“Let’s take a breath, and look at this calmly and objectively. Angel’s a vampire. You’re a slayer. I think it’s obvious what you have to do.”
-Xander Harris, Buffy the Vampire Slayer S1E7: “Angel”
Brief synopsis: The Master is upping his attempts to kill Buffy. Meanwhile, Buffy discovers that Angel, the man she’s been falling for, is actually a vampire.
Title significance: “Angel.” It just about says it all, doesn’t it? This is the episode where we get the big reveal of who Angel really is, a vampire that has been reensouled. He plays a crucial role in the climatic battle, killing his sire to save Buffy. There is also a lot of focus on his budding romance with Buffy, the episode both beginning and ending on that point.
I think it’s significant that this episode is entitled Angel, and not Angelus, the name of the vampire he was. Angel is a much different person than Angelus, and the name itself is indicative of that change. An angel is usually seen as being on the side of good, and traditionally, they are very powerful and dangerous and act with righteous vengeance, and I think this highlights those aspects of Angel’s character.
Girl Power: Once again, Buffy as a teenage girl who wants a love life comes into play. The fact that she was willing to face down this man she was falling in love with in order to protect her friends and her mother really does show some girl power. She’s not weak and sniveling just because she kind of liked a boy, and I think that’s very important.
We also have got Willow, once again showing her spunk. She immediately runs with Giles and Xander to go tell Buffy that Angel didn’t eat her mom. When Darla is shooting at Buffy, she calls out to distract her, giving away her own location. Willow willingness to place herself in danger for Buffy even though she has no power of her own is really fantastic. Also worth mentioning is the fact that we once again get a female villain.
Success of girl power: Not much that we haven’t already seen.
What “Angel” does right:
- The ending – The ending is so visually powerful as the camera focuses on the cross burning into Angel’s flesh. Even though the kiss with Buffy was incredibly painful (both physically and emotionally), he didn’t wince or pull away. After an episode that casts so much doubt on Angel and his intentions, this ending leaves no question that he feels just as strongly, if not more strongly, about Buffy as she does with him.
- Chemistry – There is a ton of chemistry between David Boreanaz and Sarah Michelle Geller and this episode makes the most of it. Angel is still a bit awkward, but much more confident than he is after his moment of “pure happiness.” It makes sense, and we get to see his character come together more clearly. He has a sense of humor, but he is still tortured. We see more glimpses of who Angel really is.
- Joyce – Of the people Buffy is close to, Joyce is the only one who has no idea of who Buffy is or of the supernatural evil that is out there. I think this really ups the stakes when there’s a threat to Joyce; the others at least have some idea of what they’re getting into. I also really love her interactions with Giles, who has taken on the role of father in Buffy’s life.
What “Angel” could have done better:
- Climax – Wow. Maybe it’s just the production quality, but final battle, with Darla still looking ridiculous and stupid in her “school girl” outfit and wielding a couple of guns just ended up being not only a disappointment, but a laughable one. I didn’t feel any sense of urgency, Darla’s guns didn’t feel to be any real sort of threat (perhaps due to how she held them?), and she just looked dumb. This may be in part because in Angel she always looked so put-together, but here she doesn’t. She feels like a different character. Angel made me care that Darla is Angel’s sire; Buffy didn’t.
- The Bronze – I’ve never been in love with the Bronze as a set. I suppose if I had watched Buffy when I was younger, it would be different. The whole fumigation party seemed like just a way to get the Bronze empty for the final fight with Darla, and as I mention above, I thought nothing about that fight was worthwhile. Besides, the climatic fight at the Bronze is done way too often.
- The Anointed One – Wow, that kid is annoying. This scene could have potentially been pretty cool: a child vampire scoffing at this old, freaky-looking one for mourning his family. Instead we get a scene that to me just felt bland. The actor playing the Anointed One was flat and didn’t make any of the lines feel believable, and the lines themselves weren’t that great to begin with. “They’re all against you?” Who? The four vampires this episode that died for the Master? They’re against him? They’re dust. How can they be against him?
Overall: I was actually a bit disappointed in this episode. I was expecting to like it way more than I did.