Mon
Apr 16 2012 2:00pm

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Rewatch: When Bad Things Happen to Sunnydale People

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Passion

The decoy villain phase of BtVS is over. Angelus is firmly established as the big bad secret ingredient of S2, and he’s made a few good cat-and-mouse moves since he lost his soul. He had a minor go at killing Willow in “Innocence” and a more serious one against Xander in “Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered”... and come up scratch both times.

A thing about TV villains is they lose legitimacy fast if they can’t pull off at least a few real wins. The alleged stone-cold killer who never manages to harm the heroine, or anyone from the core cast... who in fact only ever kills extras, will over time lose their power to impress audiences. How many shows have you seen do this—set up a scary bad guy, only to have him become ridiculous? (Sit down, Spike.)

This brings us to poor Jenny Calendar, and the tragic events of “Passion.”

The episode opens as Angelus shares some Deep Thots on the subject of passion, stalking Buffy through her day to day activity. (I’m not a fan of the voice-over, usually, but this monologue develops beautifully over the course of the episode.) Then he gives Buffy a creepy object lesson in her own vulnerability by watching her sleep and leaving her a pencilled portrait on her pillow.

In response, the Scoobies decide that hmmm, maybe they should do something about Angelus having access to all their homes.

(Also, this leads to the running gag about uninviting Angelus into Cordy’s car. I made such a point of saying Cordy was smart when I wrote about “Bewitched, Bothered, Bewildered,”  and in this episode she’s at her self-centered and one-note worst. Sigh.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Passion

Anyway, Buffy follows this train of thought to its logical conclusion and starts strategizing about ways to protect her mother while keeping her, at Giles’ insistence, in the dark about what’s really up. Jenny starts work on a more permanent solution: restoring the lost spell that’ll bring back Angel.

The early part of “Passion” is taken up with these preliminary moves. It’s almost chess, and Angelus is playing very offensively indeed: he makes a feint at Willow, then tells Joyce about having had sex with Buffy. The Scoobies dig into shoring up their defenses, unaware of Jenny’s plan as she heads off to the magic store (Is it the magic store? The layout looks wrong to me. Also, I love the phrase boogety-boogety store. It might be my favorite Angelus line.) for an Orb of Thessala. It’s a good plan, but Dru’s all over it: she divines what’s up, pretty much immediately. Jenny’s doom is sealed.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Passion

What I love in “Passion” is that Buffy shows such an enormous generosity of spirit. She’s under siege: Angelus’s invasions of her room, Willow’s house and the threat against Joyce come bam-bam-bam, one after the other, and despite the enormous distress they cause her, she finds space within her broken heart to clear the way for a reconciliation between Giles and Jenny. It’s more an act of kindness toward her Watcher than to Jenny herself, but even so, it’s incredibly compassionate, isn’t it? Breathtaking.

(And, not surprisingly, this episode comes back ’round, at the end, to the bond between Buffy and Giles.)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Passion

What happens, once these early moves are over and the board is set, is what we  later came to recognize as a classic Joss Whedon storytelling pattern: split a couple, get them back together, and then—whammo! Bullet to the heart. (Wait, that’s later.)

“Passion” is one of those BtVS episodes that hits so hard that I entirely remember the first time I saw it. The couch I was sitting on, the light in the room, who was there, all of it. I perfectly recall the jolt of shock when Angelus killed Jenny. Killed! Deep down, I’d expected the BtVS writers to play by the standard rulebook of reset-button television shows. Of course Jenny would get away. At worst, she’d maybe have an artfully made-up bruise or two in the following episode. Getting hurt would cement her being taken back into the Scooby fold. Right? And somebody really did have to fix Angelus. 

Snap. So much for that! 

I could not freakin’ believe it when he broke her neck.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Passion

I’m betting you all remember the rest just as clearly as I do. The body display Angelus leaves for Giles. His peeking through the windows of Casa Slayer so he can personally savor Buffy’s reaction to getting the news. Giles’s solo attack on the old factory and the scene at Jenny’s grave, afterward. 

