Apr 30 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: Became, Besaw, Beconquered

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer S2 finale opens with a flashback to the land of TeeVee History, where the men are men and the pubs are Ye Olde. Back in these longago times we see Liam, the callow youth destined to become Angelus, out on a booze-up with a buddy. He runs into Darla (Hi, Julie Benz, always happy to see you again!) who inexplicably takes a shine to him. Maybe it’s his bad manners, or his shaky Irish accent, but she gives him a wisp of a sales pitch about seeing the world and being all that he can be. Liam, bored to the teeth with everything around him, snaps up the bait. 

“Close your eyes,” Darla tells him, before moving in for the kill. 

Having handily established Angelus’s origins, we return to his present, where he’s once again following Buffy around. He’s stalking, she’s staking: taking on every vamp she can find and issuing “come get me” challenges that never get delivered because she is killing her own messengers. This doesn’t make sense on the face of it, but by now Buffy must know her ex is watching her—so I’d argue it’s pretty genius.

Once this fight has run its course, she dusts off Xander and they chew over the other great battle looming on their horizon—final exams.

“Becoming” is at once the end of the Angelus Big Bad arc and its own retelling of the whole Buffy story so far. Liam’s death is just the first stop on a little tour of his existence: we see an early Angelus/Drusilla encounter, the moment when a gypsy curse turns him into Angel by restoring his soul, the rat-eating guilt that follows, and we even get to see Buffy’s original calling.

While we’re checking out the flashbacks, the Apocalypse sneaks into Sunnydale. This time it’s in the form of a recently-excavated demon, Acathla, who is literally a hellmouth—he has it in him to open wide and suck the whole world into a land of yuck and torment.  

But wait, there’s more! Kendra’s Watcher, always one to sit on the sidelines, checks his TV Guide, sees that the finale is on, and deduces that a dark power is rising in Sunnydale. He sends Kendra to California to pitch in where she can. 

Things don’t get really juicy, though, until Willow and Buffy find Jenny Calendar’s back-up copy of a spell that could restore Angel. 

(Do you see how important it is that you back up your files? Go, go now! This can wait!)

Finding the spell triggers an epic Scooby argument, one that pretty much exposes everyone’s open wounds over the loss of Angel and the murder of Jenny. Nothing gets settled—the whole group walks up to a big chasm of furious hate and ’no way will we ever agree on this!’ Then they all, just barely, dial it down. From blow-up to back-off, it is a stunningly realistic family fight.

Willow’s eager and willing to try the spell, though, and after a well-deserved mope over Angel’s Claddagh ring, Buffy signs on. The tactical rationale is that Angelus has by now stolen Acathla, and is sure to try to wake him up. Angel, being all good and stuff, won’t do that. I’d call this a reasonably tidy plan to save the world. 

Angelus, sadly, hasn’t waited around for defeat or his soul to come knocking. He’s already tried to wake the big hellsucker, and failed, and figured out that he needs an outside consultant. So he sends Buffy a message, making a date for the big show-down he’s been avoiding all this time, and while she’s diverted he sends Dru and his crew after Giles. Chaos ensues. Cordy gets away, and Xander gets his arm busted. Willow is crushed by a shelf full of books and nobody notices they forgot to invite Oz...

(Hey, Team Buffy—should you maybe consider reinforcing the library door?)

...and Dru kills Kendra. 

I feel as though I didn’t appreciate Kendra until she was gone. Seeing her on this rewatch, at least, I realized how much I’d liked her. It wasn’t just who she was—though Bianca Lawson is very appealing. I suspect I just plain liked that Buffy wasn’t so entirely alone in the world, and that she’d got something good out of dying at the Master’s hands. Anyway, it was a surprise when Kendra turned up, and a jolt when she died. 

It’s an emotional blow for Buffy, too, but it’s also an enormous problem. Kendra’s death turns her into a fugitive from justice and gets her expelled from school. 

With her friends dead, scattered or comatose and her Watcher vamp-napped, the unperson who steps up to help out with the stopping Angelus mission turns out, weirdly and oh so wonderfully, to be Spike. 

Buffy takes Spike home, where they run smack into one deeply worried Mom figure. Before they can work up any kind of a decent lie to cover her secret identity—you gotta give Buffy credit for trying out the ’I’m in a band’ riff, but no—a vampire shows up and they kill him.

Buffy’s coming out scene with Joyce was painful to watch and I never really forgave Joyce for her entirely human freakout. I get that she has every reason to overreact—the cops have told her Buffy killed Kendra, she’s just seen a vampire attack end in a puff of dust, and her daughter’s yanked the blinders off a truth that—as you’ve all noted in comments on other BtVS rewatches—Joyce has been hiding from all this time. Somehow, though, I never quite get past that moment of ’if you go, don’t come back’ that wraps up this fight. This possibly says more about me than it does about either of the Summers women, or this particular script. But Joyce. Boo! Big parent demerits for you!

The upshot is Buffy is no longer merely wanted for murder, booted out of school, and unhappily single—she’s homeless, too.

