Buffy 2×19: I Only Have Eyes for You

[Review by Mike Marinaro]

[Writer: Marti Noxon | Director: James Whitmore, Jr. | Aired: 04/28/1998]

“My love must be a kind of blind love.” – “I Only Have Eyes for You” (The Flamingos)

“I Only Have Eyes for You” is one of the most beautiful episodes of television I have ever seen. Where “Passion” [2×17] wowed us with its horror and intensity, “I Only Have Eyes for You” changes us with its heart and compassion. This is not what most people would consider an ‘arc’ episode, because ‘arc’ has become synonymous with ‘plot arc’ in the serialized television lexicon. In my mind, though, great character arcs are the magic that makes television truly come to life; character arcs are ultimately what you can learn something from and connect with on a human level. With this in mind, “I Only Have Eyes for You” may not be integral to the season’s plot, but it is the very essence of the season’s humanity — a far more important quality to have.

With that said, for an episode so tuned into the characters, it’s incredible just how well written and structured this stand-alone plot is. As we know, that plot involves a spirit at the high school — James, a student — reenacting the 1955 killing of his love — Grace, or Ms. Newman, a teacher — over and over again in the days leading up the Sadie Hawkins dance at the school. What you may not have noticed is the extremely clever manner in which “I Only Have Eyes for You” feeds us the details of James’ shooting. An example of this is how the acting is so weak in the first two possessions, which I see as a sly nod to the fact that the possessed people literally aren’t ‘into’ the emotions that James and Grace are sharing, whereas Buffy and Angel are intimately connected to them.

We witness three distinct times when James possesses someone and fires up his ‘killing script’. The first possession involves a couple of students at the school just before and after the opening credits. James gets interrupted by Buffy right after he yells out, “Don’t walk away from me #####!” — something that will have increased relevance soon. The key takeaway here is that James is prevented from playing out the rest of his script, which keeps both the viewer and the characters in the dark over the parallels to Season 2’s story while adding a sense of mystery to what’s going on.

In the second possession James is able to find a closer match for Grace in the body of a teacher, but this isn’t good enough — it’s just a role and doesn’t properly replicate the emotional intensity of their relationship. This time around we gain the information that James shot Grace on the school balcony. Ah, but notice the perspective we see the shooting from: Giles, who sees it all from behind closed doors, does not know the trigger was pulled by accident and that James — had he not been interrupted again — was about to commit suicide. This lack of knowledge colors our perception of James in a more negative light and continues to obfuscate the stunning parallels to Buffy and Angel, thus letting the final possession be that much more of a revelation. This kind of plotting keeps us engaged to what’s happening throughout the episode while simultaneously setting us up for a powerful ending.

Another detail I appreciated was the manner in which James reaches out to Buffy. He probably first gets wind of his connection to her when she touches him possessing a student in the first sequence. It’s only after that moment does James begin to target her. He starts by invisibly sliding the 1955 yearbook in Snyder’s office onto the floor, which seems like an attempt to get Buffy to learn about him, but she just shrugs it off and puts it back. Being an angry spirit and all, I don’t think he took too kindly to Buffy so casually ‘walking away from him’, so to speak. Very shortly afterward, in class, Buffy’s teacher unwillingly channels James and writes — you guessed it — “Don’t walk away from me #####!” on the chalkboard. This is obviously directed at Buffy, because right before it happened she gets a vision of the past from James showcasing the student/teacher dynamic in his love for Grace. (Grace also references a Hemingway book involving a love affair that ends in tragedy.)

James finally does get Buffy to pay attention to him, but she doesn’t cast him in a very forgiving light after learning all the details — sans the accidental trigger pull — of the shooting. This is probably why when the Scoobies try to cast his spirit out of the school James is furious with them and yells at Buffy to “get out!” James wants Buffy out of the school so he can bring her back alone — without interruptions — and show just how similar the two of them are emotionally. This could also be why James manifests snakes at the school earlier on. (Snakes are often associated with lies. So this could be commenting on Buffy lying to herself about not feeling any connection to James. “You’re full of lies,” Snyder snarls at Buffy, but in reality it’s the high school itself that is full of lies, including “truth seeker” [heh] Snyder.)

“Do you realize that the girls have to ask the guys? And pay and everything?” – Cordelia

Cordelia’s amusing statement about the Sadie Hawkins dance at the school offers more meaning than initially meets the eye. The dance serves as a framework for just about everything that happens in “I Only Have Eyes for You”: it awakens the spirit of James to relive that fateful night in 1955, highlights the inappropriate power dynamics at play in the James/Grace relationship, reinforces Buffy’s feeling that she deserves to “pay” for what happened to Angel, and foreshadows the shockingly perfect role reversal when James possesses Buffy at the end of the episode. The common thread in all of this is Buffy: the choices she’s made throughout the season and how she’s handling the consequences of them.

The opening scene at the Bronze gets us up to speed with Buffy’s state of mind while also setting up the emotional challenges she’ll soon be confronted with. After Buffy denies a boy with a splash of Owenosity in him a date to the upcoming dance, Willow informs us that ever since “Killed by Death” [2×18] it’s been “All work and no play Buffy,” implying that she has been extra focused on slaying to try to make up for her recent failures. After everything that’s happened, Willow’s advice for Buffy to act “impulsive” in the dating realm is, at best, painfully naïve and, at worst, a bit insulting.

It seems that Willow’s not entirely in touch with, nor perceptive about, how the Angelus situation has impacted Buffy. This isn’t Willow at her best, and it implies that her approach to dealing with pain and failure might actually be even more self-destructive than Buffy’s. This is something to look out for in the coming seasons. To Willow’s credit, she does at least attempt to make the case that what happened with Angel wasn’t Buffy’s fault, but unfortunately it (1) doesn’t mean enough to Buffy coming from Willow — it needs to come from Angel — and (2) isn’t even something Buffy believes is true yet.

Later in the episode Giles suggests that James is lashing out because, being dead and all, he has no way to make peace with what happened. There’s a subtle lesson there for Buffy in that if she doesn’t make peace with what happened to Angel, she’ll start becoming bitter and lash out at those around her, including her friends. James is the worst case scenario for Buffy if she doesn’t move on, which is curiously the very thing she struggled to do in the beginning of the season (“When She Was Bad” [2×01]). Before moving on is possible, though, Buffy will have to forgive herself for what happened.

“I need you…” – Grace, whispering to Giles for help

“I Only Have Eyes for You” is primarily focused on Buffy, but, for a time, the episode splits off a Giles story that runs in parallel to what Buffy’s going through. Willow also gets in the action by dabbling with magic for the very first time. Right before James kills the possessed teacher in the second sequence, a feminine voice whispers to Giles in the library: “I need you…” Giles, understandably, thinks it’s Jenny calling out to him — after all, she did recently die traumatically in the school. Unfortunately for Giles, it isn’t Jenny reaching out to him now — it’s actually Grace trying to prevent James from harming her again. This moment is: (1) creepy, (2) sensible, and (3) sends Giles into an emotional frenzy looking for spirits in all the wrong places.

Giles gets so excited at the thought of communicating with Jenny, likely to appease his feeling of helplessness at preventing what happened, that he gets sloppy in his duties as Watcher by selectively ignoring important details about these possessions (like the gun) so it will fit his narrative that Jenny needs his help to move on. Buffy solemnly sums it up: “he misses her.” A side effect of Giles being distracted, which is similar to how Angel distracted Buffy from her duties as the Slayer, is that Willow ends up trying to do a spell for the first time on her own, something I’m not sure he would have approved of.

Willow’s plan to cast James out of the school makes for an incredibly creepy and atmospheric sequence: slamming doors, Cordelia’s face getting disfigured, a vortex appearing below Willow, and a swarm of wasps flooding the school. Buffy is never as consistently creepy as it has been in these last few episodes. Great effects work too! The binding spell doesn’t work for a few reasons: (1) Willow doesn’t fully know what she’s doing yet, (2) the spirit (James) is simply too angry and powerful for them, and (3) it isn’t necessarily an entirely “bad” spirit.

