Sunday, July 25, 2010

Buffy 2x14 - "Innocence"

My complaint about "Surprise," that none of its numerous constituent parts seem to go anywhere, is rectified more or less completely in "Innocence." Not only do all of the threads of the previous episode bear fruit, but they all collide and intersect in deceptively complex ways, without getting in the way of the episode's considerable emotional weight. More after the jump.

"She made me feel like a human being. That's not the kind of thing you just forgive."

- Angel

It's difficult to try and think from the perspective of someone watching Buffy as it aired. This is my second viewing, and even on my first viewing the series had been over for years. I already knew from the beginning that Angel was going to turn evil at some point, and although I didn't know the details I was well aware that it would be more than a one-off thing (like Xander's "evil" turn in "The Pack"). So for the first time viewer, I don't know if seeing that scene in this episode's marvelous teaser* would communicate to them just how fundamentally the show's dynamics had changed. But by the end of the episode, it's quite clear that Buffy's entered territory darker than any it's ever been in before, and that there's very little this show wouldn't dare to do.

*(Angel feeding on a hooker and then puffing out the smoke from her cigarette? I don't know if that makes much sense. But it's cool.)

Evil Angel is by a mile the best villain the show has done to this point (or, in fact, after it), because Buffy (and by extension the audience) are about as invested in him as it's possible to be in a villain. Contrast this with The Master: the challenge posed by the Master is one of pure physicality, both in terms of his bodily strength and also the spatiality involved: For most of the first season, he's in a place where Buffy can't get to, and vice versa. Angel poses instead an emotional challenge to Buffy. The question whether she would best him in combat was briefly raised in "When She Was Bad," but I think we tend to consider Buffy physically stronger than him. The conflict is made difficult by Buffy's emotional and personal connection to Angel, and these are the difficulties she has to overcome before defeating him. And Angel's transformation is another often-cited example of Buffy's metaphorical underpinnings. Buffy sleeps with a guy and he changes, seeming like a completely different person thereafter. It's pretty potent stuff, especially during their first encounter in this episode.

There's so much other great stuff in this episode, too, as the Cordelia/Xander/Willow/Oz love quadrangle leads to a lot of hurt feelings and jealousy, particularly for Willow. The same can be said of the betrayal by Jenny Calendar, which Giles doesn't take very well at all. On top of that, Angel's reunion with Spike and Drusilla is really fun and it adds a new dynamic to two villains who were already one of the best things about this season. And Buffy's showdown with the Judge, whom "no weapon forged can kill," is pretty epic, as she takes him out with a rocket launcher. What the Judge lacks in personality, he makes up for in sheer creepiness. Brian Thompson has a great villain voice, which is probably why they chose to bring him back after his role in "Welcome to the Hellmouth" and "The Harvest" as the Master's disciple Luke.

There's a lot more going on in this episode, and I could say a lot about it, but I've got a lot of Buffy to review and not a lot of time to review it in, so I can't give this one the full attention it deserves.


  • A note on terminology: In later episodes of Buffy and Angel, the evil version of Angel is almost always referred to as "Angelus." He's also occasionally spoken about as though he were some fully separate entity from the "real" Angel. In this episode, that's not the case, and he's simply called "Angel," so I guess I'll do the same.
  • One thing Joss talks about on the DVD commentary is how little sense Angel's curse makes. Leaving open the possibility for him to revert into a cruel monster just isn't a very good plan at all. However, they do a good job of fudging it to make it seem like it makes sense in this episode. If that makes sense.


  1. just need to say I love love love love LOOOOVE the scene between Buffy and Angel/Angelus when they first speak after the sex. It stings on a much more potent level than anything the show has ever done before, especially because SHE DOESN'T YET KNOW THAT HE'S TURNED EVIL. At that point, the metaphor and the literal kind of fuse, because she thinks he's just acting this way while still having a soul. Love it!

  2. It's silly, but my favorite thing about this episode is the Judge's reaction right before he gets blown to bits by the rocket launcher. Love it.

    Incidentally, I must be one of the few Buffy fans who enjoys the show more when Angel is either sidelined or out of the picture entirely--hence this season is tied with season 1 as my least favorites of the run.

  3. Also, I think they refer to him still as "Angel" in this episode because the characters are in such shock at his transformation that they, out of habit, call him by his former name.

  4. I strongly disagree. I think that at the time "Surprise" was written, Joss had an understanding of the relationship between Angel's good and evil aspects that is very different from the one that developed later. The terminology isn't my only reason for thinking this, but it's certainly a factor.

    By the way: the word "Angelus" is not used even once in this episode, Even by Spike and Dru. They still call him "Angel. The same holds true in the four subsequent episodes I've watched so far, with one exception: in "Passions" Spike uses the term "Angelus"... but he uses it in the past tense to refer to Angel-with-a-Soul!

    This is something I've been keeping a pretty close eye on.

  5. Nitpick time! I think you mean "Passion." "Passions" is the soap opera that Spike is obsessed with, after his badass decay. But wow, that's really fascinating about Angel/Angelus! Can't wait to hear more!