“Becoming” has so many fantastic bits, big and small, it’s impossible to call them all out. Here’s some biggies: Whistler, the demon who should have been Doyle, calling Angel Stink Guy. Xander, pouring his heart out to unconscious Willow, and her reply as she wakes up. Spike and Joyce in the Summers living room. Willow working the soul-restoring mojo, taking a crucial early step on the road to becoming an Evil Avenging Mystic Lesbian of Death™! Giles nobly resisting Angelus until Spike saves the day by getting Dru to psychic him out (Hi, Robia LaMorte, I missed you too!)

Add your favorites to the list, folks—we all have this two-parter committed to memory, right? 

Finally and most importantly, there’s Xander’s little black lie. Willow sends him to tell Buffy to stall Angelus, in case she can restore Liam’s soul. He decides, basically: screw that.

This decision of Xander’s was, arguably, the least heroic thing he did in all seven years of the BtVS run. It was a source of fannish speculation for years afterward. The intrawebs were rife with predictions about how and when that decision would come back to haunt him. Surely Buffy would find out, and fireworks would ensue. But though the truth all but came out, once, it never really directly cost him.

In “Becoming,” Xander gets away with sitting judgment on Angelus for Jenny’s murder. In a sense it is he who sends Angel to do the hundred years of penance in the Acathla Hell. That he chooses to punish Buffy a little too, by making her the instrument of Angel’s punishment, is certainly no accident. How wrong you think this is, though, is up to you.

Angelus the demon certainly deserved a time-out in the hot place. He was the big bad who made the fight against evil personal, who went out of his way to take away everything Buffy valued.  Subsequent villains left their mark on her, to be sure, but I’m not sure anyone hurt her as badly.

Whatever you think of Xander’s choice, when it finally becomes time to deal with Angelus, the Slayer rises to the occasion.

And what an occasion it is! The swordfight choreography is breathtaking, and the dispatch of Angel is a gorgeous, understated echo of Darla’s original murder of Liam. We see the trust again. Like Darla, Buffy tells him to close his eyes before she strikes. 

The real person who “becomes” in this finale is, naturally, Buffy herself. In killing Angel she embraces the sucky part of grownuphood that is about doing things you have to, like them or not. It’s not just that she chooses the world over her doomed love—how can she not?—it’s how clear-eyed she is about it. This isn’t Liam, agreeing to something he doesn’t understand. It’s not Xander’s revenge-driven, manipulative, and yet not entirely unjust lie. It’s just this terrible thing that’s got to happen, no matter the cost. It’s one of the most eloquent sacrifices on TV.

Whew! As the Mutant Enemy monster says, I need a hug now.

A.M. Dellamonica has a short story up here on — an urban fantasy about a baby werewolf, “The Cage” which made the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2010. She also has a second story up here called “Among the Silvering Herd.”

Anthony Pero
1. anthonypero
+1 to this being one of the most emotional and powerful (and least cheesy) sacrifices in TV history. Its easy to choose to die for someone you love. Its not so easy to choose someone you love to die to save the world.
JS Bangs
2. jaspax
I cried when I first saw this episode. I'm on the verge of crying right now just over the recap. I expect this comment thread to fill up with people saying the same thing.

You know, now that I am a parent, I understand Joyce's position here much better. It doesn't mean that I think she's right, but I get it. She wants more than anything else for her daughter to be safe, like every parent, and she won't accept some bullshit "destiny" excuse that's doing to put her daughter's life at risk every single day. And if it finally comes down to it, she'd rather drive her daughter away right now and get it over with, rather than staying up every night wondering if tonight is the night that Buffy doesn't come home.

I know we're supposed to identify with Buffy here, but... Joyce, I get it.
Anthony Pero
3. anthonypero
Also, this is the moment when I became convinced that the Highlander franchise needed a reboot with David Boreanaz playing Christopher Lambert's son. Somehow.

Instead we get Angel which is basically Highlander where the immortals are vampires. And set in LA instead of Europe.
4. Lsana
I could forgive Joyce her "if you go, don’t come back" moment: it's the sort of thing that gets said in the heat of the moment that you don't really mean. What I couldn't really forgive was next season, Joyce blaming Giles for the consequences of her own actions. That struck me as far more cold-blooded.

Xander's lie is a hard one for me to judge. On the one hand, it was really bad and he shouldn't have done it. On the seemed to me that after Jenny died, Buffy accepted that Angel was gone and never coming back. That realization was what allowed her to do what she had to through the rest of season 2. If that was taken away from her, if she had learned that there was a chance Angel might return, could she have fought as hard as she needed to in that last battle to keep Angel from killing her? I don't know. I suspect no one does.
5. Dr. Thanatos
For me, this was the most moving and effective of all the season-closers. Not much to add to the above; I jumped out of my sofa first time through when Willow found that floppy disk; if one is so disposed, one can think of the spirit of Jenny making sure it was found...

Always felt that Xander's moment of grim revenge was like Smeagol: evil deed that ends up working out for the greater good i.e. awesome ending that would not have been so good if Willow (love the tradename, by the way) had reposessed Angel sooner.