While all of this creepiness is going down, Giles is off on his own in the library still trying to find a way to communicate with Jenny. After hearing Willow yelling for help, Giles finally comes out of hiding, which results in a subtle yet powerful moment. A frightened Willow quietly reminds him that “Jenny could never be this mean.” Giles breaks my heart when he concedes, “I know. It’s not her, is it?” This is the moment Giles begins to move on from Jenny, even though he’ll never forget her. Now it’s time for Buffy to follow suit, although she has far thicker barriers to break through. The key for Buffy is offered earlier in the episode, when Willow gives Jenny’s rose quartz to Giles. The rose quartz, Willow explains, is supposed to have healing properties. What’s one of the best ways to heal? Forgiveness. There will be a lot more on this topic in a bit.

This banishment attempt only serves to anger James even more, and it certainly doesn’t resolve the underlying reason for that anger. Up until the end, Buffy is a harsh judge of James’ actions. Some early quotes include, “Sure I feel lousy. For her. He’s a murderer and he should pay for it” and “Who cares what he wants!” While at the school, Buffy is tasked with the hotspot: the music room where James committed suicide. When Buffy gets there she sees the ghosts of James and Grace dancing together — it was likely their secret spot — with the song “I Only Have Eyes for You” playing the background. The first lyrics Buffy hears? “It must be a kind of blind love. I can’t see anyone but you.” These lyrics will be repeated verbatim, but in a different context, soon.

After their previous failure, the Scoobies are forced into an informative conversation about James and what they need to do to help him move on. I’ll just quote this entire exchange, because it’s the moment when Buffy’s connection to James really begins to snap into place:

BUFFY: He wants forgiveness.

GILES: Yes. I imagine he does. But when James possesses people, they act out exactly what happened that night. So he’s experiencing a form of purgatory instead. I mean, he’s doomed to kill his Ms. Newman over and over and over again, and… forgiveness is impossible.

BUFFY: Good. He doesn’t deserve it.

GILES: To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.

BUFFY: No. James destroyed the one person he loved the most in a moment of blind passion. And that’s not something you forgive. No matter why he did what he did. And no matter if he knows now that it was wrong and selfish and stupid, it is just something he’s gonna have to live with.

XANDER: He can’t live with it, Buff. He’s dead.

CORDELIA: Okay. Over-identify much?

Once again, Cordelia’s observation is right on the money. Everything Buffy has been saying about James is also directed at herself. A lot of what Buffy says has truth to it: both her and James were selfish and made some poor choices. But Giles is equally right, thus more explicitly highlighting the core theme of “I Only Have Eyes for You”. Forgiveness is often the only tool we have to move on from painful experiences, but it’s not always easy to do. Sometimes we need to forgive someone else, but other times we have to forgive ourselves. We all make mistakes; we’re all only human. On the positive side, one of the advantages of being imperfect is that we always have something to strive for and work towards, thus giving our lives added meaning and purpose.

“There’s a gate! It’s opening! … It wants her. … It’s time, Angel. She’s ready for you now. She’s dancing. Dancing with death.” – Drusilla

Thanks to James, Buffy ends up going to the Sadie Hawkins “dance” after all, with a possessed Angelus as her partner. The role reversals — with James possessing Buffy and Grace possessing Angelus — is surprising yet couldn’t have worked any other way, which is a credit to how “I Only Have Eyes for You” is structured and written. The scenes between Buffy/James and Angel/Grace are absolutely magical — I could easily quote everything they say to each other because, honestly, all of it is so layered with emotion and depth. I also have to commend the actors here: Sarah Michelle Gellar is utterly heartbreaking and David Boreanaz puts in one of the best performances in his career. Christophe Beck turns in yet another sublime “performance” in his own right with his tender yet passionate score that slowly builds throughout the episode.

As we now know, everything James and Grace say to each other perfectly parallels how Buffy and Angel feel toward each other, and that James’ self-loathing mirrors Buffy’s self-loathing. Angel/Grace tells Buffy/James, “I just want you to be able to have some kind of normal life. We can never have that, don’t you see?” This is pretty much the exact reason why Angel will leave Buffy for good in Season 3, and has always been a hurdle in their relationship. Buffy hasn’t worried about that though because “I’m going crazy not seeing you. I think about you every minute.” Remember what she said to him in “Bad Eggs” [2×12]? “Angel, when I look into the future, all I see is you! All I want is you.” Suddenly all I can think about are the words in a song: “My love must be a kind of blind love.”

When the words “Don’t walk away from me #####!” make their final appearance, Buffy is the one shown uttering the word “#####,” which is that much more powerful considering all that Angelus has done to her recently. (The scene in “Innocence” [2×14] where Angelus casually jokes about their night of passion and then walks away leaving her completely distraught is totally being channeled through Buffy’s body as she says that word.)

On the school balcony we finally get the whole story this time, which makes this entire situation far more complex and ambiguous than we initially thought. First of all, right before the gun goes off, Buffy/James yells at Angel/Grace, “Don’t talk to me like I’m some stupid…” kid. This line highlights that teacher/student, adult/child dynamic in the relationship between James and Grace while also reminding us of how illicit it was for a slayer to have slept with a vampire in what’s also ultimately an adult/child dynamic. In both of these cases the adult deserves most of the blame for taking advantage of the child, even more so when they are in a position of power or authority over them.

When the gun goes off this time we discover the vital detail that the trigger got pulled accidentally! James did not really intend to pull that trigger, just like Buffy did not intend to pull the trigger on Angelus. After Buffy/James distraughtly walk back to the music room, Buffy looks in the mirror and all she sees is James reflected back — their souls are merged into one right now, sharing the same unbearable grief over what they’ve done. “It must be a kind of blind love” plays in the background now. “I can’t see anyone but you,” which in this moment has a brand new meaning: Buffy can only see James and vice versa — they’re ready to end it all together.

But wait! There’s a twist to this grisly ending: Angel can’t die to a regular bullet. Angel/Grace can break the cycle of self-loathing, which was how this story was supposed to end. Thanks to Angel’s immortality, James finally has a chance at forgiveness — a forgiveness Angel/Grace readily offers Buffy/James. (It now becomes clear why Ms. Newman’s first name is ‘Grace’.) Buffy/James is in shock: “But I killed you!” Angel/Grace then hits the nail on the head:

ANGEL/GRACE: It was an accident. It wasn’t your fault.

BUFFY/JAMES: Oh, it is my fault. How could I…

ANGEL/GRACE: I’m the one who should be sorry, James. You thought I stopped loving you. But I never did. I loved you with my last breath. No more tears.

The hard truth to both the Buffy/Angel and James/Grace relationships is that they are complicated. Buffy/James may have made some poor choices and acted out of selfishness and immaturity (likely contributed to by unstable upbringings), but Angel/Grace were the respective adults in these relationships and should have known better than to take advantage of children/students — the adults are the ones with the psychological and sexual power here. Did either Angel or Grace deserve to die for that? No, certainly not, but that doesn’t absolve them of blame.

Naturally, when something goes wrong in a relationship like this, the child is more likely to blame themselves and idealize the adult. This is why when Angel lost his soul, Angelus is more than thrilled to validate Buffy’s feelings that it’s entirely her fault. Heck, even Principal Snyder provides a background chorus for her self-loathing: “I’m gonna keep looking until I know exactly how this is all your fault.” Thankfully, Angel/Grace finally recognize their culpability and responsibility in all of this, which is why they apologize for their actions and properly take the bulk of the weight off Buffy/James’ shoulders, allowing both of them the opportunity to move on. There is an outflow of compassion for Buffy here that is hard-earned and cathartic. This entire scene is very well-written, being weighty yet poignant; haunting yet beautiful; powerful yet intimate.

