Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Becoming, Part 2

Whistler: "What are you going to do? What are you prepared to do?"
Buffy: "Whatever I have to."

Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems (to me) to be a mix of horror, satire, comedy, and heartbreak, with different episodes carrying different proportions of the mix. This episode is very heavily weighted in the heartbreak category; Buffy loses virtually everything, and all at once, and has only herself in the end.

The decisions she must make throughout this episode are heavy, and she must make them alone. She decides to resist arrest (considering the circumstances, the only choice); she decides not to submit to her mother's authority at the cost of losing her home; she decides to ally with her enemy, Spike, to save Giles. She decides to tell Joyce about her calling, unfortunately at the worst possible moment. The hardest decision she must make is to kill Angel, and even this is made a lot harder since she must kill him when he is himself again.

And there she is at the end, looking small, young, and lost, expelled from school, and running away. Whistler tells her: "In the end, you're always by yourself. You're all you've got. That's the point." In the end, there is more to Buffy than her friends, her Watcher, her mother, her lover, her life in high school, because she still has herself. I think I tend to take Sarah Michelle Gellar for granted at times, but this episode in particular reminded me that her acting skills are formidable and are complimented always by real grace and athleticism. She's really something.

David Boreanaz is extremely good in this one, too, as he has been throughout this entire "evil Angel" arc. I especially liked the lighthearted way he said to Giles, "I want to torture you. I used to love it and it's been a long time. I mean, the last time I tortured somebody, they didn't even have chainsaws." And saying that, I must also say that was probably a good idea for them not to actually show Angel torturing Giles. Joss Whedon struck the right balance with that one.

I loved seeing Buffy working with Spike. They're delightful together, and Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters have marvelous acting chemistry. Spike has some more wonderful lines, too, and he delivers them so well. I especially love the living room scene with Joyce. It's priceless.

One last thing. Right before Buffy kills Angel, she says to him, "Close your eyes." It's the same thing Darla says to him right before she bites him in part one.

Bits and pieces:

-- The ending is essentially a double couple fight: Angel with Buffy, Spike with Drusilla.

-- When Buffy goes to the mansion to kill Angel, she's wearing the cross he gave her at the beginning of the series.

-- Xander lied to Buffy. He didn't tell her about the ritual Willow was performing and instead told her Willow said to kick his ass. Xander may have caused Angel's death.

-- With continued good timing, Xander tells Willow how much he loves her... while she's unconscious.

-- Is Willow possessed by Jenny in the cursing scene in the hospital at the end? And does it happen because Drusilla channeled Jenny for Giles?

-- Cordelia seems to be outright sweet in this two-parter. Just an observation.

-- Angel talks about having Spike watch his back being like old times, so they must have gotten along at some point.

-- David Boreanaz does better with Latin than he does with that Irish accent. But then again, he has many skills.

-- The mansion is on Crawford Street.

-- Oz drives Cordelia to the library for supplies. "I'll drive." He is often the one who drives.

-- The final song, Sarah McLachlan's "Full of Grace," is a fan favorite. Very appropriate for the moment, and very moving.

-- Detective Stein from the episode "Ted" is back.

-- Buffy tells her mom she's in a band, plays the drums, Spike says, "Well, I sing." James Marsters does indeed sing in a rock band of his own.

-- The "grrr argh" at the end is changed to "Oooh, I need a hug."

-- Obligatory dog reference: "You've got dog racing, Manchester United..."

-- The sword fight is wonderful, but you can clearly see when it's Gellar and Boreanaz and when it's their stunt doubles. Oh, well.

Quotes:

Spike: "We like to talk big. Vampires do. 'I'm going to destroy the world.' That's just tough guy talk. Strutting around with your friends over a pint of blood. The truth is, I like this world. You've got dog racing, Manchester United. And you've got people. Billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. It's all right here."

Giles: "In order to be worthy..."
Angelus: "Yeah?"
Giles: "You must perform the ritual... in a tutu."

