The secret is out. Well, one of them. In Revelations, everyone finds out about Buffy and Angel, resulting in a nasty little “intervention”. It makes for an interesting character study. The reactions of Willow, Xander and Giles are the key here, because they are the major players in this game who have the most emotional investment.
Willow is much more reasonable than Xander, but she is clearly thinking that she will need Buffy to be understanding when her own secret is revealed, so it’s not a good idea to act the saint. Besides that, she’s Willow. She was always going to be the most conciliatory one, despite probably having the most to be upset about. Buffy had very reasonable grounds (frustratingly unspoken here) for keeping Angel a secret from Giles and Xander, as she might have assumed they would head off immediately to try to stake him. Willow, on the other hand, is her best friend and should be her confidante at times like this.
Xander’s reaction is the least reasonable, especially when he later involves Faith, who clearly doesn’t have enough of the backstory to make an informed decision on whether Angel is stake-worthy or not. He lacks Willow’s impulse to be conciliatory, despite being in the same position as her with regards to his own secret, but I think old habits die hard for Xander. He was always jealous of Angel, and hates the idea of him being back. It’s not just about the danger Angelus poses. It’s the wound inflicted to Xander’s pride when Angel was the one to win Buffy’s heart, not Xander. That wound has left a scar that won’t go away. This is probably more of a factor than Xander believing he is in the right and Buffy in the wrong, and the evidence of that is the look of guilt he shows after involving Faith. Deep down, he knows he is doing the wrong thing, and his motivations are at best confused and at worst selfish.
Giles says nothing during the whole intervention, and the camera stays off him, keeping us in the dark about his feelings because we are unable to read them. When he does speak, he defuses the situation, but when he has Buffy on her own it’s a different matter:
“I must remind you that Angel tortured me for hours, for pleasure. You should have told me he was alive. You didn’t. You have no respect for me, or the job I perform.”
It’s strong stuff, and it’s raw. This season so far has been working hard to cement Giles even more as the father figure in Buffy’s life, showing him often as the male equivalent and equal to Joyce. In fact, he is clearly a much better parental figure than she is. To see him suffering this betrayal, and turning his back on Buffy, is hard to watch.
With Willow and Xander’s secret still intact, and therefore more revelations to come, perhaps the most significant aspect of this episode is what happens to Faith. She has to go through another watcher-based trauma, but more importantly she’s completely isolated. Buffy’s last-minute attempt to be her friend isn’t going to work, because actions speak louder than words. The events of the episode illustrated very clearly that she isn’t part of the gang, and their failure to involve her resulted in a dangerous misunderstanding that accidentally made her the enemy of the good guys. So in the end the message of this episode is not the obvious one about the consequences of lying. Instead, it’s about the danger of making somebody feel like an outsider. Sometimes deciding not to confide in a friend is even more damaging than telling them a lie. With Faith friendless and Watcher-less, alone in her Spartan room, who can she turn to now? RP
The view from the Sunnydale Press…
I could see it coming a mile off: the episode was going to reveal one of two things (if not both). Either the gang would learn about Angel or they’d learn about the infidelity between Willow and Xander. That’s ok though, because as I’ve said before, the show draws you in to the lives of the characters. And sure enough, Xander sees and follows Angel. Ok, so there wasn’t a huge surprise in that. I was more surprised that it looked like Willow was going to tell Buffy about Xander… Alas, since that didn’t happen after all, I called that predictable! What other non-surprises were there? Oh, Ms. Post. She’s introduced as Buffy’s answer to Mary Poppins (even being called that by Faith), but almost immediately I know she’d be bad. It seems that all Watchers are British, which only makes sense, but somehow I saw it coming a mile away that she was a bad seed. And yet, for all the non-surprises this episode offered, I really enjoyed it.
I think what made it enjoyable is the very thing I’ve already mentioned above: we are so invested in the lives of the characters, we want to know what happens next almost as much as we want to know about the monsters and the demons. And this episode does start to break free of the bonds of The Brooding Couple, Angel and Buffy. They are starting to develop their relationship again. Angel, whether through being a vampire, or through being tortured in a demon-dimension for a hundred years, knows where this week’s magic item will be and goes to collect it before the Nausicaan can but in turn, causes another loon to get it. (What? Nausicaan’s are from Star Trek? Well, I couldn’t get a good look at the demon’s face, but I was pretty sure he was from Trek…) This puts Angel in the unenviable spot of not being trusted. Again! While the friends are all against one another, Ms. Post shows up and makes herself a demon with a metal hand… with lightning skills. You’ve got to have skills! Ultimately, Angel saves Willow, who starts to like him again, and things look like they’ll go back to normal soon. Maybe.
Ok, nitpicking time. When Buffy beheads the Nausicaan-demon, she walks away. Will the local constabulary find a decapitated head in the cemetery lying next to a monster? Will that make it into the papers? I mean, the vampires burst like dust-filled balloons. What’s the story with this guy? Not so easy to hide a 7 foot monster! And I’ve been cut by glass in my life; pretty badly as a matter of fact. But Buffy is a miracle! She throws a shard of glass and lops off an arm with it. It was a good, clean cut too – the blood didn’t even know to flow. In fact, Post’s arm was more bloody from where the glove went in than where her arm was severed from her body! Well, if I have to pick nits, I need to compliment as well. I love that Giles is carrying around the hurt and anxiety of what Angel did to him. He should! It’s the natural way to be. This isn’t Doctor Who, where a major event could happen in one episode and be forgotten by the next. Oh, no, Giles would be carrying that around and I’m glad the writers acknowledge it. I’m also delighted that the writers crafted Willow as a character who stays the course of friendship with Buffy, even if it is because she knows that she too is carrying a secret. But the most impressive thing about this episode was “the big topic”.
Every week for some time now, I’ve noticed that this series manages to tackle something real under all that horror makeup. The first clue was from Buffy herself, who said something about Demons Anonymous, and later that she doesn’t need an intervention. But it was Giles simple, “he’s clean” that really scored the goal for me. Allegorically, Angel is a drug or alcohol user. He’s done terrible things under the influence which makes him a monster. Like the proverbial monster some alcoholics become, he’s damaged the trust his friends had in him. He’s tortured Giles, tried to kill Cordelia and the others, and broke Buffy’s heart. (Hell, she even had to kill him for it!) Now he’s clean; the demons influence is gone. But can the others really see that it is as black and white as a switch being flipped? How can they know Angel won’t relapse? Can they trust him again? How different would that be for any one of us in a real life situation where drugs or alcohol were involved? When our loved ones betray us, that takes a lot of work to get over and even a minor slip up could destroy years of work. As the audience, we know more than the others; we’ve seen the events from both sides, but from the story perspective, Buffy’s gang have no way of knowing for sure if Angel is really himself again and it may be some time before he really can prove to them that he is ok. And I find that sort of writing ingenious. The writing has been excellent around the big topics so I don’t think they will give Angel an easy path and we can’t be sure if the gang will forgive his past actions. Buffy definitely seems to want to, but even for her, there’s a lot of hurt to get over first. It’ll be an interesting arc and I want to see how they get over the pain of their past. It might not be so easy for these lovers to just walk it off… ML
Read next in the Junkyard… Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Lovers Walk