Thursday, 20 January 2011

Buffy: 2.17 ‘Passion’

Angelus's 'Passion' monologue over some clips.

Writer: Ty King
Director: Michael E. Gershman

What's the sitch?

Angelus’s torment of Buffy continues. He leaves drawings on her bed of her sleeping at night, thus showing how easily he could have killed her if he wanted. He also leaves a picture of Buffy’s mom too. He is demonstrating his power over the Summers women. As a result, Giles finds a spell to revoke Angelus's invitation to the house. Meanwhile Jenny has found an ancient gypsy spell to restore Angelus' soul, but Drusilla finds out what Jenny is up to through her clairvoyant powers. Later, at Buffy’s house, Angelus confronts Buffy’s mom, acting as a deranged spurned lover. He tells Joyce that he and Buffy slept together. Shocked, Joyce goes inside and Angelus goes to follow… but he cannot enter as Buffy has cast the uninvitation spell. Soon after, finding out what Jenny is up to, Angelus goes to Sunnydale High, where the guilt-ridden teacher is busy translating the soul restoration spell onto a floppy disk. Angelus chases Jenny through the school and finally corners and kills her. A short time later and Giles returns to his house to find Jenny's body laid out on his bed. As the police arrive he calls Buffy and tells her what has happened. Buffy knows that Giles, blinded by hate and grief, will try to kill Angelus in revenge. And so the gang heads to his house to stop him. But they are too late. Giles has taken his weapons and gone to the old factory looking for flaming vengeance against the monster that murdered the woman he loved.

What's the sitch beneath the sitch?

It’s what the title says. This is all about passion and what it can drive you to do. Passion is what drives Angelus. It is the passion for cruelty and despair, which he indulges hugely in this episode. Before he lost his soul he was passionate about Buffy, passionate with love. Now he is soulless he is still passionate about her, with hate and cruelty. As Willow says, even now, Buffy is still the only thing he thinks about. And Buffy is still passionate about Angel, which means she still can’t kill him. And that is her major weakness. Early on in this episode, Giles tells her she doesn’t have the luxury of letting her passion rule her. If only it were that simple. Because by episodes end it is Giles who gives in to blind passion and almost gets killed as a result.

Who's giving us the wiggins this week?


Why it rocks

Passion is an utter gem of an episode and another classic from Season 2. After Joss’s two-part season ender ‘Becoming’ parts1 & 2, and his earlier episode ‘Innocence’, this is the best of Buffy series 2. And Joss didn’t even write or direct it. Passion is a devilishly dark, tragic horror story from start to finish. Gleeful mental torment gradually builds to the eventual cold blooded murder of a season regular, an event which has a profound effect on the remainder of the season, and arguably the rest of the series.

David Boreanaz. As Angelus he has the tendency to slip in to panto land in his villainy. It got even worse when he got his own series. But here, in this episode, for the most part he is excellent, being subtly cruel and sadistic, lurking and watching in the shadows as the pain he has caused unfolds and the people he now hates start to fall apart. The most panto part of his performance comes with the most shocking moment – when he is chasing and then killing Jenny with it being maybe a little too big and moustache twirly. But the impact of what he’s done is intense and he still cuts a suitably cruel and scary figure. Better is his scene with Buffy’s mom where he is acting all unstable jilted lover before dropping the news to Joyce that her little girl is no longer a virgin. His deranged playfulness is very creepy and very good.

Passion has a fabulous script by Ty King. It is darkly poetic, scary and filled with great character stuff, thematic depth and major life altering events. Angelus’s voiceover at the beginning and end about the nature of passion and what it does to us is beautifully disturbing and sums up nicely the place both he and Buffy are at.

Michael E. Gershman’s direction is top notch too. He creates such a well-crafted atmosphere of dread, tension, horror and despair. Witness the scene shot from Angelus’s POV outside Buffy’s house as he watches her answer the phone to Giles who then tells her what has happened to Jenny. The sound inside is muted but we see Buffy and then Willow break down while Joyce tries to comfort them. All the while Angelus watches from outside, smiling. And also the extremely powerful previous scene where Giles comes home to find Jenny’s body left on his bed by Angelus. This scene in particular is beautifully shot by Gershman and equally beautifully performed by Tony Head with the mournful ‘O soave fanciulla’ from Puccini’s La Bohème playing loudly and building to a crescendo as Giles sees Jenny laying on his bed, her lifeless face staring at him.

The entire cast is once again digging deep. Witness Buffy and Joyce having ‘The Talk’; the Willow & Buffy breakdown; Buffy’s earlier selfless talk to Jenny saying how Giles misses her and Buffy doesn't want him to be alone. And then Buffy’s final angry/tearful/fearful confrontation with Giles where she is so scared that she might lose him. But all in all, this episode belongs to Tony Head. It is his heart we see break and his passion that becomes seriously riled. Great, great work.

Why it sucks

How did Angelus get in to Giles’ house with out being invited? I guess we have to presume he was once invited on an occasion we didn’t see.

It's Buftastic

Giles arriving home to champagne, flowers and Puccini, following a trail of roses up his stairs…only to find the lifeless body of Jenny staring blankly at him from his bed as the opera reaches its crescendo. Powerful stuff.

Dialogue to die for

Angelus: You went shopping at the local boogedy-boogedy store.

Xander: I'm sorry, but let's not forget that I hated Angel long before you guys jumped on the bandwagon. So I think I deserve a little something for not saying 'I told you so' long before now. And if Giles wants to go after the, uh, fiend that murdered his girlfriend, I say, 'Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!'

Drusilla: But, Spike, the bad teacher was going to restore Angel's soul.
Spike: What if she did? If you ask me, I find myself preferring the old Buffy-whipped Angelus. This new, improved one is not playing with a full sack. I love a good slaughter as much as the next bloke, but his little pranks will only leave us with one incredibly brassed-off Slayer!

Angelus (voice over): Passion. It lies in all of us. Sleeping... ...waiting... And though unwanted... ...unbidden... it will stir... its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us... guides us... Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love... the clarity of hatred... and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank... Without passion, we'd be truly dead.

And another thing

On the piece of music that starts as Buffy hugs Giles in front of the burning factory and carries over into the scene at Ms. Calendar's grave, the vocals are provided by Anthony Stewart Head.

One thing Buffy always did really well was continuity from week to week and year to year. In this episode we get Willow’s original reference to her and Xander watching ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ every holiday season and Xander always doing "the Snoopy dance." This will come back in the season 5 episode ‘The Replacement’ where we actually get to see Xander do the dance. Heh.

How many stakes?

I’m passionate about this one. 5 (out of 5)

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