This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Angel, Season 1, Episode 7. This episode covers how season-long antagonist The Master is the protagonist in the main plot.
Also how the episode intertwines that plot with 2 subplots – one with Buffy as protagonist, one with Angel. And the way the episode serves as a Season Midpoint.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
Story Elements in Angel
In this podcast episode we'll look at:
- How the main plot and 2 subplots weave together perfectly
- A villain as protagonist
- 3 things a protagonist should do
- The Season 1 Midpoint
As I note on the show, my understanding of the role of the protagonist was deepened by listening to story expert Lani Diane Rich of Chipperish Media.
She explains protagonists and antagonists here and in many of her podcast episodes.
For help applying the 5-point story structure the podcast covers to your own work, a free story structure template is available on my patreon page. You don't need to be a patron to download it, though it's great if you'd like to be.
Support The Show
If you become a patron for as little as $1 a month, you'll not only help fund more episodes like Angel, you'll get access to bonus episodes.
Those episodes will include Buffy-adjacent stories (such as key Angel episodes). Also films or TV episodes that are intriguing from a story, theme, or character perspective.
Including Wonder Woman once I reach 50 patrons.
Next Up: I, Robot…You, Jane (S1 E8)
Angel Episode Transcript
I am Lisa M. Lilly, author of The Awakening supernatural thriller series and founder of WritingAsASecondCareer.com. If you love creating stories or just taking them apart to see how they work, you're in the right place.
This Week: Angel
This week we'll be talking about Season One, Episode Seven: Angel. In particular, I'll talk about how the main plot and two subplots weave together and the use of a character who is normally our antagonist as a protagonist in the main plot. The discussion will be spoiler-free except at the very end. But I'll give you plenty of warning.
Okay, let's dive into the Hellmouth.
The Main Plot and Two Subplots
As I sat down to analyze the plot points in this episode, I struggled to figure out exactly where they were. Which seems strange because I love this episode and I think it is very well structured.
After a while I realized it's because we have a main plot and two subplots.
The main plot is really the Master's plot to both kill Buffy and win Angel back. He is our protagonist, the Master that is, in this episode, though he acts through Darla, and though he normally is our antagonist during this season.
Our other plot, which you could also see as the main plot since Buffy is our traditional protagonist and it's her show, is Buffy wanting to be with Angel, falling for Angel. Which is really part of the overall series struggle Buffy has with trying to have a normal life and personal life, along with being the Slayer..
We also have a subplot for Angel wanting to be with Buffy. Angel is the protagonist of this plot.
I'll talk as I go along about why I don't see the Buffy/Angel subplots as one cohesive subplot, although all three of these plots are woven together so well that it did take me a while to see them separately.
The Opening Conflict
We start with our opening conflict. And remember that conflict is what draws the reader in and gets the reader intrigued, though it might or might not relate to the main plot.
Here it does if we see the Master's plot to kill Buffy and win Angel back as the main plot.
The Master starts out by saying “Zachary did not return from the hunt.” And there is a conversation between him and Colin — him being the Master, not Zachary who's gone — between the Master and Colin, the little boy vampire Chosen One from the last episode, and Darla.
They are all blaming Buffy. The Master asks Colin what he would do and Colin says “I would annihilate her.” The Master says something like, ‘From the mouths of babes.’ And Darla wants to be the one to kill Buffy but the Master says no, Darla has personal interest. He'll send ‘The Three.’
We don't know who The Three are but the tone tells us that this is something serious and ominous and not good for Buffy.
Party At The Bronze
The next scene is at The Bronze. It is the fumigation party before they are going to fumigate The Bronze and get rid of the cockroaches. Everyone gets a free drink if they bring up a cockroach that they killed.
Willow is explaining this to Buffy, which also obviously tells the audience about what is going on here, but Buffy is really not paying attention. And Willow says “What's it like where you are?”
This is when they get into a conversation about Angel and how Buffy is thinking about him, but she can't really see how she'd have a relationship with Angel.
She says, “How would that be? Every time he turns up it’s, ‘Hi, honey you're in great danger.’” This is a nice way, I've talked before about getting exposition in through conflict. And this is a very minor exposition issue, both the fumigation party and the Buffy/Angel relationship.
It's very quick, but it brings viewers up to speed with what's happening. And it does it through conflict because Willow’s explaining something and Buffy is not paying attention. They are good friends so Willow doesn't take it personally.
But there is a little conflict there and that helps keep us interested even as both characters are really telling us things that we need to know. We also see Cordelia and Xander exchange some insults on the dance floor.