Thanks for the hard work on your part bringing this rewatch to us. Personal rewatch is about to start season 5: cue Drac and the imaginary sister!
Alyx Dellamonica
6. AMDellamonica
Jaspax, I am glad you're with Joyce on this. Someone should be, and it isn't me. And yes, Lsana, her laying into Giles is downright weird, and a big attempt to shift some responsibility, I think.

Thanatos, it's truly my pleasure. You're welcome.
Anthony Pero
7. anthonypero
@Lsana re: Xander.

Buffy proves that, if that was Xander's reasoning, it was unnecessary. In the end, she knew Angel was re-ensouled, and chose to kill him anyway, because it was necessary.
8. Lsana

I don't actually think it was Xander's reasoning; I think he was purely out for revenge against someone he'd never liked anyway, but that his actions, while wrong, may have had good consequences. I rather like Dr. Thanatos's comparison to Smeagol.

I also don't think that her willingness to kill the re-souled Angel disproves my thought here. Yes, in that moment she decided to do what needed to be done, and it just about killed her. But, if throughout the entire fight, she was hoping Angel was about to come back and was watching for any sign that he might be back? I don't think she could have helped being distracted and a little more reluctant about what she was doing. Would that have been enough to turn the tide in Angel's favor?
john mullen
9. johntheirishmongol
Even though there were other big bads, there were none that were more hurtful than having to kill Angel. I do blame Xander for being untruthful here, even thought he didn't end up being the final cause. Angel obviously had to be punished for his deeds and Buffy was the one who had to do it.

About Kendra...I thought she was just annoying. Of all the slayers, except maybe the first one, who was just weird, Kendra was the one I missed the least.

About Joyce, I can underderstand her frustration. Concern and worry about Buffy got her to lash out but I don't think any of us believes she actually meant it.
10. Dr. Thanatos
Kendra was necessary. Faith represented the dark side that Buffy constantly struggled against, but without Kendra the whole concept of multiple slayers coexistant (which opened lots of plotlines, ranging from Faith to Dr. Pepper ---"I'm a slayer you're a slayer he's a slayer she's a slayer wouldn't you like to be a slayer too?") couldn't have worked.

Besides, without Kendra there's no Mister Pointy.
Alyx Dellamonica
11. AMDellamonica
...without Kendra, there's no Mister Pointy...

Truer words have never been typed.
Jason Parker
12. tarbis
I won't defend Xander on ethical or moral grounds, but from a tactics angle they needed Buffy going in at full strength. If she had thought there was still any chance of getting Angel back she would have fought to delay Angelus and probably gotten killed. Was that the basis of Xander's thinking? Was revenge his driving force? Probably the actor doesn't remember anymore and given how Joss likes to screw with fans I doubt we'll ever know for sure.

On the subject of Joyce I can agree that "Don't come back" was poor parenting, but it was probably one of the most real responses she could have had. Not only did your daughter just admit that she lied to you for years and frequently endangers herself, but then she won't talk about it with you. The audience knew that Buffy didn't have time to talk (let alone time in the episode to have the talk on camera), but from the point of view of Joyce's character she was hearing that her daughter didn't respect her enough to have the conversation. So lashing out is more than understandable. (Besides the story required stripping Buffy of all emotional support and the only other way to do that was killing Joyce which they'd get around to eventually.)

Joyce blaming Giles is some transfer of guilt, but also not incorrect. He was her daughter's teacher (sort of) and a mandatory reporter, both things that parents tend to trust. Instead of helping protect Buffy he enabled and encouraged lying to Joyce while sending her daughter into combat to the death on a nightly basis in the name of "destiny." All of this betrayed Joyce's trust, almost killed her daughter, and did kill a girl her daughter's age. If it wasn't a television show the consquences Joyce would have brought down on the librarian would have been much worse than a scoulding.
13. Gardner Dozois
I think it's certainly possible to argue that if Xander HAD delivered Willow's message correctly, Buffy might have held back during her fight with Angelus, with the thought that she couldn't kill him because she MIGHT get Angel back, and that might have enabled Angelus to beat her, which would not only have gotten her killed but would have ended up destroying the world as you could argue in a crooked way that Xander saved the world yet again by lying to her and not sending her into the big fight distracted with the hope that she might get her lover back.

Mind you, I don't for a moment think that this was actually Xander's motivation. No, he did it because he hated Angelus and wanted him to die, wanted revenge, and possibly deep down because he was still jealous because Buffy had chosen Angel/Angelus over him in the first place.

