Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | May 22, 2011

Robin’s Review: S2, E13 – Surprise (1)

Synopsis: Buffy is woken by a dream where Drusilla kills Angel. She is fretting about that as her friends plan her a surprise 17th birthday party. Jenny is visited by her uncle and we learn that she is from the Kalderdash Gypsies to keep an eye on Angel. At Buffy’s party she has to kill a vampire who was stealing something. It turns out to be the arm of a dismembered demon called the Judge. Angel heads to the docks determined to take the arm to Asia and bury it somewhere. But they are attacked by Spike and Drusilla’s vampires who take the arm back and reassemble the Judge. Angel takes Buffy home where they sleep together for the first time.

The Good: The sense of impending doom built throughout this to leave you feeling uneasy. In the end with Angel suffering a terrible pain it looks like Buffy will lose him after all.

The use of her dreams to increase the tension worked well, particularly when contrasted with the Birthday plans going on around her. The repetition of a line by Joyce was effective at reminding you of the dream’s portents in a moment when you might have forgotten them. Buffy portrayed that sense of fear well, turning to Angel for comfort and reassurance at every turn, her emotions always frayed. The Judge was built up as a significant evil and carries the physical threat that a weakened Spike no longer can. This sense of doom for Angel and Buffy is compounded by the revelation that Jenny Calendar is not all that she seems. She is from the Gypsy tribe that cursed Angel and her role is to spy on him and keep him miserable. I very much like the way her role in his life was handled. Instead of switching her behaviour into someone we don’t know, Jenny stayed very much Jenny. She argues on Angel’s behalf and chooses the least harmful way of trying to push him and Buffy apart (using the Judge as an excuse).

On the human side of this story Buffy finally surrenders to her desire for Angel and sleeps with him. It too was built up well in their lingering scenes of passion and Willow’s amusing multiple Wows. The end of their happiness is a sad moment though without seeing part two the impact is not yet clear.

The rest of the episode was strong too with Xander in electric form (see Best Moment) and his feelings for Cordelia slowly growing. I also liked his elaborate fantasy about one day taking Buffy back from Angel. Willow was as adorable as anything you will see peaking out from under her hat at Oz and he was equally likeable with his no-games approach to asking her out. Giles got a delightfully sweet moment when he insisted that Buffy celebrate her 17th birthday because living on the Hellmouth means never being able to relax.

I really liked the line where the Judge pointed out that Drusilla and Spike are filled with the human emotions of jealousy and affection. It’s something that has made them stand out as vampires and made their characters so enjoyable to watch. It’s nice to have that side to them acknowledged in the show’s mythology where vampires are this hybrid of demon and human.

The Bad: The only line I didn’t care for was Cordelia asking for cake in the middle of a very serious conversation about the Judge. It was a comedic line too far.

The Unknown: I wasn’t entirely happy with Oz accepting the existence of vampires. If ever there were a character who looked like they could take that news in their stride it would be him but that news should never be easy to take. I can see the convenience for the writers and as long as it doesn’t happen repeatedly I won’t mind.

Best Moment: Giles greets Xander and asks him if all is going well with the surprise birthday plans. Xander breezily replies “Absolutely. You ready to get down you funky party weasel?” As ridiculous and amusing as that statement was Buffy then appeared allowing Xander to add the equally unlikely statement of “Buffy! I feel a pre-birthday spanking coming on!”

The Bottom Line: In many ways this is a self contained episode and a strong one. However it is part one of two and very much needs part two for the full horror of what has happened to sink in.

69/100

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