"To kill this girl, you have to love her."
The Surprise/Innocence double-whammy is considered one of Buffy's finest moments because of their big major plot points and lofty thematics. I feel like I need to do something special for this momentous occasion. I'm reviewing Innocence. And yeah, it's an incredible episode. We're not worthy.
It's a wonder that this episode doesn't completely squander my goodwill right off the bat, as it opens on Drusilla lying on the ground going, "OoooOOooooooOOO!!" But we cut quickly to see what exactly she's OOoO-ing about. She's had a vision of Angel, stumbling about in the rain. A woman approaches him, smoking a cigarette, asking if he needs help.
What happens next may shock you.
Angel, with his vamp face on, turns around, kills the woman, and exhales her cigarette smoke.
Buffy is unaware of Angel's new bloodlust. But the Scoobies know even less, and when Buffy doesn't return to the library all night, they think Buffy and Angel were killed by The Judge. When she finally turns up, Angel is still AWOL. There's a good bit of tension in the fact that Buffy is worried that he ran off right after they first had sex, and the Scoobies, unaware of this fact, are worried that he's gone on some vigilante mission to kill The Judge.
And he has, in a way. He repairs to Spike and Drusilla's lair, acts a bit like a frat boy, and confronts The Judge. But the big blue guy, who sucks the humanity out of any creature, verifies that there is no humanity in Angel. The soul is gone. And Spike and Dru are ready to party. Angel, minus the soul, is Angelus. In my humble opinion, Angelus is the most sinister, terrifying villain on the series.
Okay, so this is HUGE right? I'll get into thematic details later, but just a word on David Boreanaz. He seems so, so much more comfortable playing Angel sans soul. He jokes around, smokes cigarettes, gives crooked smiles, and has 500% more lines. One appreciates his versatility, and the vast improvements in his acting since Season 1. More on this in later reviews.
Buffy wanders around town in search of Angel, a more sinister version of Buffy <3 Angel 4eva scoring her quest. She finds him back at home, getting dressed like nothing's happened. And when she asks him what happened, he taunts her, telling her he didn't want to stick around, and laughing when she asks if she wasn't good. He giggles as he says, "Really, I thought were a pro." Sarah Michelle Gellar is really wonderful in these dramatic scenes, and it's just heartbreaking to watch her try to keep her composure as Angel tears her apart. The whole thing is so, so brutal. More on this later, too.
Jenny/Janna's uncle approaches her so they can give us some more exposition about WTF is going on. The Gypsy curse placed upon Angel that restored his soul (remember Angel?) was revoked when he achieved one moment of pure happiness. It stands to reason that if Angel is happy, then the curse is pointless, and so his soul will be removed. Jenny is incensed, and argues that now Angel will kill Buffy. But he tells her, "It is not justice we serve. It's vengeance."
Angelus shows up at school and tries to kill Willow, so the Scoobies have a group meeting to try to figure out WTF is going on. But everyone has secrets--Jenny, about the curse, and Buffy, about having sex with Angel. Giles insists that some event must have triggered his turning back into Angelus, and harassess Buffy until she runs out of the library in tears. Willow suddenly realizes what happened between Buffy and Angel, and tells Giles to shut up. Willow can get on my last nerve, but I love the shock and understanding playing across Willow's face in that second--one of her finest moments.
Buffy has a prophetic dream that implicates Jenny. It speaks to Buffy's current mental state that this alone gives her reason to storm into Jenny's classroom and choke her until she reveals her secret. Jenny tells Buffy and Giles the whole story, including that she was sent to Sunnydale High to monitor Buffy and Angel. Buffy considers this to be some pretty deep betrayal, but she is more concerned with the issue at hand--getting Jenny to curse him again and restore his soul.
Unfortunately, the only person who would know how to use such powerful magic is Jenny's uncle, who is immediately slaughtered by Angelus. The three discover his corpse, and also a message left for Buffy in his blood reading, "Was it good for you too?" This Manson-esque behavior is just a hint as to what we can expect from Angelus. But upon reading his message, Buffy realizes what she always knew (since Season 1!) but didn't want to accept. She has to kill him.
Whew! This is all SO dramatic, let's dial it down a little. So there's another ongoing plot involving the rest of the Scoobies (now including Oz!). Willow finds out about Xander and Cordelia and is really super pissed off that Xander would be with someone he hates before he'd consider Willow. Blah blah Willow, you have Oz now, Xander sux, get over it! They let bygones be bygones when Xander comes up with a cunning plan to kill The Judge, which involves (slut-shaming Cordelia and) using residual military knowledge from Halloween to break into an army base.
But what for? You see, legend has it that an army came after The Judge and could not defeat him with any weapon. "That was then. This is now," Buffy says, holding up a gigantic bazooka. "What's that do?" are his last words. His sudden anticlimactic death barely even registers as cheap considering the rest of the DRAMA in this episode.
But we're not out of the woods yet. Angelus comes after Buffy, telling her that he's glad he doesn't have to pretend he has to love her anymore as he pummels her. Although she's understandably been a complete wreck for the entire episode, weeping in bed, wandering listlessly like a shadow of her former self, she summons her inner resolve and kicks him in the balls. He tells her that she can't kill him, that she still loves him. "Give me time," she responds.
Favorite moment: Okay let me do as brief an analysis of this episode as I possibly can. Although I've never spoken with anyone who argued this, I imagine that one could say Buffy is punished for having sex with Angel and that it's kind of a pro-abstinence message. I'm torn on this issue. What I think is brilliant about Angel's turning into Angelus is that it successfully marries the scary demon stuff with the interpersonal relationship stuff. Buffy's reality, which is a more or less typical teenage fear, is that after having sex with Angel, he becomes evil. He no longer wants her, he belittles her, and he says that he never loved her. Add to this the fact that Buffy knew about this "demon" existed inside of him all along. And for this reason, I think Angelus is absolutely the show's most brilliant invention.
And yes, I agree that punishing your lead character for having sex is problematic. And Buffy is punished. She will continue to be punished in the worst possible way. But this is where the mystical otherworldliness of Buffy saves the day, because the show itself, as well as its moral mouthpieces, aren't the ones doing the punishing. A huge part of what rescues this plot from being super offensive is the reaction from Buffy's parental figures. Which leads to one of my top favorite moments in the entire series!
At the end of the episode, Giles drives Buffy home. She asks him if he's disappointed in her, because it's all her fault that Angelus returned. But underneath that statement is anxiety that she had sex and because of the fallout, she feels that she is now less, broken. Giles assures her that Angel loved her, and that she is not at all responsible, and "if it's guilt you're looking for, Buffy, I'm not your man. All you'll get from me is my support, and my respect." Omg <3333 Giles <3333
At home, Buffy curls up on the couch watching old movies with Joyce. They have this exchange:
Joyce: So what'd you do for your birthday? Did you have fun?
Buffy: I got older.
Joyce: You look the same to me.
Joyce may have no idea what's going on, but the tacit approval from her parental figures is so touching and cathartic after the emotional beating Buffy gets in this episode.