s a sort of hybrid of Liam and Angelus (I take it for granted that his soul is his original Liam-soul). It’s established more than once that the demon is still in him while he’s ensouled (after all, he IS still a vampire)–and in any case, his guilt and his desire for redemption wouldn’t make much sense if he were not still in some sense the same guy who committed all of Angelus’s atrocities. In essence, then, I see him as Liam with a couple centuries of additional experiences AND a vicious, psychotic demon inside him whose impulses he constantly has to suppress (or at least channel in non-evil ways).


  81. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 7, 2014.]

    …since Buffy kills The Judge with a weapon forged by man, then I assume that what we’re supposed to think is “The Judge can’t be killed with old-fashioned weapons but it’s easy enough to kill him with modern technology.” That’s very lame.

    Okay, I know the post I’m responding to here is ancient, but I just wanted to say: Personally, I always understood the idea to be that “no weapon forged by man” was meant very literally. Swords and the like are made in forges; rocket launchers, not so much. It was a classic Buffy subversion of outdated lore–hence Buffy’s “That was then; this is now.”


  82. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    I think there’s more continuity between human and vampire than you give credit for.

    Drusilla was driven mad as a human, when she became a vampire, she was still mad. Spike loved his mother as a human, became a vampire, still loved his mother. I don’t think it’s some character traits, I think it’s all character traits, except they get twisted into their worst possible form.


  83. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    Both interpretations seem correct to me. It’s a shame that the show never gave us a more in depth and clear analysis when it came to vampires and their inherited personalities.
    What with some vampires being mindless killing machines, others having actual humanity (i.e Spike, the love couple on one of the aTs episodes I think it was ‘Heartthrob’, and Dru to some extent (loved Spike.)) It’s so hard to interpret what the true nature of the vampire really is on the show. Especially when you consider the cruel and ruthless Angelus.

    I’ve always thought it depends on three things.
    1. The person the victim was before they were turned.
    2. The vampire who turns them.
    3. The ‘demon’ that takes over their body.

    I had this discussion with a friend who’s also a Buffy fanatic, her logic is that Dru was in a hurry when she changed Spike into a vampire, this led to some of his humanity being retained. Mine, is that it utterly depends on the person they were. Character traits as Other Scott mentioned play a crucial role.

    Liam was a ruthless, conniving jerk who was never loved by his family. Thus, when the demon takes over, he is the worst version of his HUMAN self, which leads to him being ten times more ruthless, conniving and horrible. His whole torturing thing could also be because of the way he used to treat women as a human.

    Then we have Spike, Exhibit B. He was your average Mama’s boy, awful at poetry, the freak of his clan and despite his flaws, was a man filled with endless amounts of passion, love and feelings. He was in love when he was turned. When the demon takes over him, he also becomes the worst version of himself. As a vampire, all these feelings churning inside of him are still there…But unlike Angel, they’re not gone. In fact, the feelings are ten times worse than what they used to be. In turn, leads to Spike becoming obsessive, his obsession is what he claims is ‘love’ (With Dru, and then Buffy), his feelings and passion however, are still very much evident. Love for Spike is elevated when he’s turned into a vampire, thus the whole monologue in ‘Lover’s Walk’. This also explains why his vamp/soulless self was more noble than other vampires.

    I believe that their personalities could’ve been elevated and their emotions and personalities heightened and contorted in the worst possible way.
    The vampire who turns them also plays a major, major role in this.
    Darla was a fanatic, cold-blooded killer. Angel learnt to feed and live as a vampire from her, and when he feeds off of her–this certainly must leave a certain essence of her in him. Angelus probably owes half his messed up personality to Darla.
    Spike, on the other hand was turned by the very unstable Dru, I don’t think anyone will agree on me here, but when I saw Spike going bonkers for the first time in Season 7, I couldn’t help but think of Dru and draw parallels.
    Surely, her influence could’ve affected him in a lot of ways, which explains his insanity and sudden vehement outbursts in episodes such as ‘Crush’ and ‘Seeing Red’.

    Anyway, just another theory after reading all the debate going around. (:


  84. [Note: FlyingPenguin posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    Well, I didn’t necessarily mean to stake out any very specific position on “how much” human-vampire continuity there is, other than to say a) that the answer needs to be somehow reconcilable with the notion that the “person” dies and a demon takes over the body, and b) that I suspect it varies somewhat from case to case. I didn’t mean to say that I think the continuity is always (or even usually) minimal.