If you’re like me, you probably sat there in a cloud of stunned disbelief. Feeling shock, maybe, and genuine loss? 

How often does TV truly shock us, or make us grieve?

For me, this was one of those times. It was also the moment when Joss & Company put fans on notice: they weren’t playing around, here in the Buffyverse. Everything was up for grabs.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Passion

Brilliant and heartbreaking by turns, “Passion” ends with Buffy and Giles entirely on the same page: Angelus has to go. The episode’s developments dial up the tension on a story arc that was already taut as a bowstring. All that remains now is endgame.

Next week, penultimate moves: “Killed by Death,” “I Only Have Eyes for You,” and (insert strangled moan here) “Go Fish.”


A.M. Dellamonica has a short story up here on Tor.com — 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.”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Tor.com: ‹ previous | index | next ›
57 comments
wiredog
1. wiredog
Go Fish wasn't that bad. Though a bit improbable that Buffy was (IIRC) the one being saved from Certain Death. And by Xander, at that (again,IIRC).
wiredog
2. Gardner Dozois
"Go Fish" is one of my least favorite episodes, although there are others, mostly from the first season, that I like less, like Praying Mantis Lady and Inca Mummy Girl.

As for Xander, he's directly saved her from Certain Death AT LEAST three times that I can think of (including one time, in "The Zeppo," that she never knows about), in addition to (in spite of usually being thought of as not the sharpest tool in the Scooby toolbox) often being the one who comes up with the insight that enables the problem to be solved/menace to be defeated, as, for example, with the Judge. Oh, and saving the enitre world (including Buffy as part of the world) from being destroyed by talking Willow out of doing it.

A good episode. I wonder if Jenny would have been killed if they'd kept her as Jenny the Techno-Pagan instead of retrofitting her into Jenny the Gypsy Girl who knows all about The Curse (which clearly they hadn't thought of yet in the first season--what keeps Buffy and Angel apart then is the fact that he's a vampire. When they get past that, they had to think of something else--which sometimes required them to do some fancy dancing later on ANGEL).
Alyx Dellamonica
3. AMDellamonica
Hmmm. I think somebody had to die once Angelus became the big bad of S2. At least, the seriousness of the story and the difficulty of keeping him around after S3 both required some beyond the pale content. So if Jenny had stayed a technopagan and innocuous, who could Angelus have killed instead?
Ilan Lerman
4. Ilan
I have to say that 'Passion' is, for me, one of the best episodes of television anywhere. Hyperbole aside, it's downright brutal and awesome at the same time. This was Buffy at the absolute height of its power, and while there are several other terrific episodes to come throughout the whole series, nothing tops the sheer emotion of 'Passion', and even throughout the entirety of 'Angel' this is Angelus at his most poetically twisted (and believable - in Angel it often feels overplayed or purely to service the plot) evil.

And Giles is rarely better than in his Terminator moment wielding a flaming bat and crossbow. He nearly kills Angelus for crying out loud! If only that crossbow bolt had been a couple of inches to the left...
Alyx Dellamonica
5. AMDellamonica
If Giles had been in his right mind, there's no way he would've missed that shot.
Anthony Pero
6. anthonypero
The real difference between Angelus on Buffy and Angelus on Angel was Cordy. Playing against Sarah Michelle Gellar's intensity and (at times) melodrama allowed Angel to be more like Jack Nicholson's maniac Joker than Charisma Carpenter's comedic performance as Cordy would allow. Cordy's character worked quite well, and was downright brilliant playing against Angel, not so much against Angelus (at least for the intensity and sense of danger we got from the Angelus of Buffy).

And, Angelus wasn't even the Big Bad of Angel that Season. He wasn't even the #2. He was the #3.
wiredog
7. Gardner Dozois
As the boyfriend of one of the Scoobies, Oz might have been vulnerable to being killed off. I suppose they might possibly have killed Cordelia, although it would have been a mistake. One thing that mitigates against Jenny even if she had stayed Jenny the Techno-Pagan is that the group already HAS a computer expert in Willow, so that niche in the Scoobies is already filled, making her superfluous, in a way.

