Buffyversed #7: “Angel” Bites in with Both Fangs

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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. For previous episodes click here.

Wow, so this is a change of pace. As my podcasting co-host is wont to say: from the ridiculous to the sublime… or something like that. After the worst episode of season 1, we get one of its undeniable best with “Angel“.

Now in this day and age, it might be common knowledge to even non-Buffy watchers that Angel is a vampire. Whether through pop-culture seepage or the fact that mopey good-guy vampires are all the rage these days, the revelation that Angel walks among the undead ranks, fails to have the same effect today that it once did. Lemme tell ya, though, 11 year old Mike was floored.

So how does “Angel” hold up in 2017? Well, unfortunately it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as it did 20 years back. It does still sink its teeth in, though, and even hold on to a certain extent.

Buffy and Angel are a perfect example of how you gotta hold on to those good times while they last. Like, hey, remember when Obama was president?

But, as is often the case, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s back it up a touch, shall we? In an effort to finally stomp out the slayer for good, The Master sends three deadly vampires, called, with shocking accuracy, “The Three”, to take her out. The Three attack Buffy as she makes her way home from The Bronze, and even look on the verge of succeeding in their effort, when in steps Angel.

After this evil triumvirate chases Buffy, and a wounded Angel, back to her house, the two share a kiss in her bedroom, only for the gauntlet to be dropped once and for all: Angel reels in lustful frustration. He wants that neck vein, and if it takes some crooked-faced demon action to get at it, then hey, let’s unleash the monster.

Buffy is, of course, notably shocked, and the stage is set in a very literal way for a Romeo and Juliet style, star-crossed lovers, situation. Hey, we all steal when it comes to the arts — if you’re gonna do it, might as well steal from the best. A certain WILLIAM SHAKESMAN is certainly among that tier.

So Buffy finds herself at a very notable series of crossroads, wherein she must struggle with her duty as a slayer, to kill vampires, and her desire for a man who has revealed himself to be an enemy. Or has he? Well, through a contrived series of events that only seem to happen in these kinds of situations, in fictional media, for ridiculous reasons, Darla will make Buffy absolutely believe that this is the case, but things are not really that simple.

Look, I know we haven’t seen each other in a while, but I’d love it if you’d just kill your new girlfriend for me.

And yeah, let’s address it, I’m kind of giving this episode a hard time. That’s because, even as one of the best hours of Buffy‘s first season, it still has some truly clunky moments. Enter Darla with dual pistols, for example. Having set the slayer and her ex-that-she-still-kind-of-likes but-not-really-and-he-never-texts-her-back-unless-he-wants-something-or-is-drunk-and-listening-to-Joy-Division Angel… ahem, against one another, Darla comes onto the scene as a weird extra in an action movie.

It’s too bad that this scene, in all of it’s cheap and awkward glory, has to come before one of the episodes best moments, when Angel steps in to save Buffy once again: this time by literally killing his ex for her. Hey, we can all agree it’s a bit on the nose but damn, don’t we all have fantasies like that from time to time?

No? Just me? Right then.

Anyway, this leaves Buffy and Angel to have a sad (but passionate) kiss at the end before going their separate ways, and never seeing each other again, and there’s definitely not a show called Angel, so this is totally it for them, and he’s never coming back.

Screenshot from a show that definitely doesn’t exist.

Cristina Says:

“Cristina Says,” is based on observations my fiance makes. This is my 4th time through the series, but she’s a first-time watcher with modern TV sensibilities, so I thought it would be interesting to note what a first-timer would observe.

“That’s actually really good. I’m gonna use that maybe.” (See the first of this weeks Notable Whedonisms for the sick burn in question.)

“Hahah, awwwww, poor Xander.” (Cristina both chuckles at, and feels bad, for the floundering Xander. Don’t we all?)

“Xander’s like sooooooo happy!” (I mean, who wouldn’t encourage the death of their only romantic competition, right?)

“Ohhhhhhh shit.” (My engagement person responds to the moment when Buffy emerges to find Angel cradling her bleeding mother.)

“Awww he loves her more.” (See, we all want our partners to murder their exes for us!)

When you’re hopelessly melting to death in liquid fire but you still gotta admit that was a pretty gnarly burn.

Notable Whedonisms:

Whedonisms are a sort of term for Whedon’s style of dialogue, and something I’ll be using as a catch-all for particularly fun or witty lines.

“Ya know, I don’t know what everyone is talking about. That dress doesn’t make you look like a hooker. (Xander has a great comeback for a typically bitchy Cordy. Also, see above.)

“Wake up and smell the seduction! It’s the oldest trick in the book!” (Xander assures Buffy that Angel only got stabbed to show her how much he likes her.)

“Their deaths will bring me little joy… but sometimes a little is enough.” (The Master creates the illusion that he will spare his assassins for their failure, before snatching it away.)

“Hunky can mean a lot of things! And when I said your eyes were penetrating, I really meant… bulgy!” (Buffy sputters for a colorful explanation when she assumes that Angel has read her diary.)

“You’re bound to pile up a few exes when you’ve been around since Columbus.” (Buffy aims some serious shade at Darla.)

Well, we’re over the hump for season one, but we still have some hurdles to jump on our way to those good times. The first Willow-centric episode isn’t as bad as the two Xander-centric ones that preceded it but it isn’t exactly a prize either. See you next Friday for the woefully named “I Robot, You Jane.”

Mike Worby is a human who spends way too much of his free time playing, writing and podcasting about games. 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 Features editor for Goomba Stomp, and can be found weekly on the Random Encounters podcast.