Spike: "You have your way with him, you'll never get to destroy the world. And I don't fancy spending the next month trying to get librarian out of the carpet."

Whistler: "You know, raiding an Englishman's fridge is like dating a nun. You're never gonna get the good stuff."

Exceptional. Four out of four stakes,

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

27 comments:

Mark Greig said...

The little monster guy isn't the only one who needs a hug. God damn you, Joss Whedon. No matter how many times I see this episode it still makes me cry. Christ, I'm such a softie.

Right, onto season three...

Jess Lynde said...

This is definitely a fantastically tragic episode. One of my all-time favorites.

Billie Doux said...

The second half of season two culminating with "Becoming" was when I became obsessed with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and decided I had to review it. Up until that point, I'd only done very brief, chatty reviews of Babylon 5 for my friends. So this episode was a big turning point for me. Also one of my all time favorites.

Mark said...

"It's Snyder... Tell the Mayor I have good news."

Billie Doux said...

BUFFY RE-WATCH comments begin here! Remember, no spoilers for future episodes. Want to talk spoilers and foreshadowing? Post them here.

We made it through season two!

ChrisB said...

Like so many others, I believe that if this is not the best episode of the series, it is right up there. Certainly in the top five. I have watched this one over and over again, and each time I cry. As soon as "Full of Grace" begins to play, the tears begin to fall.

Before we get to the end, however, I love the Buffy/Spike team and always look forward to their interactions. I like the way he has her back with Joyce and his conversation with Joyce in the living room -- especially the fact that he doesn't lie to her.

I just want to add how much I am enjoying re-watching this series as part of a crowd and not on my own. It makes a huge difference to have somewhere to come where we can talk/vent/laugh and cry together. Season three -- here we come!

Austin said...

This is it, this is the episode that got me hooked. It has the very best examples of what makes Joss Whedon so great. The sharp wit and the heart-breaking drama. I mean, what a downer of an episode right? Buffy literally has her whole life taken away. Wanted by police, the fight with her mother, HAVING TO SEND YOUR SOULMATE TO A HELL DIMENSION! It's no wonder that she takes off like that.

But what a wonderfully acted episode. DB is so good as Angelus. You hate him and yet, still wish him to get his soul back. I love the scene at the end, when Angel is so confused and Buffy realizes she must send her lover to Hell. Not Angelus, the evil monster. But her love and her heart, Angel. So wonderfully acted, to show all those emotions so plainly.

And curse you Xander for what you told Buffy lol. No spoilers, but that might come up again at some point...

a.m. said...

I really loved getting to see more of Dru's powers...poor Giles, but I loved Angel and Spike telling Dru she could stop kissing him. That's what happens when you turn a good girl evil...

As everyone else has said, this episode really was amazing. Buffy really had hard choices to make and she did exactly what she needed to do, even though it was terrible. I am glad that Joyce finally knows the truth, even if it made her lash out at Buffy. I also loved that Buffy didn't take any sh*t from Snyder. She walked out of that school with her head held high knowing what she had to do. I only wished Xander hadn't lied--not because much would have changed, but because it just makes him seem petty.

I can't wait to see the resolution to this cliffhanger--and I'm glad I don't have to wait until September! How will Buffy get back in school? Will Willow have new powers/problems? How will Angel escape from hell? Where will Spike and Dru go? Will Dru forgive Spike? How much cuter will Oz and Willow get? Will Cordy continue to be nice? So many questions....

sunbunny said...

I don't have much to add. Excellent episode, as everyone's said. Buffy's face when she realizes that, even though Angel is back, Acathla is still rising is absolutely heartbreaking. How does SMG make her eyes that big? Clearly she's been getting help from Alyson Hannigan.

Does anyone else have "Full of Grace" stuck in their head now?

Annie said...