    However, I do see it as relatively minimal in the case of Liam/Angelus. Maybe there’s evidence that I’ve forgotten, but going by everything I remember, I would have to disagree, Lydia, that “Liam was a ruthless, conniving jerk.” He struck me more as basically a drunken, insecure, directionless loser (with daddy issues). He and Angelus seem very different to me, except in relatively superficial ways.


  85. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    I’m not so sure. I agree with your read on Liam’s character, but we mostly see Angel(us)-the-Vampire after he’s been travelling the world with Darla for decades or centuries. Darla’s mentorship, a life of hedonism and luxury and cruelty, decades of experience… those things change a person. Especially a young and impressionable one who has never been beyond his village before. I mean, even humans change immensely over the course of their lifetime. Why would vampires be different?

    When we see Liam right after he becomes a vampire, in “the Prodigal”, he is much closer to that human persona. Just like newly-vamped Harmony, or Spike just after he changes, or Jesse for that matter.

    The “demon in a human body” thing is a quote from Giles, who in-universe has been known to get quite a lot of things about vampires wrong, and has a vested interest in convincing his slayer to kill vampires without hesitation. Out-of-universe it was made very early in the show, before any vampire characters were explored in great depth. I don’t think the writers ever really stuck to it.

    Either way I much prefer Darla’s quote from ‘the Prodigal,’ since she is after all speaking from experience: “What we once were, informs all that we have become. The same love infects our hearts, even if they no longer beat. Simple death won’t change that.”

    The way I see it: Vampires in Buffy are a perversion of what they were as human. They’re demonic, they’re corrupted. But much of their personality and much of what drove them as humans remains. The connection between the two is very strong. And if it were not so, they wouldn’t be nearly as interesting.


  86. [Note: Sasukespecialman posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    I definitely agree with you about vampires being perversions of their human predecessor. It is what makes them particularly interesting to explore. There are cases where they seem to buck this idea (for example, the grungy vampire that Darla recruits to turn her) but for the most part the two personalities seem intertwined, with the vampire building off and twisting the emotional and mental state of the person.

    As for the change issue, it is tough to tell. They definitely change in terms if clothing, or location, but there are a number of hints that a vampire’s life usually takes on a very repetitive rhythm. Angelus and Darla, for example, seem to repeat the same patterns: they travel, kill, torture, betray each other, reconcile, and it all happens again. Even the recruitment of more vampires (Dru and Spike) is reflected in those other two lovers in “Hearthrob” (S3E1 of Angel). Similarly, Penn, who shows up in Somnambulist (Angel, S1E10), seems to have spent hundreds of years repeating the same motions and same methods of murder. It is unclear whether this is a result of a poor mentorship under Angelus, a fundamental trait of his human predecessor, or somewhat intrinsic to the vampire condition. I often feel it is one of the exposing dimensions of the vampire as a breed in Buffy. They are bottom-dwellers, simple creatures who always act in predictable ways (e.g. nests) and are quite killable. Angelus, Darla, Spike, and a few others seem to be exceptions that have reached truly high levels of power.

    It is a very interesting question, though. And very good for debate.


  87. [Note: Lydia posted this comment on May 8, 2014.]

    I guess your right about Liam being a directionless, drunk loser but he obviously had a conniving jerk streak, like right before he turned into a vampire. And of course, what exactly Liam’s personality was is something they never explained in grand detail, but the jerk thing could be a possibility. Albeit, I can’t be sure of it so I was probably mistaken back there.

    Angelus’s crazy personality could be blamed on a lot of aspects. As I mentioned earlier, Darla’s essence and influence, the demon that ‘took him over’, his own personality traits all mixed in with that.

    The perversions of their human predecessor makes the most sense. But… This also has plenty of aspects related to it like I mentioned in my comment above.


  88. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    The best look we get at Liam is, ironically enough, in “Spin the Bottle,” the Angel season 4 episode, when Angel loses his memory of the past couple of centuries and thinks he’s 17 year old Liam again.

    There, he definitely doesn’t seem to be conniving (far too much effort) and mostly appears to be a harmless lecher. But the moment he finds out he’s a vampire he decides he might as well go with it and starts hunting the others.

    Liam isn’t mean. He’s not even violent, unless (presumably) he’s drunk. He is, however, easily led, weak-willed and devoid of anything resembling a strong moral principle or a spine. Add Darla and demonic urges to this mix, as well as a strong need to prove to his father’s memory that he’s not worthless, that he’s powerful, someone to be reckoned with… well, I’m not surprised Angelus is what we ended up with.

