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Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Angel

Buffy: "When he's around, it's like the lights dim everywhere else."

This is my favorite first season episode, no contest. It isn't the romance, although Angel is probably the embodiment of a teenage girl's fantasy of the ultimate boyfriend. No, it's Angel's back story — and what a story it is.

It's only episode seven, and David Boreanaz is already well into his somber, brooding Angel persona. We learn that he is about 240 years old, that he was a vicious killer when he was first turned into a vampire, that he was cursed by gypsies with his soul, and — well, let’s put it in Angel’s words: "When you become a vampire, the demon takes your body but it doesn’t get your soul. That’s gone. No conscience, no remorse; it’s an easy way to live. You have no idea what it’s like to have done the things I’ve done, and to care."

Up until now, Angel has just been an attractive, mysterious stranger. His extraordinary past immediately gives his character pathos and dimension. How could anyone regain their soul and conscience and live with a past like that? How can Buffy be in love with her natural enemy?

There are several scenes that score way high on the romance-o-meter: Buffy telling Angel to take off his shirt so that she can patch his wounds; hiding him secretly in her bedroom; him staring at her in the Bronze; and that intense first kiss when he vamps out on her. One of my favorite moments in the entire series is at the end in the Bronze when they kiss, she moves back, and we see the outline of the cross he gave her burned into his chest. Heavy-handed on the symbolism, but wonderful, nonetheless; a lot of BtVS is heavy on the symbolism.

Darla, who is a lot more aggressive and interesting here than in the pilot, is revealed to have a long-term history with Angel. We're given facts and clues about Angel's past: Darla made him a vampire; he's originally from Ireland; he wreaked havoc in Europe for several decades; he and Darla did some serious damage in earthquake-ravished Budapest at the turn of the century (which century?); he was cursed a hundred years ago and hasn't bitten a living human being since then; the last time he saw Darla, "It was kimonos."

Angel dusts Darla at the end of the episode, which is a much more significant action in retrospect. How old was Darla? Darla tells Joyce that her family goes back to the War of Independence. The Master actively grieves for Darla and says she was his favorite for 400 years. Long time.

Bits and pieces:

-- Joyce meets both Giles and Angel for the first time.

-- Buffy's home address is 1630 Revello Drive. Buffy and Angel both appear to live within walking distance of the Bronze.

-- Buffy screams when Angel vamps out on her. Buffy rarely screams.

-- Sarah Michelle Gellar must have been placed on a box for the love scenes.

-- Joyce thinks she fainted and fell on a barbecue fork. "We don't have a barbecue fork."

-- Buffy asks Angel if he snores. He says that he doesn't know, that it has been a long time since anyone was in a position to tell him. Interesting conclusions can immediately be made about his sex life, or lack of it.

-- When Angel says, "I'm just an animal, right?" Buffy responds with, "You're not an animal. Animals I like." I particularly like this exchange, since calling someone an animal in this context has always seemed inappropriate to me. My cats are two of the nicest people I know.

-- The library training session was a wonderful Buffy/Giles scene ("Goodbye stakes, hello, flying fatality.")

-- We see the bird tattoo on Angel's back for the first time.

-- It is established that bullets cannot kill vampires. Even the amazing number of bullets that come out of Darla's guns.

-- How could The Three acquire such a serious rep if they offered their lives in penance for every failure? They wouldn't be around for very long. Perhaps it's some kind of vampire cult that recruits new members?

-- Obligatory dog reference: Angel says to one of The Three, "Good dogs don't... bite!"

-- We see Giles holding a coffee mug in this episode. This is probably an inside joke, since Anthony Stewart Head was in a series of well-known Taster's Choice coffee commercials.

Quotes:

Willow: "How is it you always know this stuff? You always know what's going on. I never know what's going on."
Giles: "Well, you weren't here from midnight until six researching it."

Willow: "So he is a good vampire. I mean, on a scale of one to ten, ten being someone who's killing and maiming every night, and one being someone who's... not."

Angel: "Romani. Gypsies. The elders conjured the perfect punishment for me. They restored my soul."
Buffy: "What, they were all out of boils and blinding torment?"

Darla: "Do you know what the saddest thing in the world is?"
Buffy: "Bad hair on top of that outfit?"