We now move to our Story Spark or Inciting Incident which typically comes about 10% into any story, whether it's a book, a movie, or a 42+ minute episode of TV. And here we see that Story Spark right on target at four minutes and ten seconds.
The Three, these very powerful vampires, attack Buffy. There's a fight. Two of them end up holding her, one is advancing toward her. She looks nervous and there is a cut.
So this is the Story Spark for our plot which is driven by the Master, who wants to kill Buffy.
Two More Story Sparks
We have the credits and then we have Angel, who was lurking in the shadows, he joins the fight pulls one of the vampires off Buffy. And for the moment saves her. The fight continues.
Buffy then saves Angel and they race to her house. She says something like, you know, ‘Get in, come on in,’ which allows him to enter, though at that point we don't know that that's necessary for him to come in.
I see this moment as the Story Spark for both the Buffy plot and the Angel plot. This gets rolling their personal relationship, which is going to move to another level in this episode, as both of them will discover in less than direct ways how the other one feels.
Main Plot and Subplots
So why am I seeing the Buffy plot, Angel plot, and the Master’s plot as three separate plots? And, particularly, why are the Buffy and Angel plots not just one subplot? I think it's because I see a different protagonist for each one.
In her podcast How Story Works, story expert Lani Diane Rich gives a great definition of a protagonist, who is our main character. And she says,
“A protagonist does three things. The protagonist is the viewpoint character, that's the first one. The protagonist must have an active goal and propel the story forward. Also, the protagonist has the most at stake.”
Those three things are key to how I separate these plots.
Main Plot: The Master
In the main plot, the Master is the one who is moving that story forward. And he is our viewpoint character, either personally or through Darla, for that story of trying to kill Buffy and trying to turn Angel. It is his choices and decisions that move that story forward.
And he has the active goal. Buffy in that story is not the one with the active goal. She is reacting to the Master’s plot. She is defending and pushing back against it.
Then we get to Buffy’s and Angel’s relationship, Buffy is the protagonist of her story. We see much of it from her viewpoint — including how she feels when she thinks Angel has read her diary. When they kiss and he vamps out, all of this is her point of view – how she feels about it and what she chooses to do at different points in the story.
And I'll talk about those different plot points and how I see them fitting in her story.
So there she has the active goal which is to resolve her feelings about Angel. And first that takes one form of moving the relationship forward or knowing if he feels the same way.
It becomes having to deal with the turn, the reversal that he is a vampire, and then to trust him. But the relationship, how she feels about him, is her story. In that story she has the most at stake.
More on The Master Plot
And I should backup for minute, the Master in the plot about killing Buffy and getting Angel back, he has the most at stake because getting rid of Buffy is key to his strategy of getting out from his trap. Getting Angel back is both important to him for that reason, but also because he wants this group of vampires around him, including Angel and Darla.
When we look at the Angel/Buffy relationship from Angel’s perspective, we also see it through his eyes. We see scenes where Buffy is not there. We see him struggling with his past, who he is: not human, not vampire, something in between, and his struggle with how to live with that.
Darla brings that to the forefront, symbolizes that, and he ultimately must make a choice.
He has an active goal of wanting to not just be with Buffy, but wanting to find a way to live life and make up for the past and change and be a hero. So that is his active goal. In that story he has the most at stake because he is at a true crossroads.
So that's why I'm seeing these as three different stories. When I started looking at it that way it was easier for me to see how the plots moved in those stories and intertwined.
Back to Buffy and Angel in Buffy's house. Angel tells her that now they are okay, they’re safe inside the house because vampires can't come in unless they're invited. She says she heard that before, but she never tested it. That quick conversation in the heat of the moment gives the audience yet another rule about vampires.
Also, we talked before about misdirection. Here we have, to some extent, up to now, maybe not so much had a misdirection about Angel, but the show has held back something important about Angel — that he is a vampire.
And here if we go back and watch the episode, knowing that he is a vampire, this rule works because Buffy did in fact invite him into her home.
This rule also becomes key later when Joyce invites Darla in. So in that sense, the show has played fair with the audience. If we look back at all the episodes we don't see Angel doing anything that is inconsistent with him being a vampire.
Buffy and Angel Development
Angel is injured. He takes off his shirt, we see his tattoo. Buffy, I think, helps bandage him and they have one of these moments.
But Joyce comes home, cutting off any romantic interplay for that moment. Buffy tries to stall, kind of hoping, I think, that Angel will get out of the house — or actually, I take it back — she doesn't want Angel to get out of the house because the Three are out there and she doesn't know that he's a vampire.
But she's obviously trying to stall for time, and Joyce is a little bit suspicious. Then Angel comes out of the kitchen. And I really like that about Angel, that he wants to be as upfront as he can.