    (Flashback Angelus, that is. Soulless Angel from this season doesn’t seem to be playing with a full deck, as Spike says.)


  89. [Note: Buffster posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    I think both of you made very solid points. Lydia and Iguana-on-a-stick, And I think Iguana’s comment makes the most sense. It’s true I think we get to see Angelus very clearly in the episode ‘Spin the Bottle’, I think that was an episode that worked on showing us Liam’s true nature. Having said that, I for one am glad they didn’t pan out Liam very much, he’s fairly a boring character. Angel is semi-boring, but Angelus steals the show. Which is part of why I love him so much.

    Besides that, I had an interesting thought though. If vampires are truly capable of love, and if they are able to have humanistic traits despite them being the worst possible versions of themselves, does that mean that Buffy and the gang’s black-and-white outlook is very debatable? The watchers council is said to be very prejudice and small-minded. They certainly do not encourage any other approaches. But the whole demons = bad and humans = saved even if they’re fugitives could be considered debatable if certain demons and/or vampires have the capability to change. So… It’s true, they are still demons and they still wreck havoc, even the ‘nicest’ ones like the dude Buffy talked to in ‘CWDP’ but Spike found a way to get his soul, right? This means there IS a way for vampires to be redeemed! But I doubt this thought crossed anyone’s mind.


  90. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    Well, it seems that under -some- circumstances vampires are capable of love and maybe even redemption.

    But under just about any conceivable circumstance, -all- vampires, even the nicest and cuddliest ones we see over the course of 12 seasons of 2 shows, are capable of murder. Indeed, almost every single one seems to relish murder, whether it is out of sadistic urges, boredom, or simple hunger.

    So even though vampires aren’t “pure” evil and Spike proves they can be theoretically redeemed, I’d say that “stake first and ask questions later” is the only sensible policy anyway. Saving one vampire would mean condemning hundreds or thousands of people who’d be killed by the vampires who’d slip away while the Slayer is doing psych evaluations on her targets.

    That said, it’s not like everybody’s outlook is 100% black and white regardless: the vampire prostitutes in season 5 are left alone by Giles and the Watchers because they’re relatively harmless and the Scoobies can do much more good fighting the vampires who are posing an active threat. Of course, Buffy then goes and kills them anyway because she’s upset with Riley… that’s definitely one of her uglier moments.


  91. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    I think vampire’s are capable of obsession, not necessarily love. I think that’s how Spike felt about Buffy. The difficulty with Spike was, the only way to fulfill that obsession was to join the good side, and ultimately to get his soul back.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of Spike’s love for Buffy overcame his vampire nature, it’s Spike’s obsession with Buffy forced him to get rid of that vampire nature to fulfill it.


  92. [Note: Iguana-on-a-stick posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    Why do you think that?

    Various vampires on the show contradict you. (Drusilla, Darla, Spike, James and Elizabeth all claim that vampires can love.) I’d say the events on the screen support them.

    Spike certainly started out being obsessed by Buffy. (Crush, anyone?) But if you look at his actions later in season 5… he was willing to suffer torture and accept near certain death rather than cause her unbearable pain, he fought to protect her family and friends for months after her death, to honour her memory, when there was not the slightest possibility he’d be rewarded for it. (Until Willow started using magic, but he couldn’t know that.) How is that not evidence of love?

    When people argue that vampires can’t love, I suspect that it has more to do with how they define love and souls and whatnot. Perhaps they think love is impossible without a soul by definition, or something like that. (If that’s not your reason, do correct me. I’d be interested in hearing why you think they can’t.) Because if we forget what we’ve been told about vampires and just look at Spike’s actions on screen without context, I imagine most people would conclude he indeed loves Buffy. (And loved Drusilla before her.)

    Now, mind you, I don’t think love overcame his vampire nature at all. If anything season 6 demonstrated that it did not, and that even love can become very dark and twisted. As you say, he got rid of his vampire nature instead. But I don’t see how mere obsession could make him do that. It had to be love that compelled him to take such a drastic step. If it had just been obsession, he would not have cared so much that he hurt her.


  93. [Note: Other Scott posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    Probably a matter of definitions, yes. I consider love to be a good or positive attribute, and that vampires as portrayed have had all things good or positive sucked out of them. Hence I just use obsession where they would have used love, I guess.


  94. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on May 9, 2014.]

    My stance on this issue is similar to Mike’s, I think: Spike does care for Buffy, but as a soulless monster he is incapable of offering her the full spectrum of love.


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