Xander: "Ah, the post-fumigation party."
Buffy: "Okay, so what's the difference between this and the pre-fumigation party?"
Xander: "Much hardier cockroaches."

Four out of four stakes,

Billie
---
Billie Doux reviewed all of Buffy and Angel, so she knows the plural of apocalypse.

31 comments:

  1. "- Angel says he hasn't bitten a living human being since he was cursed. We later learn that this isn't entirely true." That doesn't have to be an inconsistence. He could easily be lying just to make himself look good.
    I really like that I can comment on Btvs episodes now :)

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  2. I just re-watched this episode last night. I adore it! I decided to re-watch it after seeing someone post a comment about the Twilight series in comparison to Buffy. The comment was something about how this episode captures the themes of the first Twilight book in 45 minutes and does it better. I agree. Buffy's reaction to Angel's vamp face cannot be beat and the romance of the final scene in The Bronze with the cross searing Angel's chest is incredible.

    Thanks for giving us a place to post comments on Buffy again.

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  3. Hands down the best episode of the first season and one of the best of them all. I simply love it.

    The first kiss and the reveal are among the best, in any show, ever. I've been re-watching these episodes as background while I do other things, but this one I just stopped and watched.

    I agree with Billie that the final scene is one of the most powerful in the entire series:

    Buffy: "You OK?"
    Angel: "It's just..."
    Buffy: "Painful. I know."

    All followed by the reveal of the burned cross on his chest. Sigh. Absolutely lovely. And, it captures perfectly that feeling of desperately wanting something or someone you can't have.

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  4. I love when Giles suggests Buffy practices fighting with staffs and she tells him that she's "not going to be fighting Friar Tuck." A nice little Disney's Robin Hood reference.

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  5. The BUFFY RE-WATCH is on! Post your comments! Remember, no spoilers for future episodes. If you'd like to talk spoilers and foreshadowing, you can post them here. I'd be so grateful if you would tweet or like this review on Facebook! Buttons are at the bottom of the review.

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  6. This is my favorite episode of the first season, too. It's heavy on the vampire mythology, and it gives Angel an unexpected depth. We find out that he's much more than just a broody, good-looking guy.

    The scene of the reveal I find fascinating, and even knowing it was coming I found it perfect. Maybe it's because, as you say Billie, Buffy doesn't scream a lot in this show, and when she does it's usually a very poignant moment.

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  7. It's clear why this is one people often cite as the episode that got them hooked. Between the epic, forbidden romance and the absolutely amazing chemistry between SMG and DB, this episode has a lot going for it. (I found myself watching that final scene between them with the same giddy glee as Willow.) Plus, as Bille notes, 'Angel' does a really fantastic job of building out the world and the characters.

    I was sort of surprised by the way Darla and Angel instantly became a billion times more interesting in that scene in Angel's apartment. Especially Darla. She was pretty much just a servile lackey in her previous appearances (even earlier in this episode), notable only for her Catholic school girl outfit. But in this scene she suddenly seemed like a much more developed character with a history and an honest-to-God personality!

    I've never understood how vampires can love, if they don't have souls. Darla says that she loved Angelus, and the Master seemed to genuinely experience grief and anger at losing Darla. Are these really honest emotional attachments, or are they more of an "I've grown accustomed to your presence" kind of thing? Is it just that in the Buffyverse the soul is merely something that defines your morality, informing your sense of right and wrong? Does it not tie into other emotions?

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  8. As I commented above, my favorite episode of the first season. The first kiss and the final scene get me every time.

    Jess makes a good point about vampires and their ability to love. I never thought of it quite like that as we have already seen quite a bit of emotion (glee, love, hate, anger, frustration) from all the vampires we have met. Perhaps the lack of a soul does just inform their sense of right and wrong.

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  9. I guess it is just a concept that has always troubled me. "Love" tends to be a more "soulful" notion. A connection between kindred spirits, with marriage a blessed union of souls and whatnot. So I have trouble wrapping my mind around the idea of two beings without souls being in love. So when Darla claimed all this great sadness because the person she loved used to love her back but didn't anymore, I found myself thinking "Really? Did you really love each other? Can you?"

    But I guess that's a pretty typical concept for vampire lore, in general. I'm more steeped in sci-fi traditions, than fantasy ones. So I'm more used to non-souled beings as androids/ artificial intelligences/ etc., where the lack of ability to experience emotions is more broad-based.

