*Plot points of season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer follow.
A friend of mine started BTVS recently, and now after the first couple episodes of season 2, he has found himself dismayed by the cheese element (not cheese man, of course) in the show. I told him this is Whedon for f’s f, and that if he can’t handle the Whedon cheese, he wouldn’t enjoy Buffy. But, still, don’t be an idiot, the show is incredible. Just hold on. At the most absolute very least, wait until Spike and Dru arrive. Every thing changes with Spike and Dru.
Which gets me to last night, when I sat down to re-watch that two-part masterpiece of season 2, Surprise and Innocence. It was during this revisit that I remembered with gleeful horror just how brutal a darkness BTVS occasionally reaches. So brilliantly, unmercifully dark, in such a simple, surprising manner.
The revelation of Drusilla’s back-story earlier in season 2 hints at the horror that is Angelus. Dru’s story, I remember, piqued me towards Buffy in a new way. The concept of a vampire torturing a woman to madness, then turning her into a vampire, is at its very core, terrifying and interesting. A vampire without a soul is one thing. A vampire without a soul or a mind, is entirely another. Dru and her incoherent madness is a cold and constant icon in BTVS of the depth of evil Angelus contained in his former life.
And yet. It is not the worst thing Angel does in his soulless life. Perhaps because the audience is allowed in on the moment, or perhaps because Buffy is our guide through her world, but watching the exchange between Buffy and Angel, in Angel’s apartment, in Innocence, left me iced with fear.
The scene, if you recall, is Buffy’s first encounter with Angel, after Angel has lost his soul as a result of sex with Buffy. As Buffy fears, the boy has lost interest after the girl gave him the time. He is cold, and distant, but responsive. He smiles, hugs her, kisses her.
She doesn’t know what has happened. But we know. We know that Angel has lost his soul. He has met with Spike and Dru, has planned to torment Buffy as he had done in his past. He has planned to kill her the only way Buffy can be killed. “To kill this girl,” Angel tells Spike, “you have to love her.” So he returns to her, not to kill her, but to scorn her.
This might have been the moment I realized: BTVS is special. The scene demonstrates, perhaps for the first time, the depth of layers at work in the show, from an excited teen girl’s first time with her boyfriend being met by his lost interest after conquest, to the immortal vampire as predator playing with his food, and all the in-between.
As I rewatched the episode last night I recalled fondly just how brutal Buffy’s world can be. It is a chilling, and fantastic episode. The first, in my opinion, that tells us how dark Buffy’s life will get, and how, at any moment, any life on the show can be lost.