So maybe Jenny was the most likely to die. Besides, killing her gave Giles something to be angst-filled over in a personal way, besides the routine worrying about the End of the World. Poor Giles. It must have been really tough for him having to be polite to Angel after he'd turned back from being Angelus, in spite of Buffy more or less forcing that on him.

To me, the Curse has the earmarks of something they didn't quite think through, something to turn Angel bad and keep him and Buffy from settling down as a Happy Couple. Later on, though, when ANGEL had his own show, and they clearly wanted him to have Romantic Love Interests and sleep with women without going all Evil, it presented problems for them, problems they kept trying to work around with only mixed success ("He can have sex with women, he only can't sleep with them if he loves them because then he has A Moment of Perfect Happiness. He can have sex with women if he does it in his sleep and doesn't know that he's doing it."), which brings us to the question of where he thought he and Cordy were going to go with their relationship if he had reached her in time to tell her that he was in love with her--he should know going in, as it were, that he can't sleep with her.

"A Moment of Perfect Happiness" always sounded like a Hallmark card to me. Is sex (with Someone You Love, of course) the only way someone could reach such a moment? Could he have such a Moment while listening to music, or while in contemplation, or while looking at beautiful scenery?

I think the later Angelus is pretty intense on the Jack Nicolson scale when he's fighting with Faith later in ANGEL.
Genevieve Williams
8. welltemperedwriter
I'm kinda with Gardner on the perfect-happiness thing--although when I consider the show's intended audience and my own past as an overly romantic teenager, it makes perfect sense.

It does make me think of missed opportunities, though. If they defined the "perfect happiness" moment more broadly, think of all of the things Angel would have to avoid doing in order to avoid losing his soul: anything from which he might gain fulfillment, satisfaction, or a sense of peace. It rather adds to the tragedy of the character, I think, though it would be hard as hell to write successfully.
Anthony Pero
9. anthonypero
YES! Playing against Faith brought out the best in Angelus again.

As far as "A Moment of Perfect Happiness", there was an episode where the induced Angelus to come out and play by giving Angel a drug. While the euphoria lasted, Angelus was at the forefront... but that made even less sense to me.

I'm sure if the could have come up with another mechanism, in hindsight, they would have. But I'm not sure they intended to bring Angel back for Season 3. It was during hiatus after S2 when Joss first pitched Angel as a spin-off, if I'm not mistaken. So what may have happened is that when that project got greenlit, they brought him back in Season 3.
treebee72 _
10. treebee72
I haven't watched the ep in a while, but I remember feeling that the Perfect Happiness moment wasn't the actual sex, but falling asleep with Buffy after. The feeling of being safely together with someone he completely loves and trusts & who completely loves and trusts him. And with the vampire/Slayer thing, they are both so vulnerable with each other, but they still let it all go in that moment. That was the powerful thing, not the sex.

I think Wesley's description of Perfect Happiness/the curse in the ep referenced by anthonypero @9 was the best either series ever had, but for some reason the writers could never really get past it being about the sex, which is a shame.
Anthony Pero
11. anthonypero
Yeah, we always harp on the sex because CORDY is the one who always explains it... as sex.

In reality, I think you are right, its the feeling of completeness afterwords that gets him. He has sex with Darla as well, when Connor was conceived, and he didn't turn. There was no sense of peace and completion, just guilt and regret.