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  10. Yes, definitely the best episode so far. Angel goes from mysterious to very very interesting. You kinda want to know more about him now.

    When Buffy and Angel are fleeing from the three, she invites Angel very quickly. You almost missed it. Unilke the Darla scene where you want to scream to Joyce "don't invite her!"

    Darla becomes interesting too, and now she's dust. Pity.

    Can't help thinking though that I would like to cut out all the Master scenes from the first season. He is sooo OTT and I can't stand him, and that little evil annoying one.

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  11. On the love debate - Angel later says he never loved Darla because he couldn't. He didn't have a soul. But another vamp character says that vampires can love. It's a difficult issue. It doesn't seem like they *should* be able to love sans soul, but we see vampire couples later who seem to love each other very much.

    Buffy's scream is so out of character, it's wonderful. She's always in control of her emotions in battle, so her scream really shows how much she let her guard down with Angel. She trusted him.

    How did Angel stay out of the sun in the morning without Buffy noticing? That room has a lot of windows...

    In 'Never Kill a Boy on the First Date,' Buffy asks Xander to turn around while she changes like she does with Angel here. Xander peeks. Angel doesn't.

    Angel can't snore; he doesn't breathe.

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  12. I adore this episode, and it doesn't seem to matter how many times I watch it (at least five by now), it never gets old. I just wish that I hadn't know that Angel was a vampire the first time I watched this. What was it like for those of you who saw this episode when it aired? Was it a big surprise or did you already suspect it?

    I really liked everything about it, even the Master for the first time (and possibly the last). He was pretty entertaining in his witty retorts when Darla kills The Three and when he mentions something about "That is what family is all about" or something to that effect. I also liked his anguish at the loss of Darla. I just wish they had established their close relationship a little bit more before that scene so the impact could have been felt more keenly.

    Another aspect of this episode that gets me every time is Willow's innocent questionings of Buffy's "boy" trouble and later of her romance with a "boy." It is just so sweet and it breaks my heart knowing the darkness that will come.

    The best aspect of this episode is by far the Buffy and Angel. The chemistry is great, and as Billie mentioned, the Angel back story is so great. As I mentioned in my earlier comment from a year or so ago, this episode puts the whole Twighlight saga to shame.

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  13. Loved the "the outline of the cross he gave her burned into his chest". I said a loud "OH" ! in my living room. That was gooooood.

    Ok, this one had a much, much serious tone than the previous episodes. Enjoyable ? Absolutely ! Xander at the beginning is back at being himself, especially on the dance floor. You want too much dude.

    I'm sure Sunnydale's Community College must be quite different than Greendale's...Yes, the training scene was delightful. And I could have hugged Buffy, Willow and Xander (also at the beginning) (1). They are so adorable together these three. And with Giles, it's even better.

    "Knee caps". Oh ! Some POI premonition !

    (1) Dreamed the other night that I hugged Buffy and told her that no matter what, she could always count on my support (the poor girl had to mop some puke on the floor, oh heck; I should have helped). I have adopted these characters.

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  14. Oh my. a LOT of people love the ep AND the last few seconds.

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  15. Celticmarc, your POI reference about the kneecaps is great! :)

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  16. I forgot to mention in my earlier post that I liked the way Buffy brought her Cordy-mean-girl attitude to her exchanges with Darla during the fight scene. It is hard to believe it, but Buffy used to be the popular girl who was the center of attention like Cordy is now in her pre-slayer days. I am not sure if she was as mean as Cordy, but she sure knows how to cut a person down for their lack of fashion sense! In this case, the results are delightful.

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  17. Suzanne

    If I made your day, then it was worth it !

    (Although, these days, there has been a change : Finch is now aiming at shoulders !)

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  18. What was that music playing when Buffy and Angel are getting ready for bed. It almost sounds like something from the 80s. Definitely not your usual TV music. I liked it. Does anybody know what I'm talking about?

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  19. Jess, some vampire addresses vampire love at some point. (That's incredibly vague, because I can't remember who says it, or when, or even why. I have a few suspicions but don't want to spoil anything.)

    The take-away is that vampires can't love like humans can; it's more like supercharged eros but no possibility of agape.