He doesn't want to be hiding back in the kitchen and not letting Joyce know that he's there.
Buffy claims he’s at community college, and he’s helping her with history. I really like Joyce in this moment because she clearly knows there's something more going on. But she doesn't give Buffy a really hard time about having this guy over when she's not there.
She just says ‘It's late’ and kind of pointedly says that. Buffy says ‘yes, she’ll say goodnight as well.’ So she pretends, after Joyce is gone upstairs, to say good night. And she takes Angel up to her room.
Suspension of Disbelief
In fiction, there is the concept of the suspension of disbelief. And usually what we mean is the story is so good it lures us in and we suspend our disbelief in things that otherwise we would not believe in, like vampires, because we love the story. Because the story has convinced us.
There's also what I think of as a willing suspension of disbelief, where as a reader or audience member we aren’t quite persuaded by something but we go with it because we enjoy the story.
We make a more active choice.
And here I feel like I willingly suspend my disbelief of Buffy taking Angel up the stairs into her room, they’re having this conversation. The house I don't think is that big. So I’m sure that Joyce would hear them, but I'm willing to just go with it because I want to have this scene and these moments between Buffy and Angel.
Buffy wants Angel to stay so that he'll be safe. And I might take back what I said about yeah, she doesn't know he's a vampire. But even if she knew that he was at this point and was okay with it, I think she would still want him to stay.
Not just personally because she would like him to stay, but because those vampires were so strong that she and Angel together had to run away, essentially. So she really wouldn't want Angel out there on his own.
The One-Quarter Turn: Subplots
They have this conversation, it's one of their, I’m pretty sure, it's their first truly personal conversation.
Buffy asks what Angel’s family thinks of his career choice and Angel says they're dead. It was vampires, it happened a long time ago.
This raises a brief story question, it's going to be answered at the end. It does make us intrigued about Angel's past.
And also, as with the invitation in, it is playing fair with the audience. Because it is something that is consistent both with Angel not telling Buffy he's a vampire, and with Angel telling the truth.
So he is also trying to be honest with Buffy. And Buffy says “So this is a vengeance thing for you?” And they go to sleep.
She also asks him about, when he lays down on the floor and she's lying in bed, she asks, does he snore? He says, “It's been a long time since anyone was in a position to tell me,” which is a very intimate moment all around. They're sleeping in the same room, he is telling her he hasn't slept with anybody else in a long time.
And I see this as the One-Quarter Turn for both the Buffy subplot and the Angel subplot.
So that One-Quarter Turn is something that generally comes from outside the characters and spins the story in a new direction.
And while this isn't totally outside the characters, because they are making a choice to have this conversation, they were thrust into the situation by the Three. It’s hard to imagine, given what has happened in the series so far, that Buffy and Angel would ever end up in Buffy's bedroom at night, going to sleep, having this conversation.
One-Quarter Turn: Main Plot
Our next scene is at the library. We get Xander feeling outraged that Angel stayed overnight — or maybe not outrage, he's feeling jealous. And when Buffy is talking about how wonderful Angel was, he says “Oh, oldest trick in the book.”
Buffy says “What, saving my life? Getting slashed in the ribs?” And he's kind of like, “Oh yeah, guys do that kind of thing all the time.”
Now I think we get to the One-Quarter Turn in the main plot of the Master trying to kill Buffy.
Giles says that Buffy must be hurting the Master if he sent the Three. So she has to step up her training. But the Three failed and so will offer their lives in penance. We then transition to the Master. So really what Giles has offered in the context of conflict, because everyone is worried about Buffy, he has offered the exposition that the Three are finished.
So now this next scene is really that turn, about thirteen minutes in, and the Master has Darla in fact kill the Three.
And that turns the Master's plot. Note that it did come from outside the Master. While he's the one who has Darla kill the Three, it is apparently lore or tradition, or some code of honor that the Three have, that because they failed they forfeit their lives. So it is from outside the Master.
Also, it's because Buffy and Angel defeated the Three in the sense of getting away.
So this, as a One-Quarter Turn should do, triggers a new direction and propels the plot toward the Midpoint. The Master must find a new way to get to Buffy and that is what is going to move us toward our Midpoint commitment by the Master.
We next see Buffy preparing to deal with whatever the Master throws at her next. She is in the library training with Giles. She wants to use the crossbow. Giles says she's not ready yet. He wants her to use, I forgot the name for them, these long poles.
She makes a joke about “What, am I going to fight with Friar Tuck?” and she beats him so quickly and then gets to have the crossbow.