Its the not being able to give and receive physical love that keeps Angel from feeling that perfect bliss other ways in his relationships.
treebee72 _
12. treebee72
He also ends up in a physical relationship with Nina the werewolf in S5 of Angel. The writers were a bit disfunctional about it - like they wanted to move past the sex=Perfect Happiness, but could never quite let it completely go (especially when you add in them using dream sex with Cordy as the ribbon on the gift of a perfect day, bringing back Angelus in S4).
wiredog
13. Gardner Dozois
That was one work-around they tried, that he could have sex with a woman as long as he didn't care about her or, especially, if he actively disliked her, but if I'm remembering correctly, he had sex with Darla in his sleep, when she had hypnotised him into having an erotic dream about her. Treebee72 may be right about when the Moment of Perfect Happiness happened with Buffy, especially as they had already had sex and he didn't turn then, it not happening until they had fallen asleep and he woke up again later, but almost every other mention of the Curse in both shows, particularly by Cordy but not only by her, emphasizes that he can't have sex without turning Evil, so we can perhaps be excused for thinking that that's how it works.

There was a later episode, after Angel got his own show, first or second season of ANGEL, where Buffy comes to visit him in L.A., and Angel becomes human again through some elaborate mystical rigamarole, and he and Buffy have sex again, and then he has to turn into a vampire again, and mystic forces make Buffy and everybody else except Angel forget that he'd temporarially turned human. I always thought that they missed a great plot idea there--suppose, when Buffy got back to Sunnydale, she realized that she'd become pregnant (neither of them had any reason to have condoms on them, after all); then she would be pregnant with no memory of having sex, which would no doubt freak her out completely.

And if you're ever asked the trivia question, How many times did Buffy and Angel have sex?, the answer is twice--although Buffy doesn't remember one of the times.
Alyx Dellamonica
15. AMDellamonica
The 'perfect moment' question is one of those things where a single writer could probably have finessed a decent solution... but then there's another writer next week, with another take. It would have required some kind of top-down decision, I suppose: here's what it means, here's how we get around it from here on in in Angel, and here's the episode where we fix the rule in place in viewers' minds.

Or something.

Collaboration isn't democracy, but a finicky little point like that can suffer when there are multiple creators and an episodic format.
treebee72 _
16. treebee72
@Gardner Dozois - oh, yes, of course the audience believes it's all about the sex, because the writers kept telling us through various scenes and characters that it was all about the sex (over & over & over again). The point I'm trying to make is that I wish the writers hadn't gone that route since the sex scene between Buffy & Angel was blocked in such a way that the sex may not have been the actual moment of bliss for Angel. Some writers on Angel the Series did try, but like AMDellamonica points out above, without a command from on high, it would always roll back to being all about the sex again.
wiredog
17. Lsana
As I recall, the way it was described by the gypsy guy was that if Angel's soul was ever at peace, he would lose it, which makes sense from the perspective of the curse.

@9,

I try to forget that episode ever happened, not because I can't buy the idea that a drug might be enough to induce Angel to lose his soul, but because the idea of him "temporarily" losing his soul is dumb. I kind of think having a soul is a binary thing; either you do or you don't.

Plus, if Angelus could be brought out temporarily by using Ecstasy, why didn't they do that in S4 when they needed to bring Angel out for a quick chat?

@13,

About the episode where Angel is human: I think it was more than TPTB erased everyone's memory of the day; I believe they actually reset time so the day didn't happen, and Angel remembered only because he needed to know what not to do so he wouldn't end up human this time. Thus, Buffy ending up pregnant from that wouldn't make any sense. (Fans may decide on their own whether or not this counts as a second time having sex or not).
wiredog
18. Gardner Dozois
As I admited in #13, above, you may be right about Buffy and Angel's first time, but yes, the writers always kept rolling it back to being about sex.

One hidden factor which may have come into play with devising The Curse is that, if I recall, there was a moderate amount of controversy at the time about having a virginal teenage girl have sex, especially with a (much!) older man, people saying that it would provide a bad role model and example to real high-school-age girls, and The Curse may in part have been a way of saying, "See? You can have sex, but if you do, look what horrible things will happen!" A way of placating people who were offended by Buffy losing her virginity, in much the same way that girls who Have Sex in slasher movies are always the ones who get chopped to pieces by the serial killer. "You can have sex if you want, Miss Smarty Pants, but see what's going to happen to you!"
wiredog
21. Gardner Dozois
As I admited in #13, above, you may be right about Buffy and Angel's first time, but yes, the writers always kept rolling it back to being about sex.

