Buffyversed #34: “Becoming, Pt. 1” Sets the Stage for a Killer Finale

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Buffyversed is a week by week, episode by episode, re-exploration of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Look for it every Friday on Goomba Stomp. 

Well folks, it’s has been a long and winding road, but here we are at last with the first part of “Becoming”, the two part finale for Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s sophomore season.

“Becoming” is really the first of Buffy‘s truly great finales. As a rule, Buffy the Vampire Slayer generally stumbles a bit in most of its season premieres, but when it comes to the finales, Whedon and co. pretty much nail it every time.

So, we open things up this week with a flashback of all things. This rarely used trope is incorporated here for probably the first truly meaningful time in the series, as in other cases it’s been more or less about establishing lore for the monster of the week (see… sigh, “I Robot, You Jane”).

In “Becoming, Pt. 1”, however, the series of flashbacks we see actually helps to enrich the lore of the series as a whole, adding new layers to Angel’s character while allowing the audience to actually experience moments that we’ve only heard about up until now.

Among those moments are Angel being turned into a vampire by Darla, Angel tormenting Drusilla and driving her mad, and, of course, the greatest hit, that good old Romani curse. We’re also introduced to a demon named Whistler, the very demon who first turned Angel on to Buffy in the first place, offering the new slayer as a chance for Angel to finally redeem himself and set his conscience right.

Angel’s many flashbacks help to flesh out his character and explain his arrival in Sunnydale in the series very first episode.

There’s a nice bit of Interview with the Vampire here, as we see Angel in modern times hunting rats in New York, much like Louis did in Anne Rice’s first Vampire Chronicle.

We also get to see Buffy at her most Cordy, as the two could literally be the same character up until Buffy becomes the slayer, and begins to grow into a more well-rounded and selfless person. We see her through Angel’s eyes for the very first time, and while we’re seeing an earlier version of a character we’ve come to love, Angel is seeing real hope for the first time in nearly a century.

“Yeah, yeah”, you say. “Enough about Angel! We’ve been hearing about him for two seasons! What else is going on?” Well, to that, I say: first of all, are you my fiancèe? And secondly, just calm down, because after this we’re not gonna be talking about Angel for a good long while, so just let the fella have his moment.

Anyway, what is going on elsewhere in Sunnydale is that some local archaeologists have unearthed some ruins (thanks to new low-cost housing developments) and wouldn’t ya know it, they find themselves a good old demon box.

No, this isn’t Hellraiser territory, we’re talking a real big box. In fact, it’s one of those world-ending boxes, as it so happens, the kind that tend to show up ever so often as Buffy seasons come to their natural close. You know, raising the stakes and the like.

This particular stake-raiser is called Acathla, and he’s basically just a statue with a sword stuck inside of it, but there’s a bit more to him than meets the eye.

Oh good, Kendra’s here to help, that oughta… ohhh. RIP.

Look, I’ll just cut to the chase: if the sword gets pulled out, Acathla awakens, and the world gets sucked into a portal to the hell dimension. On that note, it’s a neat bit of lore that, in the Buffyverse, hell is not a pit in the earth or some ethereal plane but simply a separate dimension from the mortal world.

Luckily, there’s another warrior on the case, as Kendra has arrived in town to help a slayer out. Of course, this whole back-up thing thing kinda goes to hell, but not before Kendra can gift Buffy with one of the shows most enduring and iconic props in the form of her prized stake: Mr. Pointy.

Unfortunately, things don’t go great for Kendra after this, as she happens to be in the library when the vampires attack in hopes of kidnapping Giles for a bit of ritual help. While Xander and Willow are both injured, with the latter ending up in a coma, Kendra gets the worst of it in the form of having her throat cut by Drusilla.

The scene in question is actually one of the best in “Becoming”, and involves further punching up Dru’s mind powers by allowing her to hypnotize Kendra almost completely before cutting her throat with mere speed and fingernails.

This leads to another iconic moment, as Buffy does the slow motion run down the hallway with her flapping blue trench coat (a scene which will show up in the opening credits for all of season 3) only to find that she’s too late. With another body added to the count for team Angel, things might as well be at their worst… except, hold that thought, as “Becoming, Pt. 1” ends with the arrival of the police, and Buffy being framed for the murder of her friend.

Fear not though, for there is a bit of hope on the horizon, with the discovery of Ms. Calendar’s ritual disk, and the last chance of bringing Angel back to the side of good. Of course, the Scoobies are split as to whether that’s a good idea or not, with Xander standing firmly in the latter camp, a sentiment that will echo into next week, when we tackle the second part of “Becoming.”

Everyone’s favorite epic trench coat dash is one of the most iconic visual moments in “Becoming, Pt. 1”.

Cristina Says:

“Cristina Says,” is based on observations my fiancèe makes. This is my 4th time through the series, but Cristina is a first-time watcher with modern TV sensibilities. 

“Oh! That’s weird, she looked older before.” (Concerning Darla in the flashback sequence. So, she means that Darla looked older, a year ago, when Julie Benz, who plays Darla, was a year younger. But it was in the future, in 1997, when Darla was a couple hundred years older, and now the actress is a touch older, but looks younger. Is this paragraph going somewhere? Almost certainly not.)

*gasp* “They’re gonna find the disk!” (Yay, my little protege is getting better and better at picking up the thread of what the Buffy writers’ room is up to.)

“So who was the girl on the pyre?”(Cristina wonders about who the girl really was, she whose death caused Angel to be cursed by the Romani.)

“More of who will die?” (The vampiric gal who self-immolates after threatening that more will die left Cristina wondering: Who? When? Why? And so on.)

I hope you haven’t grown to attached to this little family unit, because there’s about to be a big break-up.

Notable Whedonisms:

Whedonisms are a sort of term for (Buffy creator) Joss Whedon’s style of dialogue, and something we’re using as a catch-all for particularly fun or witty lines.

“Oh yeah, finals. Why didn’t you let me die?” (Xander suddenly regrets Buffy saving him from certain death.)

“I thought it was riveting, but I was a little mixed on the themes.” (Oz reacts to Xander’s mozza stick rendition of Buffy slaying vampires in the graveyard.)

“This isn’t an orgy people, it’s a classroom.” (Snyder makes sure that no joy is had whatsoever at Sunnydale High. Also, some surprisingly risque humor for a teen show in the ’90s.)

“Hi, for those of you just tuning in, everyone here is a crazy person.” (Xander reacts to the sudden, shared assertion from the Scoobies that maybe Angel can be saved.)

“It’s a big rock. I can’t wait to tell my friends. I bet they don’t have a rock this big.” (Spike wonders what’s so special about the big rock that Angel has brought home for him.)

Well, we’re finally at the end of the road folks, with next week’s “Becoming, Pt. 2” marking the end of the second season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Pop back in 7 for that.

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about pop culture. Through some miracle he's still able to function in society as if he were a regular person, and if there's hope for him, there's hope for everyone. He's the managing Games editor for Goomba Stomp, and the creator of the weekly Buffyversed column.