These are good episodes. Buffy was usually good at season finales. The finale for the season with the Mayor was good, and so was the finale for the Glory arc. First season finale was good, but I think this one is better--she saves the world at a much greater emotional cost this time around. The finale for the Adam arc was a bit weak. And let's not even discuss the series finale.
14. sofrina
wasn't joyce drunk when they had that argument? i've never thought she meant what she said. she was contrite a few hours later.

i've never faulted xander from withholding that information from buffy. over the course of the series he has always had an excellent read on her. he's known how to tell buffy the truth ("you want to forget all about ms. callendar's murder so you can get your boyfried back") and a good pep talk ("when i'm alone and scared i ask myself 'what would buffy do.' you're my hero.") i've always thought xander knew, based on recent events, that buffy could not go all out if she held out a hope that angel could be restored. and he was right. angelus nearly killed her. if he had gone for the killing stroke instead of stopping to gloat about how he'd demoralized her, she would be dead. angelus had her down and terrified, defeat is in her face. but he challenges her to refocus and she does. heck, when angel starts crying, i thought she was a done deal. no way was she gonna get it done. it had a lot of impact that she got her heart's desire when it was too late and still managed to get the job done.

xander did what needed to be done.

as for favorite moments... there's that slo-mo run down the corridor at the end of Part1; telling off Snyder when she goes back to get Kendra's sword. (I've never understood Spike making that alliance, deciding that buffy was going to lose and then leaving instead of joining the fight to save the world. That was the whole point of joining forces in the first place.)
Alyx Dellamonica
15. AMDellamonica
It's not so much that I don't believe a boozed-up Joyce, having just got the bad news about vamps, Slayers, etc. might not say something she didn't really mean. But, y'know, drunk, sober or in a rippin' good mood, I think if the words 'don't come back' come bustin' out of your mouth and your kid takes you at your word, that gosh--maybe if she does go you should own just little bit of that.

And if she comes back, tell yourself you got lucky and call it a win.
16. JohnnyMac
This is indeed an amazing episode; which, in the context of this series, is really saying something.

One of my favorite bits from this is when Giles, captured by vampires, bound and bloody from prolonged torture, looks up at Angelus and says: "To properly perform the Ritual, you must perform it.....while....wearing a... pink tutu, you pratt!" Leaving Angelus screaming in frustration: "Thats IT! Get the chainsaws!!" (Quotes from memory and probably not exact.)

Once again Giles demonstrates that just because you are Fussy British Librarian Guy does not mean you are not sporting some big brass ones.
17. Gardner Dozois
I had the same thought as Sofrina did. If Angelus kills Buffy, then there's nothing to stop him from destroying the world, so it doesn't matter that Spike took Drusila and ran away her--since they're still IN the world, they're going to be destroyed WITH it when Acathla wakes, and it shouldn't make any practical difference if they're a few blocks away by then. Logically, Spike should have attacked Angelus and killed him while he was busy fighting Buffy, thus keeping the world (with him and Drusila in it) from being destroyed. If he'd been quick enough, he might even have been able to take advantage of the moment to kill Buffy too, a win-win. Even if Angelus had killed Buffy at her vulnerable moment, Spike's logical next move would be to attack Angelus himself to keep him from awakening Acathla; scooping up Drusila and beating feet out of there would do him no good if the whole world was really about to be destroyed. He can't opt out, saying, "Oh well, who cares who wins?" because if BUFFY doesn't win, he dies too. Besides, you'd think that he's probably pissed enough at Angelus and full enough of resentment by that point to want to take a crack at him himself; this may be the only time in the series that Spike ever avoids a fight, and while it would make sense if he could get away in time to someplace safe with Drusila, in these circumstances it doesn't make sense. But, of course, if they'd had Spike join in the fight, then you wouldn't have gotten the dramatic showdown confrontation between Buffy and Angelus, which is the real reason why they had Spike acting as he does.

I always thought that in some ways Xander and Willow belonged together, that they had the strongest emotional bonds of anyone in the series (he even tells Buffy that he'll kill her if Willow has been hurt, more or less picking her as ultimately more important to him than Buffy), and in some ways I regret that they didn't hook them up rather than throwing all these other partners into the mix.
Constance Sublette
18. Zorra
It got fixed. Doyle goes to LA. The Whistler goes to Baltimore and becomes the video recorder guy for the Bawlmor PoPo -- Brodie, in Homicide: Life on the Street.

Love, C.
19. Gardner Dozois
Just saw the Whistler on some cop show a couple of months ago (JUSTIFIED, maybe?). Always thought it was too bad they didn't give him more work on BUFFY and ANGEL; he was very good. Poor Doyle has been dead for years, both the character and the actor who played him.
Constance Sublette
20. Zorra
I read the homeless Buffy as her own emotional abyss into which she understandably is sunk by the incredible events she's been the center of, which was loss, loss, loss. Jenny, Kendra and the love of her life. She's having a breakdown. But instead of turning to drugs, alcohol and promiscuous sex, she gets out of Dodge and lives just above the streets and sees what's that's like -- boosting her humanity along the way, and her understanding of humanity as well.

I felt Joyce, tried beyond anything any sane parent can deal with at the moment snapped out some words. Joyce is only human too. She didn't mean the words, really. But her daughter's sent the love of her life to hell, and she's not really functioning rationally either.

I don't blame either of them.

What I do is admire how they -- well, that's another season.

Love, C.
Michael Ikeda
21. mikeda
I've never had even the slightest doubt that Xander was absolutely right not to tell Buffy about Willow's spell. Telling Buffy about the spell would have endangered not just Buffy's life but the entire world.