After the spirits leave Buffy and Angelus’ bodies, there seems to be a brief moment of soulful residue left over where it appears that Angel is there rather than Angelus. This gives Buffy a moment of hope that Angel is back, but that moment is snatched away as quickly as it got there, thus completely foreshadowing the end of the season: Angel will get his soul back right before Buffy has to send him to hell; this moment emotionally prepares her to be able to follow-through on that one, which is an impressively subtle bit of setup for the finale.

After everything calms down, Buffy tells Giles that a part of her still doesn’t get why Grace would forgive James. Giles asks, “Does it matter?” Buffy, now having a bit of a change of heart through this experience, says, “I guess not”; she can now stop beating herself up over what happened and begin the long process of healing and moving on, which will still be quite the struggle as long as Angelus is still out there murdering people. But at least now Buffy won’t be feeling like, as Cain put it in “Phases” [2×15], “If that thing hurts anyone, it’s on your head.”

“I Only Have Eyes for You” is a masterpiece of the form. With themes ranging from blame and selfishness to forgiveness and love, the complexity and consequences of relationships have never been more apparent to Buffy. Season 2 does an excellent job looking at every angle of adolescent love and allows the characters to grow from those experiences. Mistakes have been made, consequences have been felt, and now forgiveness has been accepted. It’s almost time to fasten our seat belts, because the conclusion to this maelstrom of story is just around the corner. As for “I Only Have Eyes for You”? Well, let’s just say that it’s good for the soul.


Minor Pros/Cons (+/-)

+ Oh, the Balcony of Pain. Emotional moments always seem to happen up there: “Welcome to the Hellmouth” [1×01], this, “Crush” [5×14], “All the Way” [6×06], “Dead Things” [6×13], and “Sleeper” [7×08], to say the least. I don’t necessarily think there’s any greater meaning here, only that, well, it’s the Balcony of Pain!
+ The song playing in the background at the Bronze is called “Charge”, by Splendid, and is performed by Whedon favorite Angie Hart (think “Conversations with Dead People” [7×07]). The lyrics often directly apply to the Buffy/Angel and James/Grace relationships, thus setting up where the episode is headed, such as “The way you love / Have you got a name for it? / ‘Cause I don’t understand it”, “Got a list tattooed on my memory / Of how our tryst should unfold”, “I’m falling from the opposite”, “My heart’s enlarged, and I charge / What do you say? / To a dream that won’t go away / ‘Cause I don’t know if I can stand it”, and “Forever isn’t something you want to be.”
+ Buffy looks especially badass wailing on the first possessed guy.
+ The gun dispersing into the air: nice effect!
+ Drusilla getting quite excited over their new home.
+ Spike mocking Angelus over how their new home is so friendly to sunlight.
+ The wasps making a pathway for Buffy to enter the school followed by the front doors opening by themselves is so very creepy. Fabulous visuals, again.
+ This Xander quote pretty much applies to Spike right now too: “I’m dead as hell, and I won’t take it anymore!” I don’t think he’ll be in a forgiving mood toward Angelus soon. I love that he — the former villain in the season — gets his own hero music for being back in business.
+ Angelus being possessed by love seems to completely throw him off the deep end. After this he suddenly becomes less enamored with a special end for Buffy, and more interested in just sending everything to hell. I can almost see him literally saying, ‘To hell with Sunnydale!’

– Willow still teaching Jenny’s old class and making forced jokes. This makes little-to-no sense.


Foreshadowing

* Snyder being in the know about the Hellmouth. The Mayor is also implicated. This is nice, subtle setup for Season 3.


[Score]

EXCEPTIONAL

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87 thoughts on “Buffy 2×19: I Only Have Eyes for You”

  1. [Note: Lottie posted this comment on September 5, 2006.]

    Also I love how the writers used the fact that Buffy feels she has killed Angel (and in a way, she has) by doing something, as she puts ‘rash, stupid and selfish’. I also just want to say that think its great the way your site analyses Buffy in the depth it deserves.

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  2. [Note: Ninaa posted this comment on June 23, 2007.]

    SHIT YEAH THIS EPISODE IS AMAZING!
    i mean come one! Buffy and Angels tension is amazing and beyond excellent!

    I love the script for this episode, i mean who can beat that “just wake up and stop loving somebody!” its just terrific. i cant even think of words! its just amazing! love this episode and i love how you have reviewed it. your doing a really good job =D

    Ninaaarrrrrr/x

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  3. [Note: Gilli posted this comment on June 28, 2007.]

    This is without a doubt my FAVORITE episode!

    it’s perfect in like every way for me.

    when Angel turned back to Angelus i was missing the love between him and Buffy, and although they were possessed, it was beautiful between them

    btw…i must agree with Ninaa…..these reviews are freaking awesome!!

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  4. [Note: LibMax posted this comment on July 25, 2007.]

    I also love this episode. It’s the first and maybe the best of the episodes which took the arcs and issues and themes that had been working out in prose through the rest of the season and spun them into poetry (others, in my opinion, are Earshot (parts of it, anyway), Restless, Weight of the World, and Normal Again).

    Buffy “killed” Angel by sleeping with him and releasing Angelus. But I don’t think Angelus ever stopped loving Buffy. As Willow pointed out (in Passion?), “You’re still the only thing he thinks about.”

    Without I Only Have Eyes For You, Angelus’s motives don’t seem to make much sense. He’s obsessed with Buffy, claims that “to kill this girl, you have to love her” (Innocence), fusses over how best to send his regards (Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered), and generally makes her as miserable as he can (Passion, etc.) without actually attacking her. Then, after I Only Have Eyes For You, he’s suddenly done with Buffy and looking to destroy the world instead, something Angelus never tried to do in all his decades of villainy.

    Spike calls it an “appetite for destruction,” but it came from nowhere. Why the sudden shift from Buffy to Acathla? I think it’s because I Only Have Eyes For You forced Angelus to face the fact that he was still as in love with Buffy as Angel, only dealing with it differently (the vampire version of a punch on the arm, pigtails in the inkwell, etc.). That’s why he’s so frantically scrubbing himself at the fountain – not because Grace’s love for James hijacked his body, but because he’s been made to confront his own (twisted and evil) love for Buffy.

    I think it’s his inability to deal with true love (not to mention the indignity of sharing an emotion with Angel) that makes Angelus decide to end his existence. And of course, if he’s going to end his own, he owes it to his reputation to end everyone else’s. I think Acathla makes perfect sense for Angelus, but if and only if we acknowledge that his encounter with Grace Newman revealed feelings that he was trying to hide from himself (as she was), feelings he couldn’t deal with (just like her).

    YMMV.

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  5. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on October 16, 2007.]

    Amazing episode. The story is good but when we combine Angel and Buffy´s story and Buffy´s need to be forgiven, this episode is just incredible. The final scene where they re-enact James and Grace´s final moments is thrilling when we see that it parallels Buffy and Angel perfectly.
    Wonderfully done, wonderfully acted, just wonderful.

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  6. [Note: Andrew Kern posted this comment on January 13, 2008.]

    I just re-watched this. I’ve got a different take than LibMax on why Angelus wanted to send the world to hell and how this relates to loving Buffy (or not).

    I don’t think it had to do with Angelus’ inability to deal with the true love hidden within him. I think he did it because he realized how easy it would be for him to turn once again into his opposite, someone who loved.

    Here’s my reasoning:

    * The Judge, after touching Angelus, says “There’s no humanity in him.” Not even a spark. And this is the same Judge who could burn a vampire flunky simply because he reads. If there was anything of Angel’s love for Buffy in Angelus, I think the Judge would have sensed it.

    * Angelus, in explaining why he wanted to destroy Buffy in the worst way possible, said, “She made me feel like a man. That’s not something you just forgive.” For Angelus, the worst thing imaginable is to love, to be human in that way. Anything which could bring that about must be punished and destroyed.

    * Murderous obsession and hatred is not a different way of dealing with love. If we were to say that, I think we’d have to say that Warren loved Katrina.