The Midpoint: Buffy Subplot
At night Buffy brings Angel food because he has been hiding out in her bedroom all day. They have this mixup about her thinking that he read her diary, trying to backpedal around the things she wrote about him and claim it wasn't about him.
At the same time he is saying he can't be around her. He's older than her, he thinks about kissing her whenever he's with her. And they kiss, he vamps out. Buffy screams, he dives out the window.
Though it's a little bit early, it's almost 17 minutes in, so it's not quite at our Midpoint of the episode, I see this as our Midpoint reversal for Buffy in her personal plot to resolve her feelings about Angel, to have this relationship move forward.
Midpoint of the Series
In the pilot episode, we saw two things at the Midpoint. They are the two things that generally one or the other or both will happen in well-structured story: either a major reversal for our protagonist or a commitment by the protagonist — to fully commit to the quest and throw caution to the wind.
Here, this is a significant reversal for Buffy, no question. This person that she has fallen in love with turns out to not be a person.
And it is very typical of what Joss Whedon will do in his shows in that the character has a wonderful moment, what she has wanted, Angel feels the same about her, kisses her, and then immediately that is yanked away in the most awful way that Buffy could probably ever imagine.
This Midpoint Reversal propels the story forward. Everything Buffy does from this point on is driven by this reversal at the Midpoint.
Dealing With The Reversal
We see Xander and Buffy and Willow and Giles talking and Xander says, “Buffy has to kill Angel.”
And there's a little bit of comic relief with Cordelia, who overhears. Xander pretends that he's talking about an umpire, not a vampire and ‘everybody hates them.’
We then see Darla going to Angel.
She reminds him of their past together, and they have a conversation that is both antagonistic but has a lot of chemistry there between them. As they revisit their past sexual and romantic relationship, she baits him, scorns him. She says “You're living like them, you're fighting us like them, but guess what, you're not one of them.”
And as she says that she opens his blinds, and he has to cower away from the light. So it is a very visual and visceral argument that she makes to him. Not just using words but actions.
She says, “Go ahead, talk to Buffy, tell her about the curse, maybe she'll come around, and if she doesn't, you know where I'll be.”
So this is the Master, through Darla, propelling the story forward. I guess at this point she is both acting for the Master and for herself. You could see Darla as having yet another subplot that is part of the Master's plot.
Because she isn't only doing this for the Master, right, she's doing it for herself. She wants Angel back.
So I can definitely see an argument for that or even maybe that she is the one driving our main plot here. That's getting really complicated to go into four plots.
I think it works so well only because these are all so well integrated that it all weaves together into one story that has very strong character work and plot turns.
And I can't help pointing out the exposition here, which again, we get a little bit of through this conflict. This is the first time that we hear about this curse and it's in this very heated discussion between Angel and Darla and that's a great way to throw in that little teaser about something about Angel that we did not know.
Nearing the Main Plot Midpoint
Now we are nearing the Midpoint of the episode around 22 to 23 minutes in.
We have library research, Giles finds Angelus, references to Angelus in a diary. Gives us this background about him being a vicious vampire, then coming to America, shunning other vampires and just kind of staying out of the — I was going to say out of the history books — out of the Watcher diaries, I guess. But he does say that Angel was the most violent and vicious animal — he calls him an animal.
This also could be the Midpoint for Buffy's plot because it is part of that major reversal, but I still see that as happening when Angel vamps out, because that’s so much more personal.
The Midpoint: Main Plot
What we get immediately after that is what I see as the Midpoint of our main plot.
The Master and Darla are talking. Darla’s saying, “You gotta let me take care of it. Take care of Buffy and Angel. We’ll get Angel to kill Buffy and bring him back into the fold.”
Here's why I do see the Master, not Darla, as the protagonist of this plot because it is up to the Master to say yes. The fact that Darla is presenting this, but waiting for the Master to greenlight it means that he is the one in control. He is the one who makes this commitment, throws caution to the wind, fully commits.
Because now he isn't just going to try to kill Buffy, but to get Angel to do it and bring Angel back to them. Because for hundred years Angel has stayed away from vampires.
So note that although Buffy normally would be our protagonist, she is not the one driving the action in this plot.
The Master is driving the action. And from the Midpoint to the end, it should be the protagonist’s choice or what happened, either that major reversal or that all-in commitment, that propels the story forward. So here the Master does that by making a commitment.
We now have Buffy and Willow in the library. Buffy is saying she needs to get over Angel so she can kill him but she can't. “He's never done anything to hurt me.”
So she is moving forward from that reversal, trying to process that information, deal with, and figure out what she needs to do.