One hidden factor which may have come into play with devising The Curse is that, if I recall, there was a moderate amount of controversy at the time about having a virginal teenage girl have sex, especially with a (much!) older man, people saying that it would provide a bad role model and example to real high-school-age girls, and The Curse may in part have been a way of saying, "See? You can have sex, but if you do, look what horrible things will happen!" A way of placating people who were offended by Buffy losing her virginity, in much the same way that girls who Have Sex in slasher movies are always the ones who get chopped to pieces by the serial killer. "You can have sex if you want, Miss Smarty Pants, but see what's going to happen to you!"
Anthony Pero
23. anthonypero
@Gardner Dozios:

As was customary on that show, what you are refering to is another perfect example of taking a metaphor that people throw out and making it real: You have sex with your boyfriend for the first time and he turns into a monster.
wiredog
24. Dr. Thanatos
Gardner@7,

Playing the "What Makes Angel Happy" game:

Not being a Muppet
Finding out what happened to Spike in Willow's bedroom (S4)
Showering with Electro-Girl (sparks fly!)
Watching this episode
Michael Ikeda
26. mikeda
Lsana@17

I think of the events in "Eternity" as Angel temporarily losing the restraint that the soul usually places on him rather than really temporarily losing his soul.
wiredog
27. Gardner Dozois
I think of it as what shall from now on be known as the Dellamonica Effect--an individual scriptwriter carelessly changing the parameters of a character, without adequte supervision or forethought on the part of the show-runners, and subsequent scriptwriters then either having to ignore the change or work around it.
Anthony Pero
29. anthonypero
Seems like a common failing of the media... in novel writing, you get to go back and add stuff in and make it all "seemless", but its a rare first draft that is reotely as seemless as a finished novel.

As Howard Taylor would say, "Luxury!" Screen writers and other media that is delivered in a serialized fashion before it is finished being created inevitably end up with continuity errors and other issues because they can't go back and change what was already released. Obviously, the longer a show is on the air, the more errors will pop up. Between Buffy and Angel, Angel's character was being written by 15-20 people in almost 170 episodes for 8 years. The inconsistencies, while not ideal, are almost inevitable.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
30. tnh
In the great tradition of Marvel letter column No-Prizes, fanfic writers have come up with some very ingenious explanations of the inconsistencies in the Buffy/Angel continuity. The most useful of these is "The Council of Watchers is not a reliable source."
Alyx Dellamonica
31. AMDellamonica
Oh, Gardner, you named an Effect after me!! That's like buying me a puppy or something. Actually better, since puppies, I'm told, are work.

And it's a chaos/disorganization effect, too, which makes so much sense.

I always liked the "Council of Watchers is not a reliable source," schtick, myself. Hmmm. I wonder if I still have my No Prize.
john mullen
32. johntheirishmongol
When this ep aired, there wasn't much of a question about the perfect moment. It was later that all the confusion arose with Cordy and Angel falling for each other. It was constricting but they could have explained it if they had done something like while Angel-Cordelia was love, Angel-Buffy was soulmates.

I was really sad to see Jenny killed because I liked her character, and there was a dearth of adults on the show. It is probably why they killed her off too, because she didn't fit the demographic.
wiredog
33. Gardner Dozois
You can have an Effect named after you AND a puppy, or at least a receipt for a puppy to be aquired later.

You probably put your NoPrize noplace for safe keeping.

If they were going to kill off an adult, their choices were Giles, Jenny, and Joyce. They certainly weren't going to kill off Giles; the show needed him. I suppose they could have killed off Joyce, but that would have had too big an effect on Buffy (where would she live, for example?). So in retrospect, the obvious choice was Jenny, whose loss hurt the show the least.
Anthony Pero
34. anthonypero
Cordy was an option at that time... Not an adult, but just as impactful.
Alyx Dellamonica
35. AMDellamonica
Yep, she had a big target painted on her. The redundant hacking skills, the soon-to-be-redundant witching skills (as Willow got better at it) and the relationship with Giles, plus adulthood. Doomed!
wiredog
36. Aeryl
(Is it the magic store?)