    * Unlike with un-souled Spike, I see no evidence that there was anything redeeming about Angelus. There is nothing within him calling out for something different, for him to become someone different. Angelus can only be redeemed from the outside, and that would have to happen completely against his will. (BTW, this is one reason why I find Spike to be a much more interesting character than Angel.)

    * That’s his motivation for going after Buffy so viciously. He saw her as the one thing which could redeem him and make him feel love again. Not only must she be punished for making him love, she must be destroyed to prevent him ever loving again.

    * That’s where IOHEFY comes in. In this episode, something besides Buffy makes him feel love, and it does so easily and instantly. He doesn’t even have time or the ability to fight it. In total opposition to Angelus, he becomes someone who would love and forgive the person who murdered him, not because the person deserved it but because they needed it – a very human act, the antithesis of Angelus. His visceral growl once the possession is over sums up perfectly how he feels about this. I think he washes himself so vigorously precisely because “Grace’s love for James hijacked his body.”

    * Suddenly, it’s not just Buffy who could make him love. I think that after this experience, Angelus sees the whole world as filled with unseen and deadly potential sources of love. His existence as Angelus is seen as thoroughly vulnerable, and the rebirth of Angel as immanent within the world itself. Thus, destroying the world by casting it into hell becomes preferable, if not a necessity, to the certainty that Angelus would once again become (in his eyes) that sappy, brooding go-gooder gazing doe-eyed at the Slayer.

    * In short, Angelus wants to destroy the world not because he loves, but because he doesn’t and because he needs to ensure that he never does.

    On another note, I have to add my admiration for DB’s acting in this. I wasn’t all that impressed with his acting up ’til then, but this was great stuff. I can see why Joss started thinking about an Angel spin-off.

    And yes, it is a wonderful, complex episode and a great example of how BtVS could take a plot which could have been just a retread of a retread of a cliche and create something amazing out of it.

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  7. [Note: Ninaa posted this comment on June 3, 2008.]

    Andrew Kern
    ^ you have such an interesting theory. You may be onto something, but we will never know simply because we weren’t the ones that wrote the episode, I personally think that he shifted to demolishing the world because he loved buffy and that killed him, he didnt want to love her. He hated the fact that Angel loved her and it could be leaking out onto Angelus, for that ghost to just possess him and be able to make him feel those feelings, to tap into them make him realise he loved that slayer, and he followed her constantly, torturing her, pissing her off ect. because he loved her, and he didnt realise that untill he got possessed which made him think there’s no way of shaking that feeling and the only way he could would be to demolish everything.

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  8. [Note: Amber posted this comment on November 21, 2008.]

    One of my favorite Seasons from Buffy The Vampire Slayer, It so riveting and a ride of excitement, love, heartache. Oh my gosh Sarah and David both play this episode to a T. He has shown his obsession for her in past episodes, Willow has also stated that she is still the only thing he thinks about. Angelus seeks Buffy with Druscilla’s vision, meeting her in the school hall way. They begin there James and Grace skit and all happens as it turns out Buffy(James) winds up in the music room where Angelus(Grace) goes onto reunite with Buffy(James). It gets so intense when they begin to kiss and after the James and Graces’ spirits lift them. Still kissing and finally coming back to reality that moment that Buffy looks and realizes who she kissing saying his Souled name “Angel”. You see as he opens his eyes for a moment he seems as if he is content almost as if he is where he wants to be. But of course has to do the “MANLY or so DEMONY” thing throw her to the side with his scary growl. I think they were both caught in the moment.

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  9. [Note: Jim posted this comment on October 18, 2009.]

    Incredible, just astonishing television. The final 10 mins are the best the show’s ever been and some of the best TV I’ve ever seen.

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  10. [Note: Smallprint84 posted this comment on March 13, 2010.]

    Terrific episode.

    And the cool school-scene with the wasps reminded me of that great Argento film “Phenomena”. Witch I can recommend you to watch it some time.

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  11. [Note: G1000 posted this comment on May 15, 2010.]

    Apparently I’m the only one not completely over-the-moon about this one. It’s good, but nowhere near the quality of “Passion”, “Innocence”, or even “School Hard”. Giles’ stubborn refusal to give up on Jenny didn’t work for me. The main plot was good, but the locusts and snakes were overkill. Also, while I identified with Buffy and Angel, I just didn’t care very much about the teacher and student.

    Loved Spike at the end. Best part of the episode, easily.

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  12. [Note: nathan.taurus posted this comment on July 29, 2010.]

    G1000: I am with you. No where near a 95.

    The Good:

    Willow getting interested in magic because of Jenny.

    The 50’s high school girls speech. “Oh, he’s dreamy.” It is so swell. They probably have the names Sandy Sue and Norma Jean.

    Giles flustered and declaring he is right about the ghost and everyone else is wrong.

    The scene with Buffy watching the couple dance in 1955.

    Buffy and Angelus do the reverse roles of the doomed play.

    The Bad:

    The student in the class when the teacher wrote the line on the blackboard. “Did you see what he wrote?” Of course we did, dumbass! So annoying.

    There was still snakes in the cafeteria. Animal control wouldn’t just leave them ’till the morning.

    The glass panels on the exit door to the stairs where the shooting takes place has the same marks as 1955. Now that’s good glass.

    A good episode, but not as good as many say in my opinion. A High 80’s.

    Like

  13. [Note: Maggie posted this comment on July 31, 2010.]

    This is another one of my top 6 episodes. I absolutely loved it. But I’ll admit, I wouldn’t like it nearly as much if it weren’t for the scene where Buffy and Angel were acting out the same killing scene with reversed roles. Perfect.

    Like

  14. [Note: Steph posted this comment on August 3, 2010.]

    This is definitely one of my favorite episodes of the entire season for many reasons. I had no idea that a random ghost story would be able to pull off such high marks in my favorite’s list. One specific reason why I love it is that I think it’s perfectly plausible for Giles to WANT to believe Jenny is the ghost. We don’t really get to see a lot of his grieving process in this season after she dies. We do see him fueled with rage right after it happens, but after the anger or denial wears off there is also that sadness. In my opinion, he probably knew deep down that Jenny wasn’t the ghost, but he wanted some sort of resolution/closure, so he could pick up the pieces and try to move on with his life. If he could “release” Jenny from being trapped then he thought maybe it, would in turn, release himself from his grief.

    However, in the end it was so sad to me when Willow said, “Giles, Jenny could never be this mean.” Giles: “I know. It’s not her, is it?” I thought it was a very good scene for Giles. It also felt completely normal that Willow was the one almost speaking from Jenny’s behalf. After Jenny passes away, Willow picks up Jenny’s magical influences and computer classes. Willow also gives Giles Jenny’s healing stones. Willow: “I think she’d want you to have them.” I liked the small connection that Willow and Giles have after Jenny’s death and probably because of Jenny’s death.

    Like

  15. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on September 22, 2010.]

    Another cool thing I noticed: The kiss between possessed Buffy and Angelus, it has a little saliva string at the end . Haha just like the famous kiss scene between SMG & Selma Blair in Cruel Intentions. Then Buffy: “Angel?” Angelus: “snarls” and storms off.

    It’s great!

    Like

  16. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on November 26, 2010.]

    Simply the best. This is still my all-time favourite episode: the acting!

    the score! the terrific use of a 50s song! the character development! Well,

    I think Mike said it all. This episode never fails to have me in tears.

    The only minor crit. is the use of the same back shot of the gang in front

    of the school, after Buffy is trapped inside. Just a little nitpick in what is,

    for me, a perfect episode.

    Like

  17. [Note: Elianne23 posted this comment on November 26, 2010.]

    Also, best Giles quotation ever – not witty, but wise beyond measure:

    “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s, it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.”

    Like

  18. [Note: Shiny posted this comment on January 2, 2011.]

    I adore this episode, and agree with Andrew Kern’s interpretation of why it caused Angelus to seek the end of the world. But one thing annoys me about it.

