Posted by: thebuffyrewatch | July 16, 2011

Robin’s Review: S2, E21 – Becoming (1)

Synopsis: Through flashback we see Angel become a vampire, mess with Drusilla’s mind, lose his soul and get introduced to Buffy by Whistler. In the present Buffy is both hunting Angel and studying for finals. She and Willow discover the disk with Jenny’s restoration spell on it. Giles is called to see an artefact which turns out to be the tomb of Acathla a demon who tried to take the world into hell. Kendra arrives warning Giles about the danger he poses. Angel and Dru steal Acathla and try to wake him but fail. They lure Buffy out to fight Angel while Dru leads a gang of vampires to kill Kendra and kidnap Giles.

The Good: This was excellent stuff as you would expect. You can almost feel the weight of a season worth of developments washing across you as the plot unfolds.

Xander is still out there most nights being Buffy’s hunting partner. He is filling the role Angel occupied and wishing he could be more. Willow has grown into a woman; she gets bolder and bolder here volunteering to practise magic if it will help Buffy. Buffy is teetering on the edge still. She is ready to kill Angelus but she can’t quite let go of Angel. It’s all so wonderfully set up and those emotions (plus the death of Jenny) come pouring out in the library when they argue over the restoration spell.

The final fight scene was really good. Thanks to the emotions that had been stirred up and the fact that we knew it was a trap there was a real feeling of significance to it. The fight went on longer and felt more serious than any we have seen before and resulted in serious injuries to Xander and Willow. Then Drusilla murders Kendra which would have been a huge moment anyway but was given a real layer of drama by Dru finally becoming a threat. Her hypnotism left Kendra defenceless and made her death seem even more poignant, all the while with Buffy racing home, too late to do anything about it. In a show where one of the major themes is all the responsibility on Buffy’s shoulders, this scene managed to heap even more weight on her. Her friends were trying to restore her boyfriend’s soul and were all put in danger because of that relationship and her failure to kill him. The wonderful slow motion filming of her return to school allowed those thoughts time to settle in as viewers could contemplate the desperation she must have felt.

The flashbacks to Angel’s life became increasingly effective as they went on. Seeing his cruelty to Drusilla was an instructive scene. The evilness was as clear to see as it has ever been as she turns desperately to a Priest for comfort and he uses it to torment her further. The cursing scene was a nice reminder of who Angel is and put firmly in mind the transition from evil demon back to that naïve Irish boy from a century before.

Even better though were the opening and closing flashbacks and the link between them. The scenes showing Buffy’s calling and first kill were incredibly moving. Here was a girl with no responsibilities who is suddenly shown in graphic fashion that she must save the entire world from evil. At the moment when her parents are heading toward divorce she is handed a life changing role that she can tell no one about. Her desperately sad stare into the mirror as her innocence disappeared would have been enough to make the flashback worth it. But even better than that was that Angel was watching. Now it all became clear why Angel was in Sunnydale when she arrived (101) and seemed instantly infatuated with her: he is her. He too was once a carefree youth whose life was altered beyond all recognition by a stranger. He understands what she is about to go through because he knows what she will have to face. She is the catalyst that turns him into a force for good.

The quality of the writing was back to its “Passion” level with the intricate plotting. But the dialogue was strong too. Angel’s plan to suck everyone into hell allows him to say the classic villain line “We’re about to make history…end.” And as Buffy contemplates this idea she considers that at least she won’t have to take her finals if that happens. Then she thinks a little more and ponders “Or maybe I’ll be taking them forever.”

The Bad: Nothing much.

The Unknown: It seemed odd that Darla had no accent back in 1753. I suppose an American accent would still have existed then so it’s just plausible. What kind of demon is Whistler and where is he now?

Best Moment: The Buffy flashback in 1996 leading up to her looking in the mirror. It’s amazing that the whole show is basically the story of how tough her life is and yet seeing it like this can affect me so much.

The Bottom Line: A fantastic part one, I couldn’t want to see part two anymore.

83/100

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Responses

  1. I’ve been watching Buffy re-runs earlier this month.

    In earlier episodes, there was a scene of Angel being turned into a vampire by Darla. It’s a view back into how Angel was turned. Then, there was one where Angel turns Dru and is cursed. The flashback into Angel’s meeting with Whistler continues where that left off.


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