Yes it is. The big window in front is still the same, but the layout is different, the register is by the door, n0t against the far wall. But the window, which is the store front always seen on exterior shots, is the same as it is in the future.

It is mentioned in Real Me when Giles is looking to buy the place that being the magic store owner is one of THE most dangerous jobs in Sunnydale.

First one dies here, in Passion, at Drusilla's hands.

Second, in Lover's Walk by Spike.

Third, in Real Me by Harmony or her minions.

I don't know if the fifth owner dying in Chosen at the hands of a Bringer counts, or the death of the fourth owner at the hands of Angel, as the Magic Box is destroyed by then.
wiredog
37. Dr. Thanatos
Another danger moment for Angel:

When the Gentlemen arrive and the various Scoobies and Scoobettes finally stop their incessant whining...
Constance Sublette
38. Zorra
It is indeed a brilliant and moving episode in every way.

My interpretation of the Moment of Perfect Happiness frames was that the Perfect Happiness infused his soul after the sexual bonding between him and Buffy. It wasn't the sex per se, but the bonding that comes from the intimacy of sharing bodies with someone you care so much about in every way -- love, respect, admiration, even pity. They had come together, Angel felt for Buffy and for them together what he'd never felt before -- and he wanted nothing else, nothing more, so BLAMBO!

But you all are right, that thereafter it was the SEX itself with somebody he loves that would do that.

Honestly, myself? I think that moment he and Buffy shared before sleep after their first (and then only) time -- was unique. Angel would never be able to feel that quite again, because, significantly, this was also his actual First Time. All the romp sex he'd experienced in the 18th century prior to Darla turning him, had never touched him. He was almost as souless then, as he was as a vampire. When he and Buffy bonded in every way -- he achieved a complete soul. For those moments, and even he got his soul back, it could never be as complete again as it was then.

As for Jenny Calendar, at least after her terrible death, she still lived in a sense, in her files, and thus became Willow's tutor and mentor in witchcraft. Willow could never made such rapid progress in her skills without Jenny's files.

What an episode!

Love, C.
wiredog
39. Gardner Dozois
Of course, Willow's rapid progress in her skills may have contributed to the fact that she later came within a hairsbreadth of destroying the entire world, so it wasn't an unmixed blessing. Giles says something later about how she hasn't had the training and the discipline she needs to control such power, so she's made too much progress too fast. (Although you'd think that if one witch could destroy the world all by herself, SOMEBODY would have done it before now, somewhere down the line, after all those hundreds if not thousands of years. Willow can't be the only witch who was made to grieve by the world, or feel rage against it.)
Constance Sublette
40. Zorra
Sir, you make cogent points!

The magic shop went through so many incarnations in the first seasons, before Giles buys it. It became the comforting place where we all gather, though, like the Bronze in the first seasons, many bad things happen there!

Love, C.
wiredog
41. Gardner Dozois
BUFFY was wise in always having a (relatively--nowhere in Sunnydale is constantly safe) safe, comforting place where the Scoobies could all gather and hang out. A Home. First it was the Library. Later, Giles's house. Then The Magic Shop. Later, they'd tried to make it Buffy's house, although that didn't work as well. I think it was important not only to the characters but to the audience that there be a (relatively) safe place for them to be in; you can't keep the tension rachetted up ALL the time, or it loses effect.
Anthony Pero
42. anthonypero
Yes, perhaps the Magic Shop was a relatively safe place... compared to the Hell Dimension Angel got sent to at the end of the season.
Alyx Dellamonica
43. AMDellamonica
There's also the fact that having a base to retreat to, when one is essentially a super-team, is just plain cool. I had a serious covet on for the Three Investigators' base when I was a kid, so much so that I throw a tiny nod its way in my second book.
Anthony Pero
44. anthonypero
And, later on, Giles got to give her a super cool training room. Although it meant we had to lose the joke of no one ever going into the library. Even during an apocalypse.
wiredog
45. Gardner Dozois
Yeah, as I said, NOplace in Sunnydale was safe all the time, but, in spite of a couple of vampire raids and a few demonic incursions, the Library served the function for the first few seasons of the Safe Place where you can all hang out together and be a family of sorts, and regroup, and figure out what to do next, until they blew it up with the Mayor. Although they spent a fair amount of time at Bronze, that was never the safe or comfortable place, as vampires and monsters and demons were crashing into it every few seconds (as I said some weeks back, the very FIRST step on every monster or demon's plan for World Conquest was to take over the Bronze; after that, the rest will be easy!).