    Nobody mentions whether the janitor is released (one might presume so based on the lack of a murder weapon, but there was a dead body and a witness). Or how difficult it’s going to be for him to live with the fact that he murdered someone for absolutely no reason.

    I know it wouldn’t really have fit into the emotional drama of the episode, but I always wonder…

    Like

  19. [Note: odigity posted this comment on January 17, 2011.]

    I didn’t have the same interpretation of the two ghosts’ actions and intentions.

    It seemed to me that Grace was possessing both the male and female in each interaction in order to replay the scene and get to the point where she can meet James in the music room, stop him from killing himself, and forgive him. This makes Buffy’s comment that it’s obviously James’ spirit more meaningful, in that she’s blaming the wrong person.

    I also got the impression that it’s James’ spirit that was causing all the scary stuff, like the locker monster, snakes, wasps, etc, to scare people away from the school so that Grace can’t posses them – out of concern for the innocent victims of the reenactment. As proof, the one time one of the spirits appears in person is when a young man in a letterman’s jacket (James, I assume) appears in rotted corpse form for a second to yell “GET OUT!” at one of the characters.

    Now, the only way Grace could get to the forgiveness scene is to cast someone in the role of herself that can survive the initial gun shot wound (in addition to fitting the role thematically). Only Angel meets these requirements, making Buffy the only choice to play James. When everyone else is driven away and Buffy shows up alone, James creates an opening in the wasp cloud to let her in so Grace can have one of the two people she needs to finish.

    I’d like to hear if there are any flaws in this interpretation, or argument for why a different interpretation is more plausible than this one. I took my a while to figure this out, and I’d like to know if I’m right, or if not, what the truth is.

    Like

  20. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on April 19, 2011.]

    Nice trivia: this is the episode, that Joss Whedon convinced that David B. should have his own spin-off.

    Like

  21. [Note: deadlego posted this comment on April 19, 2011.]

    @smallprint84

    It was actually Angel’s monologue at the beginning of ‘Passion’ that convinced Joss that David was good enough to have his own show, it had already been an idea before that but the acting in ‘Passion’ was what made Joss sure that David was good enough and that AtS should go ahead.

    Like

  22. [Note: Andrea posted this comment on April 19, 2011.]

    @ LibMax – wow. You really blew my mind. I never realized quite how much the story was about Buffy and Angel. I always knew they were reenacting the murder, but I when I read your comment, and then watched Buffy and Angel start the repeating conversation, I realized that it was literally a conversation THEY could be having (which continues throughout the scene), rather than James and Miss Newman.

    The line: “Don’t walk away from me, bitch!” Wow. Chilling. Hateful. Brutal. Probably one of the most brutal lines of the series. And all the actors who deliver it, deliver it with a believable, gut-wrenching hate (/love). SMG especially.

    I like how Giles’s opinions on forgiveness seem to carry over to the forgiveness he eventually offers Angel next season. He walks the walk.

    Also, love Snyder’s “I’m no stranger to conspiracy – I saw JFK.” A big LMAO here. Wonderfully delivered from a consistently awesome Principal Snyder.

    And lastly, this song will creep me out forever. I have it on my iPod, and it plays amongst all the lovely old love songs, but it terrifies me every time.

    Like

  23. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on May 10, 2011.]

    Fabulous review, Mike! The song “I Only Have Eyes for You”, from which this episode gets its title, is one of the most romantic songs ever recorded. It was originally written by Al Dubin and the legendary lyricist and composer Harry Warren in 1934, and it has been covered many times.

    The most famous rendition of this song was by the Flamingos in 1959, and that’s the one played in this episode. Since the James & Grace story takes place in 1955, it would have been impossible for them to dance to this song. However, you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone complain about this continuity error, since this is one of the most spellbinding love songs ever written and it plays no small part in contributing to this episode’s haunting atmosphere.

    Like

  24. [Note: huhahuha posted this comment on May 28, 2011.]

    I think the final possessed Angelus/Buffy talk served 3 functions: resolution of guilt for the ghosts, Buffy letting out her guilt of “killing” Angel by having sex with him. I think the third function is foreshadowing of the events that will happen in Becoming 2. Did any one feel the same way?

    Like

  25. [Note: Ana posted this comment on June 13, 2011.]

    I know the use of that version of the song was off, but It just fit so well, I absolutely loved it! The music supervisor for Buffy is a genius (And I mean this in regards to the show as a whole).

    And everyone’s always so willing to point that out but no one mentions how Willow getting lesson plans (or pagan sites) from Ms Calendar’s computer would be very difficult seeing as Angelus smashed her computer and set fire to it in the last episode…

    And last but not least in my little rant ( I apologize, this is what happens when you lack a life) I’d like to say I totally agree with Odigity! and I hadn’t even thought of that before reading your comment but I think it makes perfect sense and I just love that explaination!

    Like

  26. [Note: Bangelus Lover posted this comment on June 29, 2011.]

    I love this episode, I really think it has an important place in the series ark, especially as part of the Bangelus relationship.

    The bit that always gets me (other than everything) is that moment after Buffy and Angelus finish kissing, before she asks for Angel. I really think if she’d reacted differently then Angelus would’ve too. He always seemed angry to me, and wouldn’t you be if you kissed someone and they said someone else’s name?

    I think Angelus loved Buffy, in an obsessive, unhealthy, dark sort of way. When he kissed her I think he almost admitted it to himself and when Buffy didn’t want him he was furious.

    Like

  27. [Note: Steven posted this comment on July 12, 2011.]

    Ana, it’s likely that it was a forgotten thing that Angel damaged the computer that Ms Calendar had. However most schools do work off networks, so it’s possible that admin just gave Willow the password to Ms Calendar’s user account and was able to view her details.

    Easy fix to that slight mistake in the story.

    Like

  28. [Note: Servena posted this comment on August 20, 2011.]

    The part where Willow gives Giles the Rose quartz, with “Remembering Jenny” playing in the background, always gets me. I cried when I saw it, the first time ever for a TV show. Ahh, the power of Buffy.

    Like

  29. [Note: Gemma posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    The Sadie Hawkins dance is approaching and its the time the girls ask the boys. sadly though Buffy hasn’t a guy to ask she is still blaming herself for the things Angelus has done, not only that but she is suffering from the added weight of responsibility for being the reason Angelus is around and can’t see beyond that. All her friends has provided her with forgiveness, Buffy wasn’t to know about the curse but she needs forgiveness from one guy she can’t talk to, Angel.

    This episode handled the Buffy Angel relationship expertly, Buffy is desperately in need of forgiveness from Angel as much as James is from his teacher girlfriend he killed out of love. He plays events over and over which produce the same saddening outcome. He can’t find forgiveness. He identifies with Buffy, her emotions are on full alert, at first blaming James for what he did, the same thing she too will be forced to do, kill her lover. Buffy has come to accept that she will have to slay Angelus but ultimately this will mean that she will kill Angel; they share the same body. She can’t save him. When James possess Buffy and Angel enters the field of play the ghost of the teacher resides within him.

    This led to an emotional confrontation but not between Buffy and Angelus but the much awaited Buffy and Angel. The roles they were playing in James drama were fitting for their characters. From the inaugural season Angel has always known on some level that his relationship with Buffy will always be grey, never running smoothly. Buffy has said that all she thinks of when she ponders the future is him, she can’t see anything but for him. This is also quintessential of the emotions James felt. Buffy through James finally received the the forgiveness she needed from the guy she needed to hear it from.

    The scenes with our two leading characters was cohesive, the fluency between them was felt leaving the episode and the emotions shared between them anything but contrived. – Great to see these two get the closure they needed before the show down.

    The other cast had some bright moments as well, Giles holding on to the idea that Jenny was the ghost behind the events was touching, the emotions of her passing are still flowing through the episodes making her death all the more real and significant. Willow’s dabbling with magic begins here, foreshadowing her character arch. Xander and Cordelia deliver the much needed Buffy-Verse comedy. Some parts of the show did feel a little contrived and left me with a feeling of confoundedness; Willow teaching a class? When Giles is available to at least be present and supervise?

