“So many body parts, so few bullets. Let’s begin with the kneecaps. No fun dancing without them.” – Darla
So this week it’s an episode I wasn’t looking forward to having to revisit as part of this ongoing series of episode reviews. For this is the episode which made the girls swoon and the guys wondering what else was on…yes it’s time for the first Angel-centric episode of the series as we finally find out the truth about Angel, who until point in the series has just been playing the role of the mysterious stranger, helping out Buffy with advice and generally being aloof as to his real interest in her slaying activities.
Ok just in case you’ve not seen the episode already, let’s just start by warning that spoilers lie ahead.
I’m not sure if Buffy was to blame for girls getting excited over vampires first, especially with Anne Rice certainly doing a roaring trade with her vampire novels including let’s not forget “Interview With The Vampire” which vampified Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt and Antonio Bandaris. That being said it would be Buffy’s romance with Angel which I used to have to hear about constantly from the few girls I knew who were fans of the show, which honestly wasn’t exactly the part of the show I cared about being more focused on whatever monster Buffy was fighting that week, let alone my on-going crush on Willow this of course being prior to Allison Hannigan screwing up the character in the later seasons. This week however threw kind of a curveball into their romance as it was revealed that Angel was infact a vampire in a fun twist of irony and of course leaving Buffy conflicted over wether she should kiss him or stake him.
Back when the episode was first shown it was a great twist and one with the role of Angel being played well by David Boreanaz who thankfully would break Angel out of his stuffy shell once they give him his own spin off, even though over the course of his time on Buffy he would occasionally get to show this side. Mainly though it was about him being softly spoken and mysterious which is again what we get here, when he’s not bemoaning his monstrous side which gets especially played up. Bizarrely its only after Buffy kisses him that he shows this side. Does he show his vampire side when aroused aswell as when feeling a blood lust? A question which only dawned on me while rewatching this one and one with seemingly no clear answer as to why he suddenly shows this side.
Such randomness aside the episode actually played a little stronger this time, thanks perhaps to the vampire mythos really falling into the toilet in recent years thanks to the contributions of the “Twilight” saga, with Angel initially rebuffing her advances by highlighting the fact he’s too old for her, something I don’t remember Edward doing when he was preying on Bella when he was pretending to be a student. At least I guess we should be thankful that Angel doesn’t bloody sparkle.
Thankfully the showrunners would let us see what Angel is like off the leash in later episodes as not sure I could have taken Angel if he had remained how he is in these early episodes, while his character being given some much needed tweaking for his spin off was equally welcome. At the same time we get the first hints to his background, while its left unclear why Angel isn’t like other vampires with Buffy unsure if she can trust him or not once he reveals his vampire side which sets up a great moment were Buffy thinks that he has bitten her mother, unaware that Darla was responsible for it, something which would attempt to be replicated in the first season of “Angel”
Still it’s not all lust and angst this week as Buffy gets to face off against a vampire KISS tribute band….sorry I mean “The Three”, a trio of armour clad vampires, who may have defeated Buffy had it not been thanks to Angel’s timely intervention. Sadly this trio don’t get a second shot as they end up sacrificing themselves as punishment for failing the Master, who this week can found really getting into his groove with snappier dialogue and generally better characterisation so that he doesn’t seem like a vampire in a crappy b-movie. The finale see’s Buffy taking on Darla who forgoes the usual vampire tactics and instead opts for trying to kill her using a pair of handguns, a tactic strangely not used by any of Buffy’s other foes in the episodes which followed apart from Warren and that was kind of a desperation move on his part.
Also in this episode we get to see Buffy take the next steps in her training as she proves herself handy with a bo staff, while also getting her hands on a crossbow, the first of her trademark weapons she will amass over the course of the series. It’s a simple and fun scene but one which really adds to her characters growth, let alone highlighting if it was even needed just how well Buffy can handle herself.
Yes this episode might bring back some of that childhood trauma but time and the downward spiral of the vampire genre have only helped improve this episode, even if it’s far from one of the strongest in the series it still manages to develop both Buffy and Angel’s characters while giving the shipper’s something to get excited about let alone the episode which essentially saved the show, after writer and producer Marti Noxon changed her impression on the show after this episode, so I guess sometimes you just have to take one for the team.
Next Episode: I Robot, You Jane