"When it said that your eyes are penetrating, I meant to write bulging!"
Not only is this my favorite episode from Season 1, it's one of my very favorite episodes in the series, so it gets special loving attention in my blog. It's a perfectly contained melodrama that's sentimental but funny and familiar but subtle and oh, it's just wonderful! For someone who thinks Angel the Character is quite dull and lifeless, and that David Boreanaz is maybe the worst actor ever, I still adore this storyline.
The Netflix Watch Instantly synopsis of "Angel" said that in this episode we would learn Angel's dark secret!(!!!) If you can believe it, 13 years after this episode aired, I legitimately had no idea what Angel's dark secret was and boy oh boy could I not WAIT to find out!
So, onto the actual episode. Buffy is frustrated that she has a big crush on Angel but he only shows up when she's in grave danger; when he does show up, however, they have super awesome chemistry. And it's true, they do have chemistry, despite David Boreanaz being the worst actor ever. As Buffy walks out of The Bronze all dejected and missin' Angel, we see him lurking in the shadows staring at her. If this invokes Edward Cullen for you, well...I'm just saying that's fair.
In the meantime, The Master is PISSED that Buffy is still alive. This will be a recurring theme in every season, that the big bad villain is totally flummoxed by Buffy's super strength. It's like, read the newspaper. She does this a lot. Another thing Buffy does a lot: make puns that range from cheesy to awful whenever dusting a vamp. This does not help her much when a vampire prog rock band attack outside The Bronze.
Because whoops, they're surprisingly strong! It turns out that The Master got so pissed that he hired them as bounty hunters. (Darla, the blonde vampire from the first episode, offered to kill the slayer, but The Master said that she had a personal stake in the matter. Hmm, what does that mean!) Buffy seems to be in trouble, so Angel comes to the rescue. "Good dogs don't bite!" he says. Buffy's puns > Angel's puns. Also, if this is invoking Edward Cullen for you...
The two run back to Buffy's house because the vampires can't enter uninvited. Angel is wounded so Buffy says, "I'll go get some bandages. Take your jacket and your shirt off." Get it, Buffy! They stand awkwardly close to each other, Angel revealing, umm, this thing on his back.
Angel has to sleep over because it's too dangerous outside, bow chicka wow wow!!!!! Buffy asks why Angel spends all his time fighting demons because I mean I do it but only because I have to and what I'd really like to do is be a normal teenager. She wonders what his family thinks of his life choice, and he very ominously replies, "They're dead." By vampires. Oh my god is this Angel's dark secret??
Not quite. When Buffy goes home the next night, Angel hilariously reveals himself by emerging from the shadow of the curtain, and tells Buffy that he can't be around her because he so badly wants to kiss her. "I'm a lot older," he says. But nothing can stop these two crazy kids, and they finally kiss and everyone at home is cheering and hey this kiss has really been going on for a long time and then oh my god! Angel breaks away for a second to reveal...HE'S A VAMPIRE! Nooooo wayy!!! He jumps out of the window as Buffy shrieks into the night.
If, you know, Edward Cullen...
I've pointedly neglected to mention Xander, who has spent this entire episode trying to guilt trip Buffy for having feelings for Angel, and now gets really excited that she'll have to kill him. There's an annoying wannabe love interest forcing its way into Angel's life too in the form of Darla, who breaks into his lair and tries to get him to turn back to the dark side. It's one of those, "You're not one of them, you're one of us! You thirst for blood!" things.
Giles looks up Angel's vampire past in the old Watcher diaries and discovers that he's known as Angelus, a particularly cruel and sinister vampire who inexplicably moved to America and stopped hunting altogether. There's much ado about whether or not a vampire could possibly be good: Giles says that all vampires are evil, but Buffy doesn't want to believe it's true. Her sacred duty dictates that she kill Angel, but her heart is saying NO!
Darla tricks Joyce into inviting her inside, attacks her, and frames Angel. Her whole deal is that she and Angel had a romantic history and she wants him to come back and Buffy to be gone, a goal that she will accomplish by forcing Angel and Buffy into mortal kombat. I'm telling you, these villains! Always underestimating Slayer strength!
Buffy discovers Angel and Joyce, and realizes that she has to kill him. She goes to the library, where, of course, there's a stronghold of crossbows and axes, and heads to The Bronze. Darla is back in Angel's lair trying to fire him up, telling him to kill, and he finally concedes because he just wants it finished. He also heads to The Bronze. In this corner, weighing 120 pounds, Buffy Summers! In this corner, a 240-year-old vampire!
Joyce tells Giles that the last person she saw before passing out was Darla, and he realizes that Angel was set up. But the death match has begun, only it takes a pause so that Angel can reveal the final piece of this dark secret!!!!! He was the one who killed his family, and their friends, and their friends' children, and did it with a song in his heart. At some point he pissed off the wrong gypsies, who cursed him by replacing his soul. "You don't know what it's like to do the things I've done, and to care," he explains. So it turns out Angel really is a good vampire! The vampire-soul issue becomes one of the most important pieces of Buffy lore, so not only is this episode pulpy and part of the epic love story, but it's integral to the development of the show.
After hearing this, Buffy throws down her weapon and tempts Angel to bite her. And, awww, he doesn't! But Darla, who just won't go away, shows up. Blah blah, Angel proves his true allegiance by killing Darla, which makes The Master REALLY sad.
So why do I love this episode so much when it's treading on such familiar ground? It's a perfectly realized romance that could have been its own movie, and will resonate with the whole concept of teen romance as well as the series-long concepts of duty and the demon/soul as a metaphor. And "Angel" does such a beautiful job with the doomed romance, summing up basically everything that will happen between them throughout the first three seasons, that you forget it's basically prototypical Twilight. They want to make it work, and they care about one another, and it's all terribly romantic and swoon-worthy, but it can never really be.
And this is never more evident than in my...
Favorite moment, which is one of my favorite moments in ALL of Buffy, sappy as it may be. At the end of the episode, Buffy and Angel meet at The Bronze, and before they part, they kiss one last time. "It's painful, I know," Buffy says, and walks away. What she doesn't see is that her crucifix necklace (that Angel gave her) burned into his flesh when they kissed. It's small, and it's cheesy, but it says more about these two than the entirety of the Twilight saga.