    Spike shone in this episode, his can’t be bothered to show his anger at Angelus with regards to Dru and the put downs he suffers,. The best scene though is when he stands at the end of the episode, it leaves you with so many what ifs. When i first watched this episode i couldn’t help but think up little scenario’s. Will Spike kill Angelus?

    Like

  30. [Note: keekey posted this comment on December 19, 2011.]

    This episode is definitely in my top 10–maybe even in my top 5. There are a lot of great episodes leading up to it (e.g., Halloween, Passion) but it’s the first episode I watched where, at the end, I thought, “Wow, that was completely brilliant.” The use of the ghost story to give Buffy some closure with Angel was a really terrific concept and wonderfully executed.

    I really like the Giles subplot in this episode, too. Seeing Giles, who is almost always so sensible, latching onto the idea that the poltergeist is Jenny is so sad and shows clearly how much he loved Jenny and how much he is struggling to come to terms with her death. He misses Jenny so much that he’d rather see the negative and malicious behavior of the poltergeist as a sign of Jenny’s presence than accept the fact that she’s really gone. This is a theme (i.e., willingness to accept some perverse facsimile of a loved one rather than let that person go) that comes up again later in the series in Forever (with Dawn attempting to bring Joyce back even knowing that she might come back “wrong”) and in After Life (Spike telling Xander that Willow hid Buffy’s resurrection from him because, even if she came back “wrong,” if some part of what came back was Buffy, he wouldn’t let Willow get rid of it). Here, I love the moment between Willow and Giles where she tells him that the poltergeist can’t be Jenny because Jenny could never be so mean and Giles finally accepts this. He realizes that he’s clinging to a fantasy and, in the process, ruining rather than preserving Jenny’s memory.

    The ending with Spike getting out of the wheelchair is also great. If you’d told me when I was first watching School Hard that before the season was over I’d be rooting for Spike to take down Angel, well, I wouldn’t have believed you but, wow, that’s totally what I was doing at the end of this episode. It’s interesting, looking back, how early in the series Spike’s interests become aligned with those of the Scoobies. Although Willow at one point says that, even now that Angel’s evil again, Buffy is still all he thinks about, I would argue that he actually seems quite focused on tormenting Spike too–thus setting up pretty much the only scenario in which Spike would end up being a sympathetic character. Nobody deserves to be tormented by Angelus! Although I thought DB could be a little wooden as Angel, I loved him as Angelus–for me, he’s still the best Buffy villain of all.

    Also, John Hawkes, who I loved in Deadwood (and a lot of other things), is great as the janitor in this episode.

    This episode would get an A+ from me too. Loved it!

    Like

  31. [Note: dave posted this comment on February 19, 2012.]

    I maybe nitpicking but just after willow teaches the class she mentions that jenny left good lesson plans on her computer , How when angelus pretty much destroyed the computer.

    Like

  32. [Note: JustJenna posted this comment on March 16, 2012.]

    In response to the nitpicking over Jenny’s computer, I would venture to guess that Jenny had a personal computer at home as well as her classroom computer, although if that’s the case, I sure wish she would’ve stayed home that night to work on the restoration spell. And as someone else mentioned, it’s quite possible that her lesson plans were stored on the network, and as stand in teacher, Willow was provided with the password.

    Also, I’m fairly certain we only saw Angelus destroy the MONITOR. The actual computer wasn’t touched.

    Like

  33. [Note: Summer posted this comment on December 18, 2012.]

    Wow! This episode barely registered with me when I was younger but after my rewatch and reading these comments it means a lot more. I really liked seeing Willow take charge with her magic. Also, I like seeing the scooby gang working together to take down the big bad. It’s not so often we see them all in on the same plan, each with their own part that they have to execute alone. Not so much yet, anyway. It was especially striking for Cordelia to be in on it. I was sort of annoyed she added “totally” into the incantation. I don’t think you should add extra words into a spell. But that was my favorite part. They faced down the ghost alone and gave it the ol college try. But like many things you try in college, it didn’t work. hah.

    Like

  34. [Note: Ryan ONeil posted this comment on December 19, 2012.]

    Ah, but would Cordelia have been intelligent enough to use the exact words instead of just whatever popped into her head?

    Like

  35. [Note: smallprint84 posted this comment on February 7, 2013.]

    and also another indirect foreshadowing: the first mention of “Jasmine”.

    Angelus:”…and this is the garden.”
    Dru:”Oh Angel, it’s fairyland. O look, jasmine!”
    Angelus:”Night blooming.”
    Dru:”Like us.”

    I hope I got this dialogue right??

    Like

  36. [Note: Sam L posted this comment on February 17, 2013.]

    “Forgiveness is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it — it’s done because they need it.”

    Incredible line, incredible episode.

    Like

  37. [Note: Gon posted this comment on March 12, 2013.]

    I’ve always thought that the fact Cordelia added “totally” to the incantation was the reason why the spell didn’t work, causing the wasp invasion.

    Like

  38. [Note: Joe posted this comment on March 20, 2013.]

    Yet another unique thing about Spike in this show.. a villian that you actually root for. Spike has recovered and I genuinly look forward to him getting his revenge on Angelus.

    Like

  39. [Note: T.G. posted this comment on December 10, 2013.]

    This Episode is amazing, I think it totally deserves the A+ score. It always manages to blow me away! The way this episode is constructed is beautiful. But the Angel-Buffy scene when they are possessed gets me everytime. I’m probably not making much sense, lol I fangirl over this episode. 🙂

    Like

  40. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on February 5, 2014.]

    I can’t wait to see your review rewrite for this episode. It would be interesting to see your current insight on the relationship between Buffy and the poltergeist (similarities and differences) as well as the relationship between Angel/Angelus and the teacher (also through their similarities and differences). I’ve always appreciated how subtly this episode moves the character and plot arcs from point A to point B just by demonstrating the thematic relationships between James and Buffy, and Angel and Grace.

    Like

  41. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 17, 2014.]

    Cordelia is actually very smart. She got into Columbia. I love in the first scene that Cordy and Zander are dancing together. The opposite of Passion where Buffy and Zander are dancing.

    Like

  42. [Note: Luvtennis posted this comment on February 17, 2014.]

    And goodness, this cast is so talented. I think of the moment at the house after the wasp attack. Cordy munching the saltine. Buffy lost in her dawning realization that the situation between James and Grace parallels her own situation with Angel.

    Like

  43. [Note: ericas623 posted this comment on February 27, 2014.]

    Actually, regarding the computer, we only see Angel destroy Jenny’s monitor. The rest of the computer remains intact.

    This is also my favorite Buffy episode. Its just beautiful, from the song choice to the reenactment scene between Buffy and Angel. The role reversal really makes it work; I love when Buffy calls Angel “bitch.”

    I am far more of a Spike fan than Angel, but this scene is really powerful and, to me, reflects Angel (and Boreanaz’s acting) at his best.

    Like

  44. [Note: telephoto1 posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    This episode is yet another awesome entry among many in the latter part of Season 2. At first we think it’s a standalone plot to give us a respite from the emotionally draining Angelus arc… but then the parallels and foreshadowing become obvious as the episode progresses.

    Giles’ line “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s, it’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” refers to not only the situation between the ghosts of James and Grace but to Buffy forgiving herself regarding Jenny’s death. I’ve always thought that in some fashion this was hinting at Giles forgiving Buffy as well.

    This isn’t an A+ episode, but it’s pretty close, and a great setup for what’s to come.

    Like

  45. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    I actually think that Mike got it right with an A+.

    This is an episode with great character development, thematic depth and a beautiful message. Just reading the review, Mike’s passion for this episode shines through.

    Like

  46. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 11, 2014.]

    Funnily enough, it’s not one of my favourites. I like it, love it even, but it wouldn’t crack my Top 25 and if I were reviewing it myself I wouldn’t give it an A+.

