Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Buffy: 2.14 ‘Innocence’

Joss talks about making this episode.

Writer: Joss Whedon
Director: Joss Whedon

What's the sitch?

One moment of pure happiness is all it took to destroy everything.

Angel has lost his soul and as a result has reverted to the evil vampire Angelus. Buffy awakens in Angel’s bed, no longer a virgin, to find her lover disappeared. She leaves for home. And upon arriving back home her mom asks her if she’s okay, saying Buffy looks somehow different. Buffy just shrugs it off and heads out again in search of Angel, to track him down and find out why he left her all alone. Newly evil Angelus, meanwhile, has sought out Spike and Dru who are both over the moon to see their old grandsire and sire (respectively) returned to the evil fold. And with great relish, Angelus reveals to them his plans for Buffy – he intends to make her suffer terribly for having made him feel human, before he eventually kills her.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

The theme of this episode is right there in the title. ‘Innocence’ the episode is all about the innocence of childhood and then the loss of that innocence when the line in to adulthood is crossed. But here that line isn’t just crossed, it is stomped all over in size fourteen boots. As such, fear, hurt and desperation hangs over this episode like a heavy shroud and pushes the show in to deeper, darker territory. Up until now the monsters and whatnot have been scary and deadly for sure, but with Angelus, the big bad evil is now personal, intimate and emotionally crippling for our heroine. Angelus doesn’t just want to kill Buffy. He wants to control her, torture her emotionally, belittle her and cause her endless pain. Buffy has lost her virginity; she has lost her innocence. The ramifications of which will push her in to places of torment she had never even dreamt existed. Buffy has already lost a great deal. Before this season is done she will lose virtually everything.

As for the big metaphor... Well, it’s kinda obvious with Angel/Angelus being the boyfriend from hell who after being nice and lovely and getting what he wants, turns in to a vile, abusive, controlling jerk. And it works supremely well.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?


Why it rocks

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is where Buffy the Vampire Slayer went from being a great show to being something truly special.

Leave it to Joss to bring us the uber-pain and to turn the whole world upside down. Basically, Joss Whedon is an evil genius. ‘Innocence’ will make you laugh, gasp, it may even make you cry. The hurt that hangs over this episode is palpable. This is Joss’s personal favourite Buffy episode and it is right up there for me alongside the other classics. Because this is the point where things changed. Where a lot of people looked up and really took notice of this show. If you ever thought that Buffy was just some silly kids show not worthy of serious attention then watch ‘Innocence’ and think again. Yes, there is silliness here, but it is clever silliness and it’s vastly outweighed by the emotional drama, the tender themes, the powerful acting. And above all else it has a cute girl with a rocket launcher. What more could you ever need?

More reasons for greatness? Okay...

Angelus casually blowing out of his own mouth cigarette smoke taken from the throat of a girl he’s just killed. One of the single greatest moments in Buffy history and TV coolness.

The scene where Angelus coldly dismisses their lovemaking and calls Buffy a “pro” is ghastly but great. Watch Sarah and if your heart doesn’t ache for Buffy then you ain’t a very nice person. David Boreanaz plays the scene brilliantly with just the right level of mocking and cruel disdain.

Buffy, a rocket launcher on her shoulder, fires the weapon at the Judge, blowing him apart, destroying him.

Sarah Michelle Gellar is put through the emotional wringer and gives it her all. When she’s in so much pain you can’t help but feel it too.

David Boreanaz doing evil. He’s having way too much fun as the cruel and sadistic Angelus to be healthy. It’s a bit pantomime in places but remains a highly effective turn.

Buffy’s end fight with Angelus. She can’t bring herself to kill him so the fight ends with one almighty slayer boot to Angelus’s man bits.

The scene near the end in Giles’s car when he brings a heartbroken and guilt ridden Buffy back home is a thing of simple tender beauty. Joss's dialogue and the performances from Tony Head and SMG are exquisite.

The very end of the episode. It has Buffy curled up on the couch with her mom watching a sad black and white movie on TV, feeling traumatised and far older than her mere seventeen years.

Why it sucks

Nothing sucks about this.

Okay, so if I’m being really picky then the whole Xander stealing the rocket launcher thing is kinda ludicrous. But then he did have his retained soldier knowledge from Halloween. And disbelief must be suspended. After all, this IS a show with vampires and demons and other ooglie booglies.

And I’m still a tiny bit uncomfortable about the whole idea that teenage girls having sex always leads to really bad things happening. Even Joss has admitted that he’s a bit uncomfortable about that too, but said that it works well within the context of this particular story and also as more of a metaphor about being used and abused by older men.

It's Buftastic

Ooh, so many classic moments to choose from. But it has to be a toss up between Angelus blowing the dead girl’s cigarette smoke out of his mouth and Buffy with the rocket launcher. Okay, I'm gonna go with Buffy and her huge explodey weapon as you just can’t beat a cute girl with a rocket launcher. See Zoe Saldana in ‘The Losers’ if you don’t believe me.

Dialogue to die for

Buffy: "I—I don't understand. Was it me? Was I not good?"
Angel (laughing): "You were great. Really. I thought you were a pro." (OUCH!)

Cordelia: "This is great. There's an unkillable demon in town, Angel's joined his team, the Slayer is a basket case... I'd say we've hit bottom."
Xander: "I have a plan."
Cordelia: "Oh, no, here's a lower place."

Cordelia: "Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?"
Xander: "I'm seventeen. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex."

Xander: Whoa. Whoa! I... I think I'm having a thought. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's a thought. Now I'm having a plan...Now I'm having a wiggins.

Joyce: "So what'd you do for your birthday? Did you have fun?"
Buffy: "I got older."

And another thing

The first time ‘Innocence’ aired it scored a 5.2 Nilesen rating, the highest ever viewing figure for Buffy in the US.

At the end, the movie Buffy and her mom are watching is Stowaway, a 1936 musical starring Shirley Temple, Alice Faye and Robert Young. The song "Goodnight, My Love" is being sung by Faye and Young.

Xander is older than Buffy.

In the flashback scenes of Buffy and Angel making love, the heavy breathing wasn't David and Sarah, but series creator Joss Whedon and supervising sound editor Cindy Rabideau. (Joss was far too embarrassed to ask his stars to record it.)

This is Joss Whedon’s favourite episode of Buffy. He says in the commentary that when he sees her with that rocket launcher he’s never loved her more.

How many stakes?

It’s an evil masterwork from Angelus and Joss. 5+ (out of 5)

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