I'm with you Chris, I've never watched Buffy with others before so have never been able to chat about episodes, I'm very much enjoying this rewatch and I agree that this episode is up there with the best.
Angelus is just so malicious, his desire to torture Giles demonstrates the depth of his evil... what has Giles ever done to make his torture such a buzz for Angel? Is it because Angel liked Giles that he desires to hurt him so much. It seems thats Angels MO destroying things his souled self cares for. DB is excellent. I've never noticed before but I love that Angelus polishes Giles' glasses and replaces them, mocking Giles' nervous habit.

Spike's decision to make a deal with Buffy and save the world just makes is character all the more interesting. Their interactions are very entertaining, discussions punctuated with punches. Buffy clearing her throat when Spike casually turns to finish of the policemen raises a smile.

Spikes interaction with Joyce is priceless, so awkward

Joyce : 'Have we met?'

Spike: 'you hit me with an axe one time, remember.?.. “get the hell away from my daughter”'

Joyce: 'so uh do you live here in town?'

I can almost feel a camaraderie between Spike and Angelus when Dru is 'in the moment' with Giles.

Xander: 'Willow she told me to tell you …'tell me what?... kick his ass' oooooXander, sneaky! But telling her the truth could have been very distracting for Buffy but....ooooSneaky!!!

It is such a heartbreaking scene when Buffy has to kill Angel, I even had a tear even though I don't 'get' the big romance :).


Xander and Giles 'then why would they make you seem me...' 'you're right, lets go'

There is such a duality with Spike, his surviving humanity does show itself in his demeanour, but has little impact on his actions like when he's watching Angelus getting the better of Buffy and says 'God he's going to kill her' almost as if part of him cares, then shrugs it off. Maybe he shrugs it off because he dismisses that Angelus could win...?

Oz didn't have much to say but my favourite line was :'...but we know the world didn't end cause,... check it out'

Jess Lynde said...

I do. I didn't even re-watch the episode, but I've been reading the comments, and when Chris mentioned it I had to pull the song up on my Ipod. Listening to it brought back all those feelings I had seeing the end of this episode. So heartbreaking and tragic. Just the perfect, melancholy note to end the season. "It's better this way ..."

I've said it elsewhere, but like Austin, this is the episode that made me fall in love with this show. So, so good.

Billie Doux said...

I am also very, very much enjoying doing a rewatch with a group, especially this group. The comments have been wonderful. It's close to the way I felt when I was watching the show when it aired and every Wednesday, we were all talking about it.

Thanks again, Austin, for suggesting this rewatch. Great idea.

Billie Doux said...

One more thing. It's 2013 and David Boreanaz is a big television star now and obviously, there's a spinoff series named Angel coming along after season three, but none of this was true when this episode first aired. I thought it could very well be the end of Angel forever, and it was devastating.

Annie said...

I do regret that I never got to watch Buffy without any knowledge of what was in store. I didn't know details, but I knew Angel was a spin off so the impact was always less.

drnanamom said...

Like everyone else this is one of my favourite episodes but I had to stop near the end and take a break because I knew what was coming. I didn't hold it against Xander that he didn't tell Buffy what Willow was doing. What if she knew? Would she fight less hard waiting for the change? Spike was great in this episode. He really doesn't care one way or the other as long as he gets to keep his lady love. He's a very pragmatic vampire which Angelus is not. Angelus is willing to risk "death" and harm to others to meet his twisted needs. The contrast with good Angel was dramatic - both actors were amazing.

rebecca_s921 said...

I'd like to echo ChrisB and Annie's sentiment that joining this Buffy rewatch group makes watching my favorite TV show that much more enjoyable, especially with the newbie perspectives!

I remember when I first watched this episode I was a complete mess by the end credit. With repeat viewing I'm now somewhat more resistant, but it's still such as sad ending for Buffy and Angel. Like many here, I had "Full of Grace" on repeat for a long while after first seeing the episode.

Spike's line about "happy meals with legs" is one of my favorite from the whole series. It just felt like such a great distillation of a vampire's mindset, so funny yet so so wrong at the same time.

Jane said...

