Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | December 20, 2010

Robin’s Review: S1, E07 – Angel

Synopsis: The Master sends “The Three” against Buffy and Angel helps her survive. To be safe he hides in her room and eventually they kiss. But as they do she discovers that he is a vampire and he flees. We learn that Darla made him a vampire and for over a century he caused murder and chaos like all vampires. But he was cursed by a gypsy tribe who restored his soul. Since coming to America he hasn’t fed off humans and now Darla wants to bring him back into the fold. Darla bites Joyce and frames Angel making Buffy determined to kill him. However Angel kills Darla instead, tells Buffy the truth and she lets him live.

The Good: A really strong episode from start to finish. The whole idea behind Angel’s character is very clever and the exploration of the vampire personality is both engaging here and promising for the future.

Angel was a vampire like all others. As Giles explains, vampires can keep the memories and personality of their human host but they are now a demon. They are a “vicious animal” who hunts and feeds on humans. Angel goes further and says that he revelled in the pain and misery he caused and did it “with a song in my heart.” However the human soul survives this process and presumably passes on to the next life when the human dies. So Angel’s curse is that his soul was restored, and now he must live with the guilt of all the murders he committed.

As explanations go for a character this is so intriguing. The whole concept of a human having to live with the memories of a demon is fascinating. There is also the whole injustice of the situation. The curse is designed to punish the vampire by making him miserable with guilt and remorse. But by restoring a human soul to Angel he is no longer the same creature who committed those acts. The misery he suffers weren’t the crimes of the man who had that conscience. That injustice makes Angel a sympathetic figure.

Angel’s interactions with Darla were very strong too and opened up all the possibilities of what could be done with his character. She taunts him relentlessly because she knows that he still has the desire to be a vampire. It’s what he is and so his desire for human blood is something he presumably has to resist, constantly keeping his nature at bay. The reminiscing she does about their two hundred year old past could provide many a future story but also shows us what vampires are capable of as characters in the show. So far (aside from the Master) vampires have seemed like dumb creatures who don’t talk a lot. Now we see that they can be entertaining antagonists and protagonists with real emotions.

So far the show has been essentially a high school drama with a science fiction twist. However the rich mythology of vampires which Angel brings to the fore implies that the show could head in many different directions. The tone of this episode was more serious and consequential than any since the pilot. The show is presenting vampires as having this dark fascinating aspect to them which is much more gripping than any of the other creatures we have seen so far. The Master weeps at Darla’s death and those emotions are what create good drama.

On the practical front the episode ends with Angel suffering a burn mark from the cross around Buffy’s neck as they make out. It was a potent image to remind us of the trials which their relationship will face. The writers smartly point out the obvious when Willow brings up the practicalities of Angel never ageing and being unable to have children. The tragedy of Angel’s character has fairly limitless possibilities.

Another accomplishment here is making the Angel-Buffy relationship something which viewers will rally behind. There was no subtlety in building up their attraction and yet it never became overbearing or too clichéd. The acting helped a lot as the two have real chemistry and Buffy played love struck well throughout her conversations with Willow. Buffy’s character has also been presented in such a way that only someone like Angel could be her boyfriend. She has to live daily with this tremendous responsibility which she can’t escape. So here comes a man who can match her physically, understands exactly what her calling means and who too has to live with a crushing supernatural calling.

There were plenty of good moments along the way as the episode unfolded. I like all the little details in Giles’ life. He admits to staying up half the night to research “The Three” and then returns to the books to find out about Angelus. He puts out a sign that the library is closed when he wants to train with Buffy and then has to pretend he is just another teacher in front of Joyce. I liked Joyce’s motherly behaviour in turning Angel out of the house and welcoming Darla into it. I liked seeing the bags of blood which explain how Angel survives. Looking back you can see the subtlety of the moment when Buffy brings him a bag of food and he handles it gingerly. The fumigation at the Bronze provided a convenient cover to allow the confrontation with Darla to take place without witnesses.

The Bad: The only false moment came when Buffy caught Angel “feeding” on Joyce. She had no reason to think he wasn’t about to kill her. In fact it looked pretty clear at that point that he had been tricking her all along in order to torment her like this. You would think that that would have turned her instantly against him, yet she still struggles with the idea of killing him.

The Unknown: The whole issue of what amount of human personality remains with a vampire is pretty fascinating. As is the idea of what Angel’s personality is like now that he has gone from human to demon to human conscience in demon personality in human body. It’s also not clear who or what the Anointed One really is.

Best Moment: Buffy returns to her bedroom and brings Angel some food after he’s been stuck there alone all day. He says he has been reading and she panics thinking he had read her diary. She is outraged and says “Hunk can mean a lot of things!” amongst other implausible denials. He of course reassures her that he didn’t read it and they end up kissing. He then reveals his true face, much to her shock and jumps out of the window. It’s a fantastic scene on every level: funny, romantic, surprising and of course is the key one to the whole episode.

The Bottom Line: From start to finish this was a show on another level. So far we have dealt with enemies who didn’t mean anything to Buffy and the show has been good. But now faced with an actual emotional conflict in her slaying the show reaches a whole new plain. This was a brilliant character episode opening up the show to another world of possibilities.

78/100

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