And I'm absolutely certain that revenge was NOT his primary motive for withholding the information. The primary motive was the same as it was back in "Never Kill A Boy On the First Date"--telling Buffy immediately would only distract her and endanger her.

(begin excerpt)
(Buffy thinks the vampire she's fighting has just killed her date Owen)

Buffy: You killed my date!

Willow and Xander appear at the door. Willow sees Owen wake up as Buffy and Andrew fight.

Willow: Buffy! Owen's...

Xander: (pulls Willow back) J-just give her a sec!

(end excerpt)
Alyx Dellamonica
22. AMDellamonica
I still miss Homicide: LOTS. Sigh.

Mikeda, I'd buy that Xander had a tactical rationale for what he did, but I'm with the gang who think his motivations were less pure and more vengeful.
23. Mouette
I think what bothers me most about the Xander thing is that *Angel* didn't need to be punished for his misdeeds. *Angelus* did. The two are separate consciousnesses. This is a theme that will irritate me all through season three, as no one on the Scooby side gives more than a passing glance to the idea that souled Angel and demonic Angelus are completely different people. I get that it would be hard; they wear the same face. But they are not the same person, and Angel does not deserve to be punished for Angelus's crimes.

That Xander chose to deceive Buffy and potentially send a soul - not a monster, not a demon, not an evil thing, but a human soul - to hell... yeah, I have a hard time with that one. Not to mention the cause-Buffy-pain part. It was mentioned that Buffy would have been distracted during fighting, and that's true, but what about the other side of the coin? What if, seeing Angel return, she hadn't been able to kill him, or had thrown herself into hell with him? Either choice would have been partially on Xander's shoulders, because he chose not to prepare her, he chose to withhold vital information. Not to take away Buffy's own decision making power, of course, but being prepared for something and reacting to it in surprise can have very different outcomes.

Re Xander and Will: I dunno, that's always been a sibling relationship to me - it was squicky when they were briefly together.
Michael Green
24. greenazoth
Just to point out the power of this finale, when I saw it I had already watched several seasons of Angel -- I knew he came back, more or less intact.

I cried my eyes out anyway.
Bill Capossere
25. Billcap
I loved the slow stripping away of everything from Buffy—her fellow slayer killed, Angel turned, Jenny killed, Xander’s betrayal, her mother’s rejection, her mentor taken, expelled from school, a fugitive. Even Spike—the ally of last resort—leaves her with a shrug at the end. The only one who stays with her is Willow, and the irony becomes Willow’s loyalty forces Buffy to do the worst/hardest thing of all. Just brilliant. As was that “close your eyes” at the end echoing the opening—it’s moment like that that rewarded the audience and let us know this show wasn’t produced; it was crafted.

And Greenazaoth is right—watching this even knowing Angel comes back and even gets his own show doesn’t at all negate the moving nature of this finale

Btw, one of my favorite scenes is the interplay between Giles and Xander at the rescue, when Giles says something along the lines of “You’re not real—they make me see things I want to see” and Xander says (something like) “then why would they make you see me?” Pause. “Right, let’s go.”
Keith DeCandido
26. krad
My biggest issue with this story isn't with this story, it's what came later:

We never should have seen Angel ever again after this. When Buffy sent him to hell, his story arc was done. This was the perfect ending to the story of Angel the mysterious guy from the pilot.

And then they went and blew it by bringing him back to be useless in the third season and to stumble around on his own show for five years trying to head an ensemble that was far more interesting than him on a TV show that never could figure out what it was supposed to be about.

The perfect ending was ruined because teenage girls thought David Boreanaz was cute. Feh.
27. Gardner Dozois
I'd have been sorry to miss some of the ANGEL episodes, although I do admit that the show tended to wander, changing direction sharply several times over the years, not always wisely.

Of course, I think that they should have left Buffy dead too, although you'd miss several good episodes that way as well.
Alyx Dellamonica
28. AMDellamonica
I would like to take a hard line on this, but the line between dead and alive gets awfully fuzzy in my most recent book, so I figure I'd better keep my lip buttoned on that. It did always annoy me in comics, though, when character death was such a temporary thing.

It's cool to know the end of "Becoming" is just as powerful if you know Angel's coming back.
Anthony Pero
29. anthonypero
Its been a while since I watched the episode, so, please correct if any details are incorrect or missing here, but:

a) Angel is a vampire
b) last I checked, vampires didn't die from swords through the chest
c) Angel was sucked into a hell dimension, in order to close the portal

At worst, this qualifies as a literal example of put on a bus to hell. It's definitely not killed off for real.

Now, when Buffy dies at the end of S5, there is no doubt they meant it to be a real death. The show had been cancelled. Even though S6 was lackluster, I was happy that they dealt with the consequences of Buffy's resurrection. It made her, erm, use of Spike more believable. IT made Buffy significantly less sympathetic as well. I thought the whole things was realistically done... it just wasn't great television, for the most part.
Michael Ikeda
30. mikeda
when Buffy dies at the end of S5, there is no doubt they meant it to be a real death. The show had been cancelled

Not true. At the time the episode was written it was already clear that it was likely there would be a Season 6.
Anthony Pero
31. anthonypero
Then someone should correct the Wikipedia article:

Apparently the show was promoted as the series finale.

