Becoming Part 1 S2 E21 (Buffy and the Art of Story)

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on Buffy and the Art of Story Becoming Part 1 (Season 2 Episode 21 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer):

This podcast episode covers (1) use of recurring images and actions to link characters’ stories together; (2) major plot points through the Midpoint for the 2-episode story arc; (3) how those points intertwine with episode plot turns; and (4) in spoiler section, how this episode sets up the next one, Season 3, and Willow’s series arc.

As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).

Last Week: Go Fish

Next Up: Becoming Part 2

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About Lisa M. Lilly

In addition to hosting the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story, Lisa M. Lilly is the author of the bestselling four-book Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries, as well as numerous short stories. She also writes non-fiction, including books on writing craft, under L.M. Lilly. She is the founder of

Episode Transcript for Becoming Part 1

Hello and welcome to the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story Season Two. If you love Buffy the Vampire Slayer and you love creating stories – or just taking them apart to see how they work – you’re in the right place.

I am Lisa M Lilly, author of the Awakening supernatural thriller series and the Q.C. Davis mysteries and founder of

Today we're talking about Becoming Part One, the first part of the two-part finale of Season Two.

What’s Included

There's so much to talk about here. A few points in particular:

  1. the use of recurring images and actions to link the characters’ stories together;
  2. what I think is the best use of flashbacks we have seen in Buffy so far, because those flashbacks tell a story of their own;
  3. major plot points through the Midpoint for the two-episode story arc; and
  4. (in the Spoiler section)n how this episode sets up the next one, Season Three, and Willow's series arc.

As always, there will be no Spoilers except at the end to talk about foreshadowing, but I’ll give you plenty of warning.

Okay, let's dive into the Hellmouth.

Becoming Part One was written and directed by Joss Whedon.

Opening Conflict – Voiceover

We start with a voice over. We’ll later meet this character Whistler, a demon who seems to be on the side of good.

Whistler: Here's the thing. There's moments in your life that make you….Some are little or subtle and some are not.

A subtitle tells us we are in Galway 1763. Angel as a human and his friend are being thrown out of the pub. The friend passes out in the street. Angel sees a woman. Her back is to him, and she walks down an alley. She looks a lot like the drawing of the woman in the fancy dress that Buffy saw in the Halloween episode in the Watcher diaries.

Angel Meets Darla

Angel follows her and asks what a lady of her station is doing in an alley with a reputation like this one. Darla says maybe she's lonely. Angel offers himself as escort. He sounds like a bit of a smart ass and kind of smarmy. But she smiles and asks if he's up to the challenge. He says with the exception of an honest day’s work there's no challenge she's not prepared to face.

The two talk, and Darla tells him she's from far away. From everywhere. Angel says he's never been anywhere himself.

This is the first time he sounds genuine. There's a note of longing and almost wistfulness in his voice as he says he's always wanted to see the world.

Close Your Eyes

Darla's eyes light up, and she says she can show him things he's never seen. Frightening things.

Angel: I'm not afraid. Show me your world.

Darla: Close your eyes.

He does. She goes into vamp face, holds him, and bites him. Now his eyes open. As she is feeding on him she lets go. He drops to his knees, and she draws her nail across her own skin above her breasts, drawing a line of blood.

She brings his face to her, and he drinks.

This whole scene implies that Angel chose the vampire life to some extent despite that he didn't fully know what he was choosing.

And maybe this is part of why we blame Angel. Or the show blames Angel for his wrongdoing as a vampire. Or at least maybe it is why he is so willing to take on that guilt.

We’re at 2 minutes 52 seconds into the episode. This scene fades and shifts into Angelus in the present day.

Angel Watches Buffy Fight

He is watching Buffy. She's fighting a vampire in the cemetery. Buffy knocks the vamp down and tells him to get a message to Angel. She's done fighting. She says, “I'm taking the fight to him.”

But the vamp here keeps on fighting, and Buffy has to stake him.

She walks behind a tombstone and helps someone up. We see that it Xander. He says he's fine, and what is that, five vampires? Buffy says yes, in two nights, but no Angel.

Xander asks if