Darla is listening to this and forming her plan. She learns a lot, both about Buffy's life, so that she can weasel her way into Buffy's home, and about what is it that Buffy needs to be willing to kill Angel. Because the only way Angel will kill Buffy is if Buffy is trying to kill him.
Moving Toward the Three-Quarter Point Turn
Joyce is home alone. Darla knocks on the door, rings the bell, and pretends to be a schoolgirl in her schoolgirl outfit. She says she's there to help Buffy study.
And she seems to know so much — she knows that Buffy and Willow are at the library studying about the Civil War (although some of that information Joyce also gives her) — but she really seems know Buffy and talks about helping her with another aspect of history.
Joyce is persuaded that Darla is a friend.
And after all, just last night Buffy had another friend, a guy, there that Joyce had not met yet. Who supposedly was helping her study. So this fits with what what Joyce is seeing Buffy doing.
It doesn't seem strange that this girl shows up that Joyce has met before.
Inviting Evil In
Joyce invites her in, and we get a nice moment were Darla says, “Thank you for inviting me into your home.”
In the kitchen, she attacks Joyce. Angel comes to the house and he sees this, comes in, and tries to stop Darla. Darla thrusts Joyce at him and disappears after encouraging him to go ahead and give in to what he needs.
So he is holding Joyce and presumably this is the first time, or at least the first time in a long time, that Angel has been in this position where he is holding a human who is bleeding.
We can see that this is difficult for him. He does not want to bite her, to drink her blood, in sort of his head and who he wants to be. But he has this very visceral reaction, much as he did when he kissed Buffy, being so close to her.
You figure this has to be even stronger for him because there is blood there.
Three-Quarter Point Turn: Buffy Subplot
That is when Buffy enters and sees this, which looks very damning for Angel, because he's holding Joyce, he’s vamped out, Joyce is bleeding.
So this I see as Buffy’s Three-Quarter Turn for her personal plot because from reversal at Midpoint to here, she was still struggling with what to do. She didn't want to kill Angel. She was trying to figure out how to get herself to do it, but we saw that she was not there yet. If she could've found a reason, a way, to make it work, to not kill him, certainly that's what she would've done. Because she does talk about, ‘He hasn't hurt her.’ ‘Why did he not try to attack her’ and so forth.
But now she sees Joyce, and she is ready to kill Angel because of this.
It does arise from the reversal because that is why all of this is happening. If Angel hadn't vamped out, she hadn’t discovered he was a vampire, none of this would likely have happened.
For one thing, he probably wouldn't have been back at Buffy's house, Darla's plot wouldn't have worked on him.
And because it's TV we go from that moment to a commercial break. Great way to hook the audience, keep them watching through the end of the episode.
Throwing Angel Out
Buffy throws Angel out and says if he comes actual kill him. It's clear she is done.
At the hospital, Joyce is recovering, she's going to be okay. And she says, “Your friend came over.” Buffy, of course, given what she has seen, assumes that it was Angel.
And Joyce also comments about Giles being there and how the teachers at the school really do care about the students, which is kind of nice. Because it gives us an interpretation of know how she sees, or tells us how she sees, Giles being there. Which, looking back, would be really strange that your school's high school librarian shows up at the hospital.
But I think because Giles is just so appropriate about everything we don't have a sense that Joyce finds it strange that he is around.
The Three-Quarter Point Turn: Main Plot
Buffy now says she will go after Angel. She was stupid and she knows she has to kill him. She knows he lives near The Bronze and she brings her crossbow.
Darla now goes to Angel and says Buffy is hunting him. And she says something like, ‘You’ve had 100 years with no peace because you won't accept who you are.” She keeps pushing him on this. And he says, about 31 minutes, 32 minutes in, “I want it finished,” after Darla saying, you know, “What are you going to do?” He says, “I want it finished.” Or I think she says, “What do you want?”
This is the Three-Quarter Point in the Master's plot line, so our main plot, because now from that Midpoint commitment, to get Angel to do this through Darla, the Master’s set it up so that Buffy is hunting Angel.
Angel has to make a choice. And his choice is “I'm going to finish this.” It looks like he's done. He's done trying to straddle this line. He is going to embrace being a vampire again.
So this is the three-quarter turn from the Master's plot, which grew out of that Midpoint.
The Midpoint: Angel
At the same time, I see it as Angel’s plot, the Midpoint commitment for him. He is throwing caution to the wind and saying, ‘Okay, I'm done. I'm going to embrace that I am in fact a vampire. I'm not going to let Buffy kill me. I’m going to kill her because I cannot be a human being. I've tried and I can't and it's too painful and it's too difficult.’