    This week, in "Sometimes Josie is an Idiot": when I first watched Buffy, I was returning to TV for the first time in many, many years. As such, I had no idea that "Special Features" on a DVD would contain spoilers. And so I watched a few Buffy special features and found out Angel was a vampire before watching this episode. That diminishes the impact quite a bit.

    I imagine most newbies know he's a vamp these days, though. That's too bad--I'll bet the original surprise was pretty awesome.

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  20. This is a great episode for reasons already mentioned by most already – getting some of Angel's backstory, seeing a more complex Darla, and the development of the relationship between Buffy and Angel.
    The chemistry between Buffy and Angel is well portrayed but for me I'm not rooting for Buffy and Angel to start anything at all so the emotions it evokes are ones of discomfort. I think because I've never experienced this episode not knowing that Angel is a vampire I keep focusing on all that is wrong with them – he's a vampire, he's 240 years old, she's 16 years old. For me the age gap is enough to make it all a bit creepy, not so much with how old he is but how young she is. Angel, rather than encouraging her and then later weakly protesting that he can't kiss her/be with her but wants to, should have just been the adult and been a friend to her. Of course, that wouldn't make for very exciting viewing and finding out how this arc develops whether it be perceived as romantic or kind of creepy is a must.

    I agree with Suzanne that the Master is better than usual. I quite enjoyed 'I am weary and their deaths will give me little joy, … of course sometimes a little is enough'

    I also agree that Buffy's put down of Darlas hair and outfit is priceless and definitely worthy of Cordy.

    Xanders dancing at the Bronze made me laugh, his eagerness for Buffy to kill Angel is a bit too gleeful though... a bit of hypocritical Xander shining through.

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  21. Newbie report:

    Well, there was a lot of mythology exposed in this episode. I suppose it would have been more dramatic if I hadn't already known the big reveal. It would be pretty hard at this point NOT to be spoiled on that. And Angel may have been an early example, but Emo-vamp is pretty much a cliche now. Louis de Ponte du Lac. Stefan Salvatore. Edward Cullen. In a vamp story, the brooding guy skulking around in the shadows is a vamp, even if it hasn't been revealed, so it's hard to be surprised.

    The opening fight with The Three looked like Buffy was going to lose until Angel showed up all rescue-y. (See? I speak Joss now!) But then when Buffy ran home with Angel, I kept wondering - he is (presumably) a gravely injured human, so why doesn't she call 911? Instead, she invites him into her bedroom? Well, maybe she didn't want to subject the police to the "fang gang" outside until daylight. But still, weird. Also, she needs to work on her nursing skills. She may have super-recuperative powers, but her friends don’t, and she puts them in danger a lot. I’m assuming that Giles is also teaching her First Aid? She should have at least offered to stitch the wound or something. I would think a normal person would have been too worried about someone possibly bleeding to death while awaiting daylight to get much sleep. Not Buffy. Her biggest concern is that he might snore.

    I liked learning about Angel's history with Darla. I get Darla's loneliness. She made him for herself and he left her. Living forever, unloved and alone, must be very lonely. I liked the explanation about why Angel is different – his backstory with the gypsies. I liked how Buffy is beginning to understand that there can be good monsters. That people, er, beings, can't always change what they are, but they can change how they behave. Dean Winchester is just figuring that out as well.

    The pre- and post-fumigation parties at The Bronze were a hoot. Having all your best friends over to catch cockroaches. Partay!

    I’m still not liking The Master very much, but that’s mostly because of the terrible face appliances and teeth that keep him from even talking very well. Creepy kid is creepy. I think Eric Kripke was watching and taking notes.

    Anyway, I can't say I'm hooked yet. This episode was a juicy continuation of the story arc and that is nice, but in general, I'm still waiting to see what the fuss is all about. Partly, I don't like SMG personally. I tend to want to fast-forward every scene she's in and that's rather problematic. I liked the hyenas better. Evil Xander, yum!

    Okay, upon request, a tribute to Darla:

    Well, Darla, that bloodsucking minx
    Should watch from whose mother she drinks
    She's dusted, oh no!
    "And she's gone from the show,"
    Joss Whedon declares. Then he winks.