Of course, then Whedon blasted the WB in a TV Guide interview, saying that was the WB's way of sticking it to him. So who knows.
32. Gardner Dozois
The key word here is "likely." It wasn't yet a done deal, although it was in the works. I think they conceived of it as a series finale--and did a good job with it as one--while hoping that there'd be a Series Six, and leaving the door open enough so that they could wiggle out of Buffy's death if they had to. You can rarely count on characters in comics or TV shows that deal with magic to be REALLY, permanantly, definitely dead. The fact that magic or superpowers exist always leaves some wiggle-room if you're willing to strain credulity a bit. How many times has Doctor Doom been thrown into the volcano and come back to fight again? Even soap operas have been known to do this--the character had been secretly locked up in a dungeon in a foreign prison for a decade, the character lost his memory and wandered away, the character was hiding from everyone for reasons of his own, the character was in an accident and didn't come back until he'd had time to have plastic surgery and turn into another actor. Even "grittily releastic" cop shows do this--the character isn't really dead, he faked his own death, the guy who was killed wasn't really the characer, but rather his identical twin. I've seen a couple of examples of both of these plotlines within the last few months alone.

I agree that IF they were going to bring Buffy back to life, it's good that they dealt with the trauma caused by her death and resurrection, rather than just having her shrug it off and continue with business as usual. With only a few exceptions, though, the show was never really as good again as it had been before.
33. Gardner Dozois
It WAS the series finale as far as the WB was concerned. When it came back, it was on a different network altogther. I think the writers did their best to make it work as a series finale in case the new-network deal, which was being discussed, fell through afterall. If it had, then it would have been the last episode of Buffy, and they knew that was still a possibility while they were writing it.
Alyx Dellamonica
34. AMDellamonica
Since Anthony brings up the Wikipedia article, I want to mention that I glance at each episode's entry as I write these... I am faithfully rewatching every single ep, but even if the gap between viewing and writing is a day or two, I sometimes need to refresh my memory.

And a lot of them have "This article may not be important" tags of one type or another, or they want more links.

I mention this in case any Buffy devotees want to put a little work in on polishing up their favorite ep.
Anthony Pero
35. anthonypero

Based on the quotes I've seen, I think mikeda is right to a degree. But i do think they intended it to work as a series finale, ein case the deal with UPN fell through.
36. Gardner Dozois
That's the way I remember it. A deal to bring the show back on another network was being talked about, and was being hoped for by BUFFY fans, but it wouldn't have been a done deal by the time the episode was written. So they wrote one that could serve as a series finale if the UPN deal fell through. They knew that, this being a show about magic, they could always wiggle out of Buffy's death if the show WAS picked up by UPN. (Although I remember some speculation at the time that they might leave Buffy dead and make it a show about another Slayer--Faith, the Vampire Slayer being the most popular suggestion.)
Anthony Pero
37. anthonypero
Here's some message board comments and an interview with Joss the day after the finale:
Michael Green
38. greenazoth
Heh. I really think I must be some kind of anomoly in Buffy fandom -- I loved all of Angel, and seasons six and seven of Buffy, pretty much unreservedly (though there were weak episodes, of course).
39. Gardner Dozois
At various time during the life of the series, fans proposed FAITH, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER as a possible replacement for or follow-up to the BUFFY series. I've come to think that this wouldn't have worked. The woman who plays Faith is quite good as Faith within her range, but it's a limited range, and I don't think she could have carried the show as the main character. Sarah Michelle Geller, although hardly the greatest actress in the world either, actually has more strings to her bow, and a greater breadth and depth of range. (I've also heard DAWN, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER proposed, and indeed that seemed to be the direction they were heading in at one point, toward the end of the Crazed Willow arc. It MIGHT have worked as a follow-up once Geller was done with the show, although I doubt it; it wouldn't have worked as a replacement.)
40. Dr. Thanatos
I agree that Faith The Vampy Slayer would not have worked; attempts to make her into a sympathetic hero on Angel were, in my view, not entirely successful and it would have needed what amounted to changing the character completely to base a show around her.

Now when I consider Dawn, the Imaginary Vampire Slayer, the mind boggles...
Anthony Pero
41. anthonypero
I dunno, actors tend to grow into their roles. For crying out loud,
David Boreanez was horrible until they let him play Angelus. He has turned into quite a respectable TV actor. He's been on prime time tv as a leading man for 15 years consecutively now. That's mind blowing when you consider how bad he was in S1 of Buffy.

Elisha Duzku may have surprised you. Joss actually tried to make that happen when Angel got cancelled, but Elisha turned him down, she wanted to do something else, so Joss pitche Dollhouse to her.

The Faith show would have been her traveling across the country on her motorcycle, with some occassional interaction with the new slayers, Willow and the others as guests.