The fact that these two come together here shows something that I feel is generally true in stories, which is your subplots usually do roughly follow the same plot structure as a main plot.
But often those points come at different parts of the narrative. So you might have that turn from outside the protagonist, it might not come one-quarter way through the story or the episode.
The Midpoint commitment is not necessarily at the Midpoint of the overall story, but it is a turning point and a commitment or a major reversal in that subplot. And it generally comes in the middle of that story for that protagonist.
So we see that here how our main plot roughly follows the timing that we’re used to in a structured story, but the Angel subplot kind of weaves in and out of it, as does Buffy's subplot.
Now we’re back at the hospital. Giles and Joyce talk and it becomes clear to Giles that it was Darla who attacked Joyce, not Angel. It is too late to catch Buffy, she's already on her way to The Bronze. But Giles, Willow, and Xander head there to try to meet her and let her know.
The Climax: Buffy Subplot
Now we move into our Climax scene for the, not so much the Master’s plot, but the Buffy plot about her personal feelings with Angel and to confront each other.
She attacks first. She shoots him with the crossbow and she misses. Now does she miss on purpose? She comes very close, maybe, it seems like maybe, although we have set up that this is a new weapon for her.
And just as an aside, which other podcasters and other bloggers have mentioned, what is the deal with the crossbow? It really makes no sense to me. It does not seem like a terribly useful weapon for one-on-one fighting. I mean I guess if I think ahead to the series, sure the crossbow is used it times for a long distance shot at a vampire. So that would be useful to pick off vampires from a distance.
But it doesn't make a huge amount of sense that she is relying on it so much when she can use a stake so well.
But maybe here I can see it because perhaps it would be too hard for her to actually stake Angel.
Maybe having that distance, she can deal with trying to kill him that way. And I'm completely reading that in after the fact. I have no idea if that was the goal of the writers or if it was just, they wanted a weapon where Buffy could conceivably miss.
I don't think we buy at this time that she would miss if she tried stake Angel. Like, yeah, he might fight her off, but we wouldn't get that, her just missing him. And he makes the comment that ‘she was a little off in her aim.’ And it opens up the space for them to have a conversation instead of just fighting and not talking about things.
Angel and Buffy Talk
She asks him why he didn't attack her before. Was it a game making her feel for him? And she says she's killed vampires before, but it's the first time she hated one. And he tells her he killed his family and his friends and children for a hundred years and then that he didn't for hundred years, that he did not hurt anyone, didn't kill anyone.
So she’s saying, ‘What happened, why did you start with my mom?’
He tells her about the Gypsy curse, and his soul being restored. So again we're getting his back story in a very dramatic way in the middle of conflict.
Also, this is not this character giving exposition to another character who already knows it. Buffy does not know the story, and she does need to know it to understand what happened.
The key thing Angel says is, “I can walk like a man but I'm not a man. I wanted to kill you tonight.” And that tells us that when he said that line to Darla earlier, ‘I want it finished,’ he was saying, ‘I'm going to kill her.’
And that's part of why I see that moment with Darla as his Midpoint commitment because he, at that time, took this position, made this commitment to do something that otherwise he was not going to do. And it is throwing caution to the wind for him. It's throwing away 100 years of not killing anyone.
Three-Quarter Point Turn: Angel Subplot
She now offers him her neck. I think she puts down the crossbow, offers him her neck, and says, “It's not so easy is it?”
So now we have, at about 37 minutes in, Darla saying “Sure it is!”
Before that, Angel did not know Darla was there, Buffy didn't know that. And this I see as the Three-Quarter Turn for Angel’s plot because it grows from his commitment, which he made with Darla. And that brings the plot to this point because Darla has come expecting that he is going to kill Buffy.
So it arises out of that commitment he made but it also turns the story in a new direction because Angel here does not attack Buffy. I guess the term really is what Angel does not do? He chooses to let Buffy live, and to embrace instead his humanity.
Darla coming in at that moment, though, came from both of those things, came from his commitment and will now turn the story. And she could not do that if he had not given her that hope. She might not even be there if he had not given her that hope that he was going to go forward.
Expressions of Love and Vulnerability
And Darla now says, “The saddest thing in the world is to love someone who no longer loves you.” And I love this because we are getting vulnerability from Darla. Yes, she's the villain, we don't want her to win. But I like that this is personal for her. It is not about just doing what the Master wants or freeing the Master.
It's because she still loves Angel, still wants to be with him. She created him as a vampire and now he doesn't want to be with her.
She says to Angel, “You had a chance to come home, you threw it away. You love someone who hates us. You're sick, you'll always be sick.”