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  22. pucklady - Your comments are such a delight to read! I love rediscovering my favorite show ever through the eyes of a newbie!! lmao at "In a vamp story, the brooding guy skulking around in the shadows is a vamp" I wish that were true irl. Here, they seem to be mostly stalkers.

    I always knew Angel was a vampire because I saw Angel first. I'd like to think I would've guessed though. They telegraphed that twist fairly clearly.

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  23. When I first saw this episode, I was shocked at the big reveal. This time, I really watched for the clues especially the invite to B 's house. My favorite scenes happen toward the end. Angel dusting D is dramatic and important. He's turning his back on his past for a future with B. The cross scene shows he is willing to endure great pain for this girl. It's definitely a four stake episode with universal appeal. Oh, forbidden love...

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  24. I definitely liked this episode better than most of the others so far. I liked all of the background/mythology. As a newbie who has completely avoided BTVS clues, I did not know that Angel was a vampire before this "rewatch" began. But beyond the brooding stranger in the corner that pucklady mentioned, there were also other clues leading up to the reveal that had me suspecting that was the case (the cross IN A BOX, the "I'll be damned" comment, etc.). So, I wasn't shocked when the reveal came but I still really liked how it was done. Vampires--with the facial changes, etc- are so much more dramatic in this series so it made the moment that much more powerful. Usually the vamp just shows his/her fangs but Angel really turned into a demonic looking creature.

    Although I can't help but think of other vampire stories while watching these episodes, this particular one made me think both of Twilight (did joss get any money for inspiring Stephanie Meyer? #howdoyoutypesarcastically) but also true blood. The scenes between Angel and Darla really made me think of Bill and his creator--although with less blood and sex of course!

    If future seasons are more like this episode then I am in for the long haul...of course, I must admit I'm dreading the next episode after all the groaning I've been hearing about it. I guess if I go in knowing it's bad, then I might just be able to laugh my way through...we shall see!

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  25. a.m., without spoiling you, I can confirm that yes, future episodes are definitely more like this one.

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  26. Great, Billie! I think this re-watch is moving at a fast enough pace to keep me interested even through the rough episodes with robotic demons :) I'm having fun with it, which is as much as I can ask from summertime tv viewing!

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  27. The friend who made me watch Supernatural has gotten me to watch Buffy, and once again I'm super happy for these reviews and comments so I'm not blowing up her phone constantly.

    I didn't know Angel was a vampire (I live under a rock) and loved the reveal. There were enough clues that I was suspicious, especially the vampires needing to be invited part. Which I only know because I was forced to watch too much True Blood.

    And since young love can never be simple I was pretty sure and just as I picked up my phone to text my friend he vamped out. Great surprise.

    I'm not completely on board yet, but I'll keep trucking along due to all the good words here. And what else is there to do during hiatus season for every other show I watch?

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  28. this is random & since im posting from the future, i doubt OP will see this, but! True Blood has actually copied a couple of lines from Buffy verbatim! The only one I can remember off the top of my head tho is *SPOILER* in Becoming, Buffy threatens Whistler: "I will rip out your ribcage & wear it as a hat." Bill's sire threatens Sookie with almost the exact same line: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UCeaTXyvaE

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  29. Melissa Rivera, I actually reviewed that episode of True Blood and noted that it was a ripoff of Buffy. It's in the quotes section. The episode title is "I Got a Right to Sing the Blues."

    http://www.douxreviews.com/2010/07/true-blood-i-got-right-to-sing-blues.html

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  30. My nearly 12yo daughter and I just watched this one... I managed to keep her from being spoiled about Angel, and she was so thrilled that they were kissing and when he vamped out, she clutched me and her jaw literally dropped open. She was on the edge of her seat the rest of the time. She has no idea about things that happen later in the series, so she was honestly afraid Buffy would kill him.
    She had a little trouble getting through the first few episodes (other than loving the quips and sarcasm) , so much so that we skipped the last two episodes to get to this one.... but I think she's hooked now!
    As a side note, she said she likes the scoobies and Buffy because they each represent a different part of her personality. I never thought about it that way, but I think I agree.

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  31. Not me thinking that Angel was literally an angel!! This is the first episode I’ve completely loved in my binge today. The final moment with the cross gave me chills.
    It’s also interesting, as I assumed it would be a bit more like True Blood, where vampires could be good or evil, whereas this episode suggests all vampires are evil, except Angel.

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