FEATURE: Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Angel
Previously on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy's got the hots for Crypto-Guy, otherwise known as Angel, the Master still wants to kill her and Xander's crush on Buffy shows no signs of abating, despite Willow's obvious doe-eyed affection.
The Master's a little peeved that Buffy has pretty much killed off half his gang and so decides to send The Three after her, a trio of vampiric assassins with some natty threads and a penchant for violence. Buffy meanwhile is at The Bronze, oblivious to both her would-be killers and Angel, lurking characteristically in the shadows so the light just catches his amazing jawline and those cheekbones and... Ahem. Anywayyy, The Three are quickly dispatched and the episode gets down to business, specifically giving us some much needed explanation of who Angel is and just why Buffy probably shouldn't be that keen to get involved. Which she does anyway. Obviously.
I have a big soft spot for this episode for several reasons but first and foremost, this was the very first encounter I had with the world of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When it initially aired all those years ago on BBC Two, my parents deemed me not old enough to watch this sort of supernatural wickedness that might scar me for life. That didn't stop me however from recording the episodes on VHS in the lounge whilst we were all having tea in the kitchen and then getting up ridiculously early before school to watch them without the parentals finding out (sorry Mum and Dad). It may have taken me until halfway through the second season to convince them that this show was worth watching, but I was hooked instantly. And this episode was why.
It's not one of the best episodes certainly, but it was perhaps the first where the audience got a true sense of the scale that the show would reach with Angel's extended past. Yes, this is the moment in which the doomed nature of Buffy and Angel's relationship is revealed as they kiss all romantically and then he vamps out before leaping out the window and running off into the night. It sets up the constant torment that their relationship will one day become, hinting that it will always be Angelus who gets in the way. It also established that Angel is actually a man with a weighty guilty conscience. I love the scene between him and Darla where we find out just how far these two go back. Julie Benz is so fantastic in the role that you're genuinely sorry to see her dust at the end of the episode.
Gellar and Boreanaz always have a fantastic chemistry when onscreen together and the development of their relationship is actually quite sweet, building on the antagonistic flirtation that we have seen in previous episodes. Their confrontation in The Bronze is the first of many, but it still remains one of my favourite Buffy/Angel moments, simply because it plays on the duality of Angel's character and the role which Buffy plays in teasing both of them. Of course, Darla gets it all wrong; it won't be killing Buffy that turns Angel back to his demonic side, as hinted at in this episode when they kiss for the first time, but let's not get ahead of ourselves eh?
There are other relationships that are hinted at throughout this episode too, alongside the central ones. We already knew that Darla hung around with The Master for a long time, but that Angel did too and he and Darla were heavily involved with each other. On the human side of things, one of the show's big, snarky rivalries is hinted at between Xander and Angel. They've not shared much screen time yet, but Xander reacts badly to him straight away as a rival for Buffy's affections. This animosity becomes a running theme throughout the show and will lead to some hilarious moments, as well as some heartbreaking ones.
The relationship stuff is the meat of the plot in this episode, but that doesn't stop some other silly stuff getting in the way. We have The Bronze's pre and post-fumigation parties to get rid of the cockroaches whilst Joyce's injuries are explained away by a barbecue fork which may or may not exist. Then there is The Three. The Three make for one of the least terrifying set of villains in Buffy's entire rogues gallery; the only threat they seem to pose is that they can walk menacingly and pull off body armour. That and there is three of them. That seems to be about it as they are quickly shrugged off by both Buffy and Angel before being dusted by Darla a few minutes later. For all the bass and emphatic music, The Three are actually a bit useless.
Establishing a big part of Angel's character, his soul, quickly and effectively whilst advancing his relationship with Buffy, Angel is a special episode for kicking off one of the most famous pop culture doomed romances. I have yet to work out the physics behind the whole getting a cross burned into his chest from Buffy's necklace though. I'm fairly certain it's physically impossible to do.
Quote of the Week:
Angel: "You've no idea what it's like to have done the things I've done... and to care"
Demonology 101: This episode establishes the vampires must be invited rule in the show's vampire mythos - this is going to crop up a lot in relation to Angel.
Sunnydale Who's Who: Darla may be dusted for now, but she proves to be a consistently influential figure in the Buffyverse and will return in the second season via the handy medium of flashbacks.
You can read Becky's look at The Pack here.