They also tried to get a Slayer Academy show off the ground, starring Willow and Giles. Alyson Hannigan turned them down. She wanted to move on as well. Quite successfully, like David Boreanez
42. Dr. Thanatos

I agree; my issue was not with the actors, but with the character. Who would watch an ongoing series about a psychotic slayer seeking redemption (especially since the character cut her teeth on a series starring a vampire or two seeking redemption)? Both Boreanez and Dushku have proven themselves capable actors; I just don't think that Adventures in Faithersitting would have been able to sustain itself...
43. Lsana

The thing is that the Angel/Angelus divide has always struck me as something that the fans believe in more than the characters do. I'm pretty sure that the name "Angelus" was never mentioned in S2. The character was always just referred to as "Angel" or sometimes "Evil Angel," and there was no attempt to say that this guy was a totally different person than the Angel that Buffy loved. I can't remember when "Angelus" was first used to describe the unsouled version of the character, but I think it was a fan conceit that migrated to the show rather than the other way round.

It's also worth noting that Angel himself, at least for most of the series, claims his unsouled actions as his own. It's not "what Angelus did" or even "what my dark half did"; it's "what I did."
44. Gardner Dozois
I don't know, I seem to remember Giles reading to Buffy in the Library out of one of his big fat books in Season Two, after Angel turned, about Angel's past misdeeds when he was known as Angelus, and telling her that it meant "the one with the angelic face," so I don't think that the name was a fan conceit.

@40, hey, imaginary vampires need to be slain too!
45. Dr. Thanatos
@44, A virtual sister could slay virtual vampires, given what's at stake. I think she was still virtual at the end of S7 (don't read the comic book if you value the image of sweet innocent Dawn)
Anthony Pero
46. anthonypero
Yeahhh... about that. EuroTrip pretty much ruined sweet, innocent Dawn for me.
47. Dr. Thanatos
Comic book: Dawn loses innocence, becomes giant (with clothes somehow expanded). Then becomes topless but long-haired centaur. Don't ask...
48. Gardner Dozois
At the time that BUFFY finally went under, the fan base was solidly behind a spin-off of FAITH, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, so it's quite possible that Whedon could have gotten it on the air. How long it would have lasted, I'm not sure. I'm still not sure that Elisha Dushku could have carried a show as the main character. I wasn't all that impressed with her in DOLLHOUSE. Would have depended on how good the writing was, I suppose, although that ROUTE 66-like (or SUPERNATURAL-like, for younger readers) thing of traveling randomly around the country running into Dramatic Situations (supernatural or otherwise) does have some built-in weaknesses; makes it harder for a supporting cast to help carry the show, as they did with BUFFY.

I did think toward the end of that season, particularly the finale of the Grief-Crazed Evil Willow arc, where Buffy was shown training Dawn in how to fight, that they were going to go with a spin-off of DAWN, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Perhaps there was doubt as to whether Geller was going to come back for the next season, and they were preparing the ground just in case she didn't.

I don't know anything about the comic book continuity after the show ended--although that sounds kind of silly, to put it charitably--but I'll have more to say about what they should have done with Dawn on the TV show if I'm still around when we reach that season.
Alyx Dellamonica
49. AMDellamonica
The Buffyverse is richer than the Star Trek universe, IMO, and could've spawned many a well-written spin-off if all the necessary stars and dollars had been in alignment. I'm largely happy with what we did get, though I'll be interested to see how the late seasons strike me on reviewing.

When Angel says "what I did," I see that as a guy taking responsibility for things that weren't exactly his choices, but that he feels he has to own. And Gardner's right--Giles uses the term Angelus when they're first looking him up in the Pointy-Toothed Who's Who, I'm pretty sure.
50. Gardner Dozois
Yes, that's the first time the term "Angelus" is used, right after Angel turns, maybe a couple of episodes later, when she's consulting Giles about what happened.
51. Nicoclaws
I loved when the Xander thing was adressed, much later. They got over it uite quickly, but Willow's reaction to the revelation was quite good at the moment.

Also, Kendra's death was a mixed moment for me. Mainly because the first time I didn't knew her, not having watched her episodes. But also because I still felt the tragic of the moment, AND enjoyed the power-show of Drusilla.
52. Sian
I really want to comment, even though this discussion is long over.

I think the Angel/Angelus issue and Xander's comment both come back to ideas of 'evil' and the soul in the Buffyverse that weren't properly developed. The view I get from watching 'Angel' is that Angel and Angelus are like separate people; Angel is not responsible for the deeds of Angelus. But really, when I think back over both series as a whole, that divide isn't and shouldn't be so clear. The story of Spike is much better. If a vampire is going to retain something of their human selves, then the divide between human and vampire is a bit less clear. What exactly is the role of the soul? If Spike was able to develop some kind of conscience and desire for a soul, then there was the potential for Angelus to do so too.

Though this was explored quite a bit, it was in odd and contradictory ways. Which links in with point two. The moment that Xander lies to Buffy about Willow's message is one of my favourite ever TV moments. It's such a quick thing and it's almost throwaway in that ultimately it doesn't really have much effect on the 'final battle' and it's never discussed again for years. But it has so much mixed up in it. It says such a lot about Xander - not all bad, not all good. Perhaps knowing it would distract Buffy was a factor. But mostly, I think it was that he didn't like Angel. For Xander, the gaining of a soul didn't make up for past crimes. He was looking at it from the very simple (perfectly acceptable) way.

