Sunday, 14 November 2010

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 1, Episode 7 'Angel'


Writer: David Greenwalt
Director: Scott Brazil

What's the sitch?
The Master sends The Three, a trio of deadly vampire warriors, to kill Buffy. And they almost succeed. However at the last moment Angel intervenes and saves her but gets himself injured in the process. The pair escape back to Buffy's house where Buffy, her feelings for the mysterious Angel growing, though still unaware that he's a vampire, patches him up and insists he spends the night...on her bedroom floor. Meanwhile, having failed in their task, The Three die at the hands of Darla, who then tells The Master of her own plan to kill Buffy: have Angel do it for them by framing him for hurting Buffy's mum. He'll then be forced to kill the Slayer before she kills him. Darla's plan is to not only rid Sunnydale of the pesky Slayer but also, by having him kill her, to bring Angel, the vampire she sired, back in to the evil fold. Delicious.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?
Girls: beware of moody, broody older boys who aren't all they seem. Primarily this is a mythology and character episode that pushes the main story of the season forward (and season 2 for that matter).

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?
The Three, The Master and Darla. Mmm, Darla.

Why it rocks
1. Buffy steps up a gear. This is arguably the best episode of the season. I mean, what's not to love? The proper birth of the Buffy/Angel story, a surprise reveal, loads of emotional pain, Darla in gleefully murderous mode. This is a mythology and character episode that tells us who and what Angel really is and about his history with Darla. And speaking of...

2. Darla. Yes, Darla. The wonderful Julie Benz is front and centre. And she is wicked. All innocent and schoolgirly when conning her way in to Buffy's home and Buffy's mother's trust, then incredibly sexy and seductive when egging Angel on to kill Buffy, then gloriously cool dressed in her catholic school girl uniform, automatics in each hand, blasting away as she falls back in slow motion across a pool table John Woo style. What a Shame she gets staked by Angel at the end. But never fear she will be back.

3. David Boreanaz. The actor made big strides from the pilot to this episode. He simply had to be good in this one seeing as how it's all about him. He needed to convey the inner torment, immense guilt and self loathing that Angel carries. But also the conflicted part of his nature: that demon inside he is always resisting. Plus he needed to convey his burgeoning attraction to Buffy (admittedly not hard with SMG being so darn cute), a relationship he knows to be wrong and that ultimately can go nowhere. And to his credit Boreanaz pulls it off. He's still not the greatest of actors but he has presence and can do tortured brooding with the best. Next year he'll add gleefully sadistic monster to his repertoire. And then a couple years later goofy idiot and slapped puppy.

4. Sarah Michelle Gellar. Quite simply she's brilliant. She balances hormonally charged teenage girl with intense, conflicted warrior. And often in the same scene. She can go from weepy love struck teen to tough as nails kick-ass heroine in a heartbeat. Plus her chemistry with Boreanaz sizzles. The full emotional gamut gets run here: love, hate, terror, betrayal, rage, guilt, vengeance, mercy. Like this episode's writer David Greenwalt said of her at the 2008 Paleyfest reunion, and I paraphrase: “You can give Sarah anything and everything to do and she'll nail it all first time and every time. She's a machine.” You simply cannot underestimate SMG's contribution to the success of this show, to what makes it work.

Why it sucks
It doesn't suck. At all. However there are a couple of things that niggle:

First, after their fight with The Three, Buffy and Angel rush back to her house to take shelter. Angel runs in right after Buffy without being invited. As far as I'm aware this is the first time he's ever been to her home so needs to be invited in. Later, after Buffy has found out he's a vampire, she says to Willow how she'd invited him in to her home unwittingly. We never see that though.

Second, why would Buffy expect Angel to hang out in her bedroom all the next day until she gets home from school? Sure, he's a vamp and can't leave while the sun's out...unless he has a blanket and does the sewer thing like Spike will do in later years. But she doesn't know that yet. It makes no sense and is a contrivance of the plot. But when the episode is this good I'll forgive it.

It's Buftastic
Darla looking gloriously cool and sexy in her catholic school girl uniform, automatics in each hand, blasting away as she falls back in slow motion to slide in reverse across a pool table. John Woo does Buffy.

Dialogue to die for
Angel: “For a hundred years I offered ugly death to everyone I met. And I did it with a song in my heart.”

Buffy: "You want Xander, you've gotta speak up, girl!"
Willow: "No, no, no, no. No speaking up. That way leads to madness... and sweaty palms."

And another thing
This is the first episode that gets the spoken preface, “In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.”

How many stakes?
It's five expertly whittled ones. 5 (out of 5)

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