Such a great payoff for the 2-parter and really for the whole season. I really felt for Buffy as all of her supports fell away - but then she would never have listened to Spike if the Scooby gang was intact so there is that.

I was kind of confused by Spike's oh well shrug after his "He's going to kill her" line. If Angel succeeded in raising the demon wouldn't the subsequent world destruction have messed with Spike's plan regain the magic with Drusilla? Not a long term thinker, is our Spike.

The final scene of Buffy and Angel was really heartbreaking. I can only imagine how I would have felt seeing it on original broadcast.

I'm a little afraid of the coming seasons now. This one was so good can the others sustain it?

sunbunny said...

Jane - Yes. :)

Billie Doux said...

Jane:

To add to what sunbunny said in a little more detail :) but without spoilers -- the choice of favorite season varies depending on the fan. The seasons most fans designate as their faves are 2, 3, 5 and 6. Season 4 has some of the best episodes in the series, but the arc got a bit wonky. 1 and 7 are rarely listed as faves, but most fans agree that the series ended well.

So I can promise that it does *not* go downhill from here, in the opinion of most of the fans.

Angel improved, too. I always tell people that it got better every season, with the last being the best.

Annie said...

I find Spikes behaviour at the end confusing too Jane. Him leaving buffy to be defeated by Angel is directly at odds with his happy meals on legs speech. I guess he just thinks that his and Dru's chances would be better if he cuts and runs, Dru being unconscious would make her very vulnerable were Spike to jump in.

And to add my voice to the subject of whether it goes downhill from here, I'd say definitely not - so much excellence still to come.

Billie Doux said...

I just saw this episode again and I can't recall -- did Spike see that Angel managed to open the hell dimension before taking off with Drusilla? If he didn't see it happen, he probably thought it was all over, even if Buffy died, and there was just no point to sticking around.

Jane said...

Thanks for all of the reassurance about the future seasons - of course I'm hooked now and, as we all know, once Joss has you there's no going back!

I'm glad I'm not the only one confused by Spike.

pucklady said...

Newbie report:

Well, that certainly seemed like a series finale episode. Was it a real unknown at the time whether the series was going to continue? If it could have gone either way, it must have been a real hellatus at the time.

But since I suspect greatly that Buffy will come back to Sunnydale and Angel isn't dead (it would be a very weird "Buffy" without Buffy or "Angel" without Angel), I guess no limerick this time.

I did feel that all the actors pulled out all the stops with this episode. Lots of good stuff all around.

I kind of missed the funny, though. The only funny lines were delivered by Principal Snyder. "This is the type of event where you wish time could stop so you could relive it over and over. You are expelled."

Also "Have you tried not being a slayer?" (I'm remembering the same line in the first X-Men movie.)

Ok. See y'all over the hiatus.

sunbunny said...

I think Joss says on one of the commentaries that the only time he was relatively sure of a pickup was between seasons 4 and 5. He always tried to end seasons so that, if it were the absolute end, the fans would be happy while still setting up something for next season.

Annie said...

Billie, I'm not sure of the mechanics of it but Spike knew the sword had been removed. I'm not sure where the point of no easy return was with Acathla. The vortex doesn't start until Spikes left and Angel is restored though.

Suzanne said...

Joining in late because I am just getting back from being out of town. I love this two-parter so much that I watched it even thouGh I am behind. Almost, every scene in the second part could qualify as some of the best Buffy has to offer. I love so many, but Joyce and Spike in the living room has always been one of the funniest to me. I love the emotion in this episode, though, too. For me the balance of emotion and humor is what makes Buffy my all-time favorite series.

Thanks again, Billie, for the great rewatch.

Miss Courtney said...

As I said in the previous episode. I've watched these two episodes so much that I can say the lines along with the cast. Perfection!

I just wanted to add, Billie, I didn't even know there were stunt doubles until my friend pointed it out in Season 6. I really suspend my disbelief! I've heard an interview with Sarah, I think, when she says her double IS Buffy, too. That helps me when I can tell the difference.