FEATURE: Angel - I Will Remember You
Previously on Angel: Doyle had a vision of Buffy in danger which sent Angel running to Sunnydale with the aim of protecting her without the two ever meeting. This was a bad plan.
Buffy arrives in LA after Angel’s skulking protector role in her own show’s episode, more than a little upset that she wasn't included in Dark and Forehead’s plan. Whilst they're hashing out their differences, they're attacked by a mutant ninja demon thing with a sword and in wounding it, Angel gets some of his blood on him. It turns out that the blood turns him human, suddenly allowing him and Buffy to have a proper relationship that involves food and other… stuff. Yet, as there always is, there is a catch. Angel is much weaker and less capable in his human state and he realises he can't keep saving people that way or protect Buffy, leaving him with a horrible decision.
Oh boy. This episode.
First of all, before I get to the sad bits, this episode is a huge one in terms of the series because it re-establishes Angel’s quest for redemption as a hero and the sacrifices he is willing to make in order to do that. Time is a key theme throughout the episode, opening with Angel placing a carriage clock, he gives a watch to the Oracles and scenes are frequently underscored by a ticking clock or, for the first time, Angel's heartbeat. Time is a gift, something to be savoured and also something to be lost, which is the cruel lesson for Angel in this episode.
The episode is such a rollercoaster of emotions that it lives in infamy. It's the first time that Angel really flies because it has that central idea of consequence and sacrifice at its heart, as well as a helping hand from the guest appearance from the Slayer herself. What makes it all the more painful is we get to see Angel and Buffy having that life, albeit briefly. There's ice cream and kissing and joking and kissing in the sunshine. Seeing the ultimate Whedonverse couple who have never been able to properly do that get the chance for happiness is wish fulfilment for both them and us. Buffy even says she feels like a normal girl for the first time ever. And man, are repeat watches of this episode difficult.
Part of that is to do with the excellent performances of both Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz and it really works, partly because the weight of Buffy as a parent show is used to push Angel forward rather than simply echoing it. They both so fully inhabit these roles that when they're together, the chemistry takes over, the weight of their tortured relationship seems to be embodied in every line. And of course, none of this would be complete without Christophe Beck's gorgeous 'Close Your Eyes' theme, which just adds to the tears.
Whilst Gellar has had the meatier role for the larger part of their relationship, Boreanaz seizes his moment perfectly, building on the already great work he's done in his first few episodes of his own show. Angel's character in Buffy was defined almost solely by his relationship with the Slayer with only really Amends devoted to his past and conscience. Here, he gets the spotlight and the accompanying development. He is a character built on consequence and redemption, much more so here than he was in Buffy.
I'm not usually a fan of the 'turn back time and it never happened' trope, as I mentioned in The Wish, and I think that and this episode is part of the reason why. It set such a high standard of how effectively a narrative erasure could be done and the consequences it should have for its central character that I've measured other uses of it and found them wanting. It helps that the idea of time is woven throughout the episode, ensuring that its use as a solution is simply an evolution of a theme. Also, it works so well for Angel as he has to live with the knowledge of what he could have had (and could still have, though we're not at the Shanshu Prophecy yet) works extremely well on a character level.
Finally, what I love about this episode (despite the fact that it breaks my heart) are all the little moments we get in between the dark and brooding love story at its centre. Angel walking in through the front door in broad daylight for the first time and Cordelia, not making the connection at all, assuming he's brought an umbrella. It's Angel seeing his reflection for the first time in centuries and not quite able to comprehend what is happening to him. The awkward moments between him and Buffy as they work out how to go about a normal relationship, neither of them having the faintest clue about how that works. And Angel with ice cream, which is probably the most adorable look of glee Boreanaz has ever produced.
I never get through this episode without ugly-crying my way through the last five minutes. It's heartbreak of the kind only Buffy and Angel could produce. Next week, it's Hero. So, prepare for more tears.
Quote of the Week:
Female Oracle: I like time. There is so little and so much of it.
Let's Get Trivial: There is a foreshadowing to Buffy's death in The Gift here. Angel asks the Oracles what would happen to Buffy if he remained mortal, to which they reply what must happen to all mortals "though in the Slayer's case, sooner"
Demonology 101: First appearance of the Oracles who have a role to play as Season One develops.
The Sunnydale Connection: This episode follows directly on from Pangs in which Angel arrived in Sunnydale over Thanksgiving to help protect Buffy, who then turns up to see him the following day in LA during her Thanksgiving break.
You can read Becky's look at previous episode, The Bachelor Party, here.