"We're about to make history...end."
At last, we've reached Becoming--the third two-parter in Season 2 (not confusing at all) after What's My Line Pts. 1+2 and Surprise/Innocence, and arguably the best.
One the one hand, I feel like I have been reviewing Season 2 for my entire life. And on the other hand, I can't believe it's almost over! My second viewing has radically changed my perception of it--did Spike seem so totally impotent and uninteresting the first time around? And where is Angelus?? I remember him dominating the second half of the season, and while his presence looms, he's only made more than a cameo appearance in three episodes (Innocence, Passion, and I Only Have Eyes For You)!
Let's hope Becoming hasn't changed too much. Last time, you had to pick me up off the floor.
We begin in Galway in 1753. I do believe this is our very first flashback, which means this is also the first time we are treated to David Boreanaz's most earnest attempt at an Irish accent. Irish Angel is a drunkard (because he's Irish, duh) stumbling around the Galway streets, actin' like a frat boy, when he sees...Darla! We witness Angel being turned into a vampire, which is highly erotic as Darla slices across her own chest for Angel to drink. Also, this begins the treatment of turning people into vampires as a birthing.
Flashbacks to important moments in the transition from Angelus to Angel show up intermittently throughout this episode because it is very thematically important, okay?
Cut back to the present, where Buffy and Xander are worried about--of all things--finals! Angelus spies on them from a distance and when Buffy says (of her dreaded exams), "It will all be over soon," Angelus says, "Yes, my love. It will." Cue opening credits. OH the SUSPENSE!
A museum curator calls Giles in to examine an ancient artifact because Giles is such a smartypants. Meanwhile, the Scoobies are gathered in the school cafeteria fretting about Angelus--but mostly finals! You will also be shocked to see Willow sitting on Oz's lap, because remember Oz?
Drusilla and Angelus are all excited because of a story they saw in the newspaper about the gigantic artifact in the museum. This is apparently front page news in Sunnydale, where demons prowls and dozens die nightly. Spike couldn't really care less and is above all the melodramatic doom and gloom, but Drusilla and Angelus tremble in anticipation of their dastardly evil plan, with David Boreanaz making his most earnest attempt at evil faces.
Buffy and Willow study in the computer science classroom, and when Buffy drops her pencil she discovers...Jenny Calendar's floppy disk of yore! The one that contains the ways and means of restoring Angel's soul!
Rousing Percussive War Theme #1 plays inappropriately in ye olden days in Romania at the time Angelus is cursed with a soul. One of the men in the clan giggles as he tells Angel how badly he will hurt and how the memories of all he killed will haunt him, but it seems to me he's more likely to be haunted by this haircut.
The Scoobies discuss Jenny's floppy disk spell in the library--Willow is convinced she will be able to channel dark magic to complete the spell and is pretty excited about it, but Xander decides to be a patronizing douche and say, "Who cares if we restore his soul? Angel is a killer, he must die, I want Buffy so so so so bad I am such a loser :'( :'(" One wonders why, of all people, Xander is the most blood thirsty and unforgiving. This mystery comes to the foreground when Giles says restoring Angel's soul was Jenny's last wish, and Xander says, "Yeah? Well Jenny's dead," like a big gigantic idiotic tool. He and Giles nearly throw down over this. Then Buffy makes this face at Xander when he tells her, "You want to forget all about Miss Calendar so you can get your boyfriend back":
Ughh, SHUT UP XANDER. Is that worse than wanting to exploit's Miss Calendar's death because you're insanely jealous of Buffy's ex-boyfriend?
Buffy goes on patrol and who should jump out of the bushes but Kendra the vampire slayer! She heard of a dark mysterious event brewing in Sunnydale and wanted to lend her services. Her Watcher explained that the museum artifact contains a demon named Acathla who, when awoken, will create a vortex that sucks all non-demons into eternal hellish suffering. AKA the apocalypse, again.
Luckily, Kendra has a fancy sword that was made expressly to kill said demon. Life is funny that way sometimes.
Jump to Manhattan 1996, where Angel prowls the streets for rats to feed on. Hasn't he had a soul for like, a century now? And he's still wandering around looking bewildered and inept? A goofball in a dumb hat approaches him and says as much--his name is Whistler, and he's a demon whose demon purpose is to set Angel on the right track. They drive alllll the way to Los Angeles so that Angel can see preppy Buffy being approached by the Watcher's Council for the very first time.
Then he watches her fight off her very first vampire. Then he watches as she lies to Joyce about her whereabouts and then listens to her parents fighting--it is implied that Buffy's "troublemaking" was an impetus for their divorce. Then he watches her cry in the bathroom. Sarah Michelle Gellar's acting in this part is adorable, but you may find it more than a little bit creepy that Angel is literally staring in this sixteen-year-old girl's bathroom window.
Anyway, seeing the new Slayer in action gives Angel his mission to fight the forces of evil. I'm not entirely sure why. Cos she's so cute?
Angelus tries to awaken the demon but he just can't figure out the secret password, so he comes up with another cunning plan to find the one person who can help. But who could it be??
He sends a vampire to Buffy's algebra classroom, who tells her that she must meet Angelus in the graveyard tonight or more will die, and self-immolates. The rest of the students chalk it up to a PCP gang, I'm sure.
Buffy plans to fight off Angelus in the cemetery while the rest of the Scoobies attempt to restore Angel's soul. Kendra gives Buffy her lucky stake, Mr. Pointy. It's all touching and moving, but as soon as Buffy leaves, the Scoobies get interrupted by a group of vampires. Kendra manages to fend off all of them, until Drusilla shows up, glamours her, and slits her throat with a fingernail. It was all a trap!
Well, if you couldn't see that coming after the charming anecdote about Mr. Pointy...
Drusilla kidnaps Giles, the one person who can help them awaken Acathla, as he is a smartypants. To me, this is a far more dramatic moment than Kendra's death. I mean, yeah, it's sad when she dies. She named her stake, that's cute. But it's mostly sad on the part of the show, which brought back the socially regressive generically ethnic killing machine for half of one episode just to be killed off. In this episode, her character exists to die and up the stakes, pure and simple.
But beyond that, this episode is actually even better than I thought. Reluctant kudos to Joss Whedon--you just keep me coming back for more (even if you are a douche).
Favorite moment: This isn't my favorite moment but I've pretty much run out of moments to describe. The episode ends with a meaningful voiceover from Whistler as Buffy runs into Sunnydale High, finds Kendra dead in the library along with many injured Scoobies and missing Giles, and is then caught by the police. The police! Isn't that novel?
Whistler says, "Bottom line is, even if you see them coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No. The big moments are gonna come. You can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are. You'll see what I mean." And you will see what he means!!!