But let's jump ahead 4 years to Selfless (my personal favourite episode). That argument between Xander and Buffy is wonderful - but it highlights what I think is the greatest flaw of both TV series. Xander is always opposed to Angel and Spike, whether or not they have souls. They murdered people, they were evil. Therefore, they were bad, and it would take a lot of working for redemption to make up for that. Xander's one of my favourite characters, and that's partly because of this, even though I disagree with him. There needs to be that person who sees it like that. But then, the big glaring issue: What about Anya?

It's never made clear whether or not any re- or de-ensouling was involved as she switched between human and demon, but it is clear that she never (until Selfless) expresses remorse for any of her past mis-deeds. She was causing pain, wreaking havoc, and murdering many for centuries before Angel and Spike were even born, and expressed far less remorse than either of them. Yet she was easily accepted into the Scoobies, and by Xander more than anyone. Selfless is the only time this is addressed (and then barely). After Selfless, she still doesn't show much remorse for her demon days as a whole. Why did Xander not care?

Buffy points out (quite correctly) that Xander encouraged her to kill Angel, despite the fact that Buffy loved him (and despite all the soul business). The situaton with Anya was exactly the same - she went to the dark side and needed slaying (and the liklihood of becoming 'good' again was the same as with Angel), despite the fact that Xander loved her.

Xander couldn't accept it, because he loved her. Does this show the different between human Xander and superhuman Buffy? Xander can refuse to accept such things, where as Buffy doesn't have that choice. It was so easy for him to make that comment in Becoming. Xander is supposed to be the human voice of the show; that comment, and all related to it, is in keeping with that.

It also shows that Xander, 'the one who sees things', is actually rather blind. He allows himself to be blind to Anya's flaws. He also refuses to see that Spike or Angel could be 'good' or could be forgiven. He's very narrowminded and, it seems, self-centred, something I wouldn't otherwise associate with him.

I feel a bit funny about this whole thing. I think that comment gives great scope for character analysis of Xander, but the odd issues surrounding soulfulness and evil and so on in the shows get in the way.

I think the idea of 'having a soul makes you good, otherwise you are bad' was a simple idea developed for the early seasons and the Angel storyline. But as the shows went on, they wanted to do more than that, but were kind of stuck with that original thing, and so it ended up very conflicted.

Sorry, this is ridiculously long... (I should point out I'm supposed to be revising...)
Alyx Dellamonica
53. AMDellamonica

I like this analysis--I'm glad you took the time!

Anya is a definite blind spot for Xander, and there's that other complication thrown in: when she goes back to being demonic, it's because of him. (I mean yeah, responsible for her own actions and all, but he triggers it)

Yes, he's hypocritical. Should he cut Buffy/Angel/Spike more slack? Absolutely. That's human. It's also awesome characterization.
54. Corvus
This conversation is LONG since over, but there's one thing I don't think got mentioned here in relation to Xander's thought-process. Let us not forget that it was Vampires that turned his world upside-down. It was a Vampire that killed his best-friend, Jesse, and a Vampire that Jesse himself became and Xander was forced to (semi-inadvertently) destroy.

Ever since then, Xander has been mostly consistent in his hate for Vampires, ensouled or otherwise, and that's a hypocritical human conceit I can easily forgive him for. Vampires killed his best friend, ergo he hates them rather unconditionally.

Secondly, the Joyce thing, telling Buffy not to come back. I'm a parent too, and I've said a few things at times to my now 18-year old Daughter that I wish I could just reach out and take back. But you cannot, not ever. All you can do is apologize and try to do better.

Joyce never really apologized for that, not really. She conveniently failed to mention her parenting fail to anyone else and blamed Giles for Buffy's departure. Deflect blame much?

Her reaction to Buffy's revelations was totally realistic. Totally human. And totally wrong. Her deflection, also totally relaistic and wrong. And her failure to apologize? Yup. Real. Human. Wrong.

While I love Joyce as a character, I never quite forgave her for that little stunt, all because she said something terrible she should never havve said, and she never really said she was sorry.
Alyx Dellamonica
55. AMDellamonica
Nicely put, Corvus--I agree with you completely. What's harder to swallow isn't so much that she said it while drunk and stressed. It's the deflecting and refusal to own her part of the mess.

That said, I'm edging into S5 and already feeling sad about Joyce's future.
56. Rebcake
Very late to the party! One more wrinkle to Xander's lie is that it made it seem to Buffy that Willow was no longer willing to be sympathetic on the Angel issue. Her very last emotional support in Sunnydale was knocked down in that instant. No wonder she ran. We know it was a shadow hanging over the girls' relationship for 5 more years because of how bitter Buffy is about it in "Selfless". How very high school of Xander to start a rumor that damages a friendship. Oh wait, they ARE in high school.
Alyx Dellamonica
57. AMDellamonica
Excellent point, Rebcake.

They are in high school, and they're becoming a real family, complete with long-running little grudges and other bits of dysfunction.

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