    However, I think that Mike’s review fits the score that he gave it.

    Like

  47. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 15, 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.

    Like

  48. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 15, 2014.]

    I totally called it!

    I’ll post some coherent thoughts on the review when it’s not one o’clock in the morning.

    Like

  49. [Note: Kyle posted this comment on March 15, 2014.]

    Read the review? Duh! What other reason would I visit this site for?

    Eeehhh, details details… A+? Might as well be perfect in my book… 🙂

    Like

  50. [Note: Freudian Vampire posted this comment on March 16, 2014.]

    Okay, so I promised to post some coherent thoughts … but that was a lie, because I have basically nothing to say other than I completely agree. Sadly, the episode doesn’t touch me in the way my other favourites do, but I’m glad you gave it an A+, even if I wouldn’t have done.

    Great review! And “Go Fish” is next! ……. Yeah. Bring on “Becoming”.

    Like

  51. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 16, 2014.]

    I give all episodes a fair chance. With that said, and having my notes for “Go Fish” in front of me, I’ll say that that chance has come and quickly left the room. On the bright side? I should be able to throw the review together relatively quickly.

    Like

  52. [Note: Alex C. posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    MikeJer, you have a problem. You say, many times, that you want people to make comments that are substantive, and articulate their opinion of the qualities of the episode under discussion. I want to oblige you.

    And then you go and write up a review that leaves me doing nothing except nodding my head so much it gives my neck a crick, and mentally shouting I AGREE! after every paragraph.

    😉

    In all seriousness, brilliant review – this probably belongs on this lists of the best things you’ve written so far.

    Why, is simple enough. “I Only Have Eyes For You” is the quintessential Great Overlooked Episode – by its very nature, it is guarenteed never to appear on almost any fan’s top ten list, and yet its quality is such that it is easily comparable to the ones that do. More than any individual sequence or moment that’s really effective is what they all add up to: a sheer pastiche of elements that is worked by an alchemical combination of writing, direction, and acting into a smoothly flowing gut-punch to the emotional part of my imagination.

    Every revisitation has convinced me that the story of Season 2 is the greatest thing that BtVS (and, heck, the entire Whedonverse) ever did. For all the very stiff competition put up by some of the later seasons, none of them ever really equalled the achievement of taking such a tragic yet utterly mundane scenario – the fraught relationship between a young woman and her abusive boyfriend – and spinning it into an epic of save-the-world proportions, all while keeping the whole thing grounded in the emotional journey of the characters. A premise so ridiculous in summary form that it’s laughable, and yet one that was pulled off with aplomb – thanks in no small part to the dexterity of the creators in being able to both poke fun at what they were doing a lot of the time, and yet treat all the big emotional moments (i.e. the ones that matter to the characters) with complete seriousness – two things that somehow complement, rather than contradict, each other.

    Stunning.

    Like

  53. [Note: MikeJer posted this comment on March 17, 2014.]

    I completely agree, Alex, although — at this point — I still feel Season 5 has the edge (by something like 2-4 points) over Season 2 when looking at their entirety, start to finish. But Season 2 is, at worst, solidly in second place for me now after doing these rewrites. The last half of Season 2, as an arc, probably can’t be topped by anything though. It’s just incredible television.

    Thanks again for another great comment! As for not having things to say when you agree with everything, well, even then I’d still love to hear if people took away anything new from the review, or if there’s a part of it they particularly liked. After putting all that effort into an analysis, only hearing about the score is, like, the worst. 🙂

    Like

  54. [Note: Patrick posted this comment on March 18, 2014.]

    “An example of this is how the acting is so weak in the first two possessions, which I see as a sly nod to the fact that the possessed people literally aren’t ‘into’ the emotions that James and Grace are sharing, whereas Buffy and Angel are intimately connected to them.”
    That was a good observation.

    “It seems that Willow’s not entirely in touch with, nor perceptive about, how the Angelus situation has impacted Buffy. This isn’t Willow at her best, and it implies that her approach to dealing with pain and failure might actually be even more self-destructive than Buffy’s. This is something to look out for in the coming seasons.”
    So true, and it never ceases to amaze me how unbelievably well Dark Willow was built up to.

    Like

  55. [Note: LoveroftheBuffer posted this comment on March 23, 2014.]

    I love this episode! One of Buffy’s best. The plot and the subtle metaphors apply to everyone. The acting was brilliant. Its such a shame that the episode after this was ‘Go Fish’ but Mike great review! A stand-alone episode that works on all levels

    Like

  56. [Note: buffyholic posted this comment on March 23, 2014.]

    The Balcony of Pain? I love it!

    Again, awesome re-review and I agree with everything you say. This episode is just so beautiful, so well written and acted I don´t have enough words to do it justice.

    About Willow, unfortunately, this isn´t the last time she gets it wrong. In season three “Faith, Hope and Trick” she´s trying to push Buffy into dating Scott and seems not to realise how hurt she still is.

    Like

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

    This episode and that particular scene at the end when the Jason/Grace roles are reversed are probably the first time I felt that DB and SMG have some serious chemistry and on-screen presence. I waved this episode off the first time I watched it, and it makes me realize just how overlooked and underrated this episode really is. The portrayal, the thematic relevance and how it all binds into the principal story arc is done so well that it exceeded my exceptions.
    This show has a tendency of surprising me, even after I’ve already watched it once-over!

    The song’s so amorous and passionate, but at the same time it’s haunting and spectral. I just LOVE it! The effects were done plausibly well, especially the cool effect with the gun vanishing into thin air. Brilliant.

    Everything about this episode is just so goddamn beautiful. A masterpiece of television, really. Even though this wouldn’t be on my Top 10 either, I think that it definetely deserves a place in my Top 25. It’s just done so artfully. A random stand-alone ghost story could have so much relevance. Who knew!?
    It’s even more meritorious when you realize that Buffy isn’t known for it’s stellar plots. I just love everything about this episode. The lighting, the character interaction, anything and everything involving Angelus, Spike and Dru. Well done!

    I’m surprised nobody mentioned all the sexual overtones in that scene with Dru and Angelus mocking Spike and turning each other on. Ah, creepy!
    The way he says, “I figured I should stick close to home. You and Dru could always use another pair of hands…” Yikes!
    After knowing what I know from Angel’s Season 5 episodes I’m surprised how Spike tolerated it. His girlfriend was obviously having sex with Angelus. AGAIN.
    It’s amazing how he can repress his anger so well. No wonder I was rooting for him from this episode onwards!

    Anyway, this definitely deserves the A+ rating. This, along with your review of “Restless” and “Passion”, must be some of your best work ever, Mike. Kudos.

    Like

  58. [Note: Pathbeyondthedark posted this comment on April 11, 2015.]

    I can’t help but love this episode as well, and I have higher regard for it then “Passion” even as a whole. However, I actually have an issue with me NOT having an issue with it: the episode lacks subtlety in a major way. I can’t wrap my head around why I feel it’s not only engaging but also well written and staged despite it constantly reminding you, and ultimately by the end throwing the metaphor in your face, about Angel(us) and Buffy’s falling out and fall from grace. The parallel is truly obvious from the first scene to the last. Things like this normally turn me off. But I think it’s just so well structured and such a perfectly realized parallel that I can’t fault it for lacking that subtlety. Maybe I’m biased, I don’t know. I sound hypocritical to myself, I feel hypocritical. But I love it anyway. As do we all.

    But I don’t think Boreanaz did a good female impression. Maybe because his soulful character normally feels like he is and doesn’t succeed? Perhaps.

    Like

  59. [Note: Random posted this comment on April 16, 2015.]