The old hotel on ANGEL featured as that show's (relatively) safe place for awhile, until they blew it up too. That was one of the problems with the last season of ANGEL for me, once they took over Wolfram & Hart, that there was no safe, comfortable place for them to hang out in as a surrogate family anymore--the Wolfram & Hart headquarters were cold and bleak and menacing, and there was no relaxation of tension there, since they were constantly surrounded by enemies. You need that occasional contrast for the tension to work better--all tension all the time doesn't work as well.
Alyx Dellamonica
46. AMDellamonica
And losing a safe space, or having it violated in some way, makes for powerful storytelling.
Anthony Pero
47. anthonypero
I wasn't disagreeing with you Gardner, just emphasizing the size of the word relative. In Angel S5, I thought the scriptwriters did a great job working through the ramifications of taking over W&H with each character. The problem is that the whole season, and ultimately the whole show, led nowhere. S5 was very frustrating.
wiredog
48. Gardner Dozois
I didn't like the last seasons of either BUFFY or ANGEL. The last season of BUFFY was worse, but they didn't do a very good job with the last season of ANGEL either. Both were disappointing, considering what had come before. The fan buzz at the time was that Whedon had lost interest in both shows because he was concentrating on FIREFLY, and there may be something to that.
Anthony Pero
49. anthonypero
That certainly happened with JJ Abrams. Alias tanked when Lost started. Mission: Impossible 3 was also in production during the time period (The last two seasons of Alias)
Alyx Dellamonica
50. AMDellamonica
I would argue that any episode that had Jennifer Garner in a wig and a bizarre outfit was a profound artistic success, but that would make me something of an oinker.
wiredog
51. Gardner Dozois
You could tell that Whedon had pulled back a little, for whatever reason, because the writers started getting the characters wrong, especially on the last season of BUFFY. Not only were they acting in ways the characters wouldn't act, but they didn't SOUND like themselves anymore. The dialog was wrong.
Alyx Dellamonica
52. AMDellamonica
I am sort of looking forward to rewatching S6 and S7, though, just because I've seen them less. Though they weren't as good, I'm expecting those reviewings to hold more surprises than the stuff I'm seeing now.
Anthony Pero
53. anthonypero
AMD@50:

Did I say I stopped watching the show? :) Honestly, all they had to do was run the Title Montage over and over again... best hour of TV ever.
Ilan Lerman
54. Ilan
I very recently rewatched the whole lot, BUFFY and ANGEL. I'm just going to come out and say it... I like Season 6 and 7. Sure, there are elements that don't work, and the odd poor episode, but that's true of every season, and plotlines in some of the other seasons really fall flat (The Initiative? Profoundly silly. Riley in the 5th season - painful to watch - episodes: Go fish; Where the wild things are; beer bad etc... ). Season 6 & 7 have some of the best episodes out of the entire series (Once more with feeling; Conversations with dead people for example). I love the ending of season 6 with Xander saving the world from Willow (genuinely made me cry).

@AMDellamonica I think (I hope...) you'll be pleasantly surprised on a rewatch at the strength of some of the episodes.
Anthony Pero
55. anthonypero
Don't be knocking Beer Bad now, that's some of Nicholas Brendon's finest work :P
Alyx Dellamonica
56. AMDellamonica
Ilan, whenever I've caught a quick glimpse of an S6 or S7 episode, what's struck me is the goodness in the exchanges of dialogue. So I do expect to enjoy it.