When she says ‘You love someone who hates us,’ this is the true climax of the Buffy subplot because she realizes that Angel is in love with her. Someone else has told her that, but she realizes Angel loves her.
I find this a really interesting reflection because initially, well not initially, but in our scene between Buffy and Angel in that pivotal scene, Buffy tells Angel how she feels. But it's also in a very indirect way. She doesn't just say how she feels, she blurts it out because she thinks he's already read her diary. So he finds out in a roundabout way for sure how she feels. And now she finds out through Darla, not by him saying it directly how he feels.
This gives both of those moments even more power. Because it seems more certain and more true when something comes out either in that roundabout way that Buffy tells him how she feels, or to have Darla point it out, because Angel might never have said that.
And the fact that Darla, who loves him and hates this fact, is the one who says it, is such a strong moment.
Guns in the Buffyverse
Now Darla pulls out guns, which seems really weird to me. We don't see, I don’t think it's too much of a spoiler to say, we don't see guns a lot in the Buffyverse.
And though the show has not been going that long, it already seems kind of jarring. Darla says something like, ‘You don't think I came alone, do you?’ I always kinda wondered about the use of the guns and maybe it was just, they hadn't quite figured out how they were going to handle the fact that guns and weapons exist. Or maybe this was their opening effort to show that guns don't work in the Buffyverse.
But I also suspect, I was talking recently to a friend who loved the Dirty Harry movies. And I don't remember which one this came from, but there was a line where Clint Eastwood said something like “I didn't come alone” and pulls out his guns.
Maybe this was also just a call back to that. Because I believe Joss Whedon’s about my age and he may very well have watched those Dirty Harry movies. I watched them in black-and-white in reruns on — I live in Chicago — so on Channel 9, which is also the station that played Buffy.
I have to think that was somewhat of a purposeful call back to that Dirty Harry movie.
Anyway, we do get a little bit of comic, sort of campy, I don’t know what I want to say, because I’m blanking on the right word for it, but how the scene is blocked and how the scene is shot, because we have Giles flipping on a strobe light. (Because Xander, Willow, and Giles have come into the Bronze and yelled down to Buffy what she already knows. That it wasn’t Angel, it was Darla who tried to kill Joyce. And Giles throws this strobe on to confuse things.)
Buffy ducks behind this counter. And she's kinda running back and forth and it looks very much like a shooting gallery scene which is kind of funny and add some lightness.
The Climax: Master Main Plot and Angel Subplot
The Climax of the Angel subplot is also the Climax of the Master’s main plot, which is that Angel kills Darla. And this is such a strong Climax for the main plot because it ends the Master’s efforts to get Angel back and also deprives him of his favorite, who is Darla.
But it is an even stronger Climax for the Angel subplot because when he kills Darla, he is also essentially killing his past as Angelus or, at least, I guess he can't kill that, but severing his ties. She represents Angel as a vampire — his entire life as a vampire. She sired him. He was with her all his time as a vampire until this curse, and even as he struggled with that, because she knows something about him struggling against who he becomes when his soul is restored to him.
This is his point of no return in a way. He is killing part of his own life. It may be a part that he doesn't want to embrace anymore, but it was such a huge part of who he was and he had this deep connection with Darla.
We now shift to the Falling Action which is about 40 minutes in.
We only have two or three minutes left and we need to tie up the loose ends and see the fallout from the Climax for our different plots.
So our main plot, we have the Master, he's destroying things, he says Darla was his favorite. He mourns the loss of Angel. And Colin says, “Darla was weak. We don't need her. I’ll bring the Slayer to you and when you rise you will kill them all.” Which makes the Master feel so much better.
We then get the Falling Action for both the Buffy and Angel subplots.
We’re at the Post-Fumigation party at The Bronze. Buffy and Willow are again talking about Angel. So it's a nice bookend to the beginning of Buffy's story with Buffy and Willow. Buffy says she feels like Angel is still watching her and Willow points out that’s because he is, and he’s right across the room.
Buffy goes over. They have this conversation about how this relationship can't happen between them and how hard it is, and they kiss anyway. Her cross is burning him when they kiss. But she doesn't know it and we only see that as she walks away. And that is the end of the episode.
It also does what we want, which is to draw the audience back in on two fronts.
One, this seems to have, in the main plot, raised the importance of Colin and hinted at things to come. And here, of course we want to know what will happen with Buffy and Angel.
Commentary on Angel
This episode wasn't written by Joss but by David Greenwalt, which kind of surprised me because I just assumed Joss would've written this episode himself.