    Upon re-watching this episode, I’ve come to the conclusion that I gave it short shrift before. I now realize what my real problem was before — not so much the lack of subtlety as the fact that I found myself actually agreeing with Cordelia. The metaphor being so on-the-nose meant that I was actually getting as annoyed by Buffy’s over-identification as Cordelia was. In general, I like all the characters, but occasionally they can put me off an episode (see: Willow in “Pangs” for instance) So that just hammered the already overt metaphor home just a little too hard for me. But if I ignore my personal annoyance with that, the episode is a lot better than I remembered. I think the fact that it moved fairly seamlessly between the parallel situations might be the saving grace, allowing even the overtness of the thematic convergence to flow more easily than it might otherwise have. It still bothers me a little, perhaps because I can’t help wondering why this particular MOTW is suddenly popping up…unlike most MOTW, this one is annual by definition, so one would expect a rash of murders every single year around the time of the Sadie Hawkins dance. For me, that just emphasized the fact that the analogy between James and Buffy was set up almost too perfectly, too conveniently.

    In spite of what I’ve said, I really do have a greater appreciation for the episode now. I don’t rate it as highly as “Passion”, but I do rate it more highly than some other S2 episodes I previously preferred.

    But I don’t think Boreanaz did a good female impression.

    I didn’t find either David’s or Sarah’s impressions to be their best work. They were fine, just not reaching the potential offered by such juicy roles, relying more on dramatic emotions than trying to capture the characters they were supposedly channeling. But, interestingly, there was one exception. In that split second between the time David turns around to run and actually starts heading for the balcony, I think the expression on his face (partly shadowed) was perfectly done. It captured the sort of distraught feminine look that Grace would have had at that exact moment, imho. Other than that, I agree that his performance was more workmanlike than virtuoso, but I did think he did well at the precise turn.

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  60. [Note: LouisLittForEmperor posted this comment on July 10, 2015.]

    I think my problem with this one is that it’s not very subtle and that combined with the not very deep plot kinda turns me off it a bit. Good scenes in it though and I guess we can be glad that it caused Joss to give Boreanez the spin off.

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  61. [Note: larryd posted this comment on May 3, 2016.]

    I watched I Only Have Eyes For You for a third time. It’s one of the best episodes.

    As we all know, the key moment is where Giles sez to Buffy: “To forgive is an act of compassion, Buffy. It’s not done because people deserve it. It’s done because they need it.” But by who is the forgiveness needed? Is it needed by the forgiven OR the forgiver OR both? Remember, Grace’s spirit was stuck in the a purgatory just as was James’. I’m thinking that it was Grace that needed to grant forgiveness as much as James needed to receive forgiveness.

    Giles also sez: “Many times the spirit is plagued by all manner of worldly troubles and being dead, has no way to make its peace”. This applies to both James and Grace. Remember, one soul cannot hold another from moving on, only the soul’s self-created negative destiny can do that.

    Most spiritual traditions/teachings hold that forgiveness is often most critical to the soul that was wronged. Forgiveness can get the wronged soul past the hate and loathing that might keep it spiritually stuck forever. If I’m right, her own compassion gave Grace release as much it gave release to James. That answers a lot of questions about the episode.

    Giles might have thought that was too much to lay on the 17-year-old Buffy and fell back on “Does it really matter?”

    Did you’all notice the character’s name is “Grace,” and that grace is synonymous with forgiveness?

    I may be over analyzing, but I’d like to ask writer Marti Noxon about this.

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  62. [Note: Jabari Jefferson posted this comment on July 11, 2016.]

    Apart from the two-part season finale, this episode is tied with Passion as the best episode of the Season.

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  63. [Note: Noah posted this comment on July 11, 2016.]

    Did you’all notice the character’s name is “Grace,” and that grace is synonymous with forgiveness?

    Yes, and I don’t think you’re overanalyzing, especially considering that the season ends with a song called “Full of Grace”.

    And Jabari Jefferson, I agree. IOHEFY is really a beautiful piece of work.
    I would also throw Lie to Me into that discussion, though.

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  64. [Note: larryd posted this comment on July 12, 2016.]

    This comment is off the beaten Buffy track, but the Xander script line is wrong: Dog spit is NOT cleaner than human spit. That’s total urban legend. Both have lots of bacteria though some strains differ, probably because dog spit is more acidic than human.

    Urban legends can be dangerous. A friend of mine’s kid was bitten and suffered some small skin breaks. By her own admission she didn’t get too excited because she thought dog mouths are clean, so didn’t treat as carefully as she should have. The bite got infected. No great harm, we all love penicillin, but she should have washed the bite thoroughly and applied a local antibiotic.

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  65. [Note: Robert posted this comment on July 13, 2016.]

    Words cannot express how much I love this episode. I think this was the perfect set-up for the finale in that, though the metaphor of Buffy having already “killed” Angel by causing him to lose his soul is not lost on me, I think she also knows that his turn to evilness means she will in fact have to kill him for real, thus she really will be responsible for his literal death. Of course the forgiveness she achieves toward herself here is much needed and in many ways deserved as she, like James, didn’t mean to “pull the trigger” when she slept with Angel. While “Passion” forced her to accept the consequences of not killing him when she had the chance, this episode prepared her for the inevitable showdown when she kills him in the finale.

    Also, I cannot give enough props to the musical score in this episode, particularly the gorgeous music that plays during Buffy and Angel’s balcony scene and in the aftermath right after she shoots him. I’m a sucker for a good musical score (being a musician myself) and Christophe Beck delivers here as good as he’s ever done. Bravo to him and to the brilliant job that Marti Noxon did for bringing this masterpiece to life.

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  66. [Note: Flamepillar112 posted this comment on July 13, 2016.]

    Great comment. I don’t love the episode as much as some people do but I really like it. It just seems like an episode where the last five minutes were written first and they worked backwards.

    On a side note, are you the same Robert who reviewed “long day’s journey”?

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  67. [Note: Erica posted this comment on August 1, 2016.]

    This is my favorite episode, I think, because it focuses on the Angel/Buffy relationship in a way that isn’t too sappy for me. The two lines that I keep turning over and over in my head are:

    1) “Part of me still doesn’t understand why she would forgive him.” There are four possible readings of this, to me. Why Grace would forgive James, why Angel would forgive Buffy, why Giles would forgive Buffy and why Buffy would forgive herself. The answer to the first three is relatively straightforward: deep love and deep understanding that the offender didn’t mean to hurt the “victim,” and even that the “victim” themselves played an important role in what happened. The last one, though, is something that is so difficult to answer, which is why I think Giles goes for, “Does it matter?” Buffy doesn’t actually have to come up with a perfect reason to forgive herself – but she does need to do it if she’s going to save the world and herself again.

    2) “I’m the one who should be sorry, James. You thought I stopped loving you. But I never did. I loved you with my last breath.” I feel like this encapsulates so much of the pathos in the love between Buffy and Angel. When Buffy and Angel slept together, it was driven by the fact that Buffy felt like she lost Angel – the fact that he was going to go away. She realized then, maybe for the first time and maybe subconsciously, that Angel was always going to choose saving the world over staying with her. I think it was probably the first moment she really knew that she and Angel could never work, and that made her desperate, in the way James was desperate. Desperate enough to do something that changed everything. So Angel is basically saying to her in that scene that he understood that he made her frantic by agreeing to go away, and that his attempts to be the “adult” in the relationship since coming to Sunnydale had been in words only, not in his actions – the same way Grace tried to break it off with James because she was worried about his future and what people would think, not because she didn’t love him.

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  68. [Note: flootzavut posted this comment on December 7, 2016.]

    It doesn’t make sense to say Angelus has any kind of human love for Buffy. The Judge threatened to burn Spike and Dru based on the fact they share “affection and jealousy”, and burns Dalton(?) purely on the basis of his love of knowledge; he then completely fails to hurt Angelus, because there is no humanity in him – he is “pure”, according to the Judge.

    If he could burn Dalton because of a simple love of knowledge, then love for Buffy would have made Angelus vulnerable.

    Sure, Angelus is obsessed with Buffy, but saying he loves her? That just doesn’t fit with canon. It’s established on screen, unambiguously, that Angelus has no humanity in him. You can argue about what the writers meant when there’s ambiguity or things are left unexplained. This is not one of those times.

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