Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | May 30, 2011

Robin’s Review: S2, E14 – Innocence (2)

Synopsis: Angel’s soul is gone after his moment of happiness and he goes to share the news with Spike and Drusilla. Buffy wakes up alone and is worried by his absence. When she tracks him down he cruelly mocks her and she is reduced to confused tears. Willow catches Xander and Cordelia kissing and is upset. Angel heads to the school and tries to kill Willow but Jenny intervenes. Buffy dreams about Jenny and confronts her over her knowledge about the curse. She tells Buffy and Giles what she knows while Angel kills her uncle. Angel and Drusilla take the Judge to the mall while Xander brings a rocket launcher to give Buffy a weapon with which to kill him.

The Good: In the metaphor of high school as a hellmouth this story always stood out as the most effective. Buffy loses her virginity to her boyfriend who the next day turns round and laughs at her. The science fiction behind the story is even better.

Over time the emotion of what happened to Angel and Buffy’s love may be harder to feel but the genius in the storytelling is as easy to see as ever. The vengeance of the Kalderash is an eternal plague upon Angel. The demon in him is punished by having his humanity restored. The human in Angel is thus punished by having to recall all the horrible things which the demon did with his body. But the vengeance cannot be undone. The now human soul of Angel is not allowed one moments freedom from guilt or he will revert to being a vampire thus bringing misery to those who brought him to a state of happiness. It’s an utterly brilliant concept that is aptly summed up when Uncle Enios explains to Jenny that “It is not justice we serve, it is vengeance.”

The scene where Angel and Buffy reunite is delicious in its cruelty. He implies she was bad in bed. He implies he never loved her. He implies he did it all to get her in the sack. It’s all so cruel and leaves Buffy understandably shattered. Everything she goes through is so understandable. Initially in denial she can barely raise a fist to Angel even though she now knows the truth. She demands that Jenny curse him again and still can’t bring herself to kill him when she beats him down in the mall. The final shot of her curled up with her mum was so sad. It really drove home what she had been through and what she had lost.

Still moving to this day was Giles’ reaction to all of this. Initially confused, when he realised what had given Angel a moment of happiness he looked embarrassed, as you can imagine he would be. He then turns his back on Jenny in a sign of solidarity with Buffy, knowing that she had betrayed them through omission. Finally he drives her home and tells her that he understands why she couldn’t kill Angel, reassures her that Angel loved her and offers her “support and respect.” Their relationship has never been so moving.

Xander and Willow once more offer Buffy their unwavering support. They also come across as brave, offering to rush to the factory to save her and standing up to Angelus. The initial love triangle between the three remains in place in ways which are believable and a huge credit to the writers. In other teen dramas so many trists and love interests can come and go without affecting the character dynamics the way they are here. Not only is Cordelia a bit jealous of the affection Xander holds for Buffy but then Willow, despite meeting Oz, is deeply hurt that Xander could choose someone he dislikes over her.

Having played only stern or loving facial expressions Angel is suddenly transformed as the laughing, joking, angry figure of Angelus. His cruelty to Buffy and her friends lives up to the Judge’s assessment that he has no humanity in him. It goes without saying that his presence now transforms the rest of the season into something much more significant and personal for Buffy and the Scoobies.

The Bad: Like so many villains before him the Judge was all talk and no delivery. Although using a modern (non-forged) weapon to destroy him was clever it was also convenient and raised way too many questions. Malls do have guards and cameras, not to mention the dozens of witnesses who would have seen that blonde high school girl firing a rocket launcher. Considering the weapon was stolen from the army makes it all harder to sweep under the “weird stuff happens in Sunnydale” rug.

The effects didn’t help as the Judge’s lightning bolts meant the innocent shoppers were literally frozen on screen when he zapped them. Although Xander remembering military knowledge is covered (see 206), continuity-wise, it still felt very convenient. Not only has he not mentioned it before but to have him retain specific information about California army bases was a swallow too far for me. I also felt Oz’ insight into Willow’s behaviour was a little too cute. We hadn’t really seen the four of them interact so for him to instantly understand the dynamic between Willow and Xander again just felt convenient.

The Unknown: What do the Kalderash do now that Angel has lost his soul? How long is it going to take for Spike to heal? What did the Scoobies do with all the Judge bits?

Best Moment: The scene with Angel mocking Buffy is brilliant and iconic. But Giles offering Buffy his support made me well up.

The Bottom Line: As you may now know the whole of Season Two of Buffy hinges on this twist. In many ways it is the twist which defined Buffy as a show. What it has lost in emotional impact on rewatch, it has not lost in sheer brilliance.




  1. Sadly, our laptop wasn’t working and I missed a few weeks, including these episodes which are some of my favorite of the entire series. I didn’t know anything about Buffy before I started watching it, and in the first season episode Angel I looked him up on Wikipedia cause I thought maybe it was a fake out and he wasn’t really a vampire. So I totally spoiled myself for this and I really wish I hadn’t. (For some reason I will never read ahead in a book to find out what happens, but I have no self control when it comes to television spoilers. Anyway…)

    In a way, knowing this was coming was what kept me watching through the first season because of what I knew was coming and it seemed like it was going to be worth it. And it totally was. I also agree with you that this episode is just flat out great television and pretty close to perfection. Some of my favorites:
    I love that Xander figured out what to do about the Judge. He’s often used just for comedy and I like that sometimes they show he is an important part of the team.
    I love love love any scene that has Spike, Dru, and Angel. I find Angel much more interesting when he’s evil, and I think that David Boreanaz had a lot of fun playing Angleus. That had to be more fun than all the brooding.
    And I love the conversation with Giles at the end. I get choked up every time I watch it.

    There are a few things I quibble with when rewatching it (like Joyce couldn’t do more than a cupcake for her birthday?) but compared to other shows and even other episodes of this show so far, it is just amazing. I’ve been trying to get my husband into Buffy (he loves Firefly) because I think once he got here, he would love this show too. But of course, I really want him to enjoy this episode without being spoiled.

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