David Greenwalt went on to become the co-creator of Angel. So I looked him up to see what he had to say about Angel.
I didn't find a commentary specifically on this episode. But I did find a lot about the show, Angel, on the BBC home page, the BBC UK homepage. So I'll put a link to that in the show notes.
And here's just one of his quotes about Angel:
He's been around for 251 years and he's done every horrible thing you can imagine, and then was cursed with a soul a little over 100 years ago. It's a metaphor for being cursed with a conscience, for being cursed with “Oh my god I remember all the terrible things I've done.” So he's on a road to redemption, he really wants to make up for his horrible past. He'd have to live 500 years to really do it, so it's a one-day-at-a-time thing.
I like this quote for this episode because I feel like it really encapsulates the struggle that Angel has. That he does remember every horrible thing that he has ever done and he's on this road to redemption, but it is hard.
He was very tempted to embrace what could be seen as the easier path, to basically, I think, try to kill his conscience by killing Buffy. And instead, he embraced his humanity by loving Buffy instead.
That is all I have for this episode.
Next week will be talking about I, Robot. And it is probably like Teacher's Pet, not a favorite episode of a lot of fans, but I think that it holds together better than Teacher's Pet. Or at least, I always like it better when I come back and watch it. Maybe just because it's a Willow-centric episode and I find it really fun.
So that will be coming next Monday night. In the meantime you can find me on Twitter @LisaMLilly #buffystory.
If you are open to hearing a little bit about spoilers, please stick around. And if not, thanks so much for listening.
And we’re back with a few spoilers. For one, Cordelia and Xander.
Cordelia and Xander
There is no way I would've guessed that they would eventually become a couple. We get this trading of insults both at The Bronze and then a little bit when they're outside and Buffy is talking about being in love with Angel and the vampire/umpire thing.
You definitely get that they have this insult trading that could easily become banter. Also the fact that they keep doing that, it’s a little bit of a hint. Initially, I saw it just as comic relief. But I can, now knowing what happens with them, can sort of see it.
Buffy and Angel
We also get foreshadowing of Buffy eventually needing to kill Angel, because the first time she finds out he's a vampire, this is set up that her duty, really, is to kill him.
I think that you have to deal with that. So it wouldn't necessarily have foreshadowed that eventually she is going to be faced with that choice in a more devastating way at the end of season 2.
But there's definitely a little foreshadowing there.
Season Arc Buffy
On a larger scale, as to the season arc, I find it significant that Angel comes in the middle of the season. So it is the Midpoint of the Season 1 story arc.
If we see the season arc being more about Buffy dealing with trying to live a normal life and be the Slayer, this is a reversal because this is when she realizes the man she's falling for, who has been helping her fight, is a vampire. And is absolutely the wrong person for her, the worst person for her in that sense and not a person at all.
It is also a commitment for her and a ‘throwing of caution to the wind.’ Because even when she doesn't know about the curse, all she knows is he's a vampire, she is not willing to kill him. She resists killing him. And she only does it when she is pushed to it by believing that he attacked her mother.
She commits in that sense of saying, in essence, that her feelings matter more.
Not that her feelings matter more, once she sees or thinks she sees Angel is actively trying to kill people. But when the evidence is that he's a vampire, but there is nothing he is doing right now, she doesn't see him as a danger right now, she commits to instead following her heart and how she feels and her instinct to trust him.
Likewise, when she offers him her neck. She doesn't know yet. He might still try to kill her. And he tells her, “I came here to kill you.”
So this is a commitment on her part to be more than just the Slayer. Because certainly the Slayer handbook — we’re going to hear more about much later in the series, kind of in a sort of funny comic way — I think it would definitely say ‘Yeah, hey, he's a vampire kill him.’
In fact Kendra makes that argument, when she comes into the show.
So this is also commitment. And I feel something of a statement of the series, which is that generally Buffy is not going to kill vampires or demons that she has reason to believe are not actively trying to hurt anyone or kill anyone. The most major example of that is Spike, much later down the road.
Season Arc – Master
So back to the season arc. The Master commits at the Midpoint by calling in the Three.
This is the first time he has gone outside of his small group of vampires to bring in, kind of the big guns, the Three.
But more so at the end we see a shift to Colin, as the Chosen One, being more active, saying, ‘I will bring her to you and you'll rise and you will kill them all.’ In our last episode, it is Colin who brings Buffy to the Master. So that is both a Midpoint in our story arc and a bit of foreshadowing. It tells us that Colin is going to be pivotal and sets us up for that.
That's it for the spoilers and foreshadowing.
I hope to see you next week to talk about I, Robot.
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