Funnily enough, lots of shows please me more the second time around. The expectations are different when you know how the story's going to go--you're watching for nuance, I think.
wiredog
57. Gardner Dozois
I liked "Beer Bad," although its the episode out of that season people seem most likley to write off. The Inititive arc was silly in many ways, but there were several good episodes scattered throughout the season, including "Hush" and the Thanksgiving episode.

"Once More With Feeling" may be the single best episode in the entire arc of the series, and there were a couple of other good episodes in Season Six, like "Taula Rasa." I had problems with the Willow destroying the world arc--thought it would have been better to have her turn vengeful and bad without giving her such absurd amounts of power--but it was okay, and I liked having Xander be the one to talk her down. Much of the rest of that season was mediocre, though. It was Season Seven that really went sharply downhill, in my opinion; I'd tune in eagerly every night that it came on, and every night, I'd turn the set off feeling disappointed, and with the weird feeling that it wasn't really the same show anymore. I know I wasn't alone in this.
Ilan Lerman
58. Ilan
Okay, Beer Bad actually has some funny moments. How many jobs do they give Xander in that season to tack onto whatever story they come up with that week? Season 4 has some of the best individual episodes (Hush, Something Blue, A New Man, This Year's Girl/Who are you, Restless) but the overarching 'story' of the Initiative is poorly executed, IMHO, and the whole Buffy at Uni story that dominates the opening episodes just feels like a rehash of Buffy at High School and takes a while to get going. Riley was better than I remember him being, until Season 5 happens and he turns into an enormous fool.

I really liked season 7, both on first watch and on the rewatch at the start of this year. There are some misteps, to be sure, It was absolutely the right time to end it, though.
wiredog
59. Gardner Dozois
The best time to end it, in my opinion, was at the end of the Glory arc, when, in a way, the show actually did end, since it had not been renewed by its original network, and the show-runners thought when they put the season finale together that it might be the last-ever episode of BUFFY, and so made an effort to wrap up the show in a satisfactory way. Hard to beat that last tight close-up of the headstone on the grave with "Buffy Summers. She saved the world. A lot." chisled on it.

Of course, even I am conflicted about this, since if the series HAD ended there, we'd have missed several really good episodes down the line, including "Once More With Feeling"--but in a way, I'm not sure the show was ever really as good again as it had once been once it started over again on another network and they dragged Buffy up out of her grave. Some worthwhile stuff, even some very worthwhile stuff, but the high point was past.
wiredog
60. therealanthonypero
I thought hush was the best episode, with the possible exception of the episode following Joyce's death. The episode with no dialouge, and the episode with no music. Go figure.
wiredog
61. Gardner Dozois
Certainly "Hush" and "The Body" would have to be on the shortlist of Ten Best-Ever Buffy Episodes, along with "Once More With Feeling." Not sure what else I'd put on there. Maybe "Passions," maybe the season finale of the Mayor arc, maybe the season finale of the Glory arc. I find, rewatching, that I tend to enjoy the funniest episodes the most: "Halloween," "Band Candy," "Beer Bad," "Something Blue," the one where Giles turns into a demon.
Ilan Lerman
62. Ilan
There's an episode coming up in the rewatch that I had almost forgotten about until I had my own rewatch, and was a little in awe of how good it was - 'I only have eyes for you' is a tremendously clever conceit and well acted and a real surprise as it isn't normally touted as one of the best in all the top 10 lists. David Boreanaz gives some of his best acting, and the way it provides a platform for Buffy and Angel to have out an argument that they wouldn't otherwise have been able to is so clever.
Alyx Dellamonica
63. AMDellamonica
The funny episodes are just so entertaining and wonderful! And less painful to watch, often.


I'll maybe post my top-ten after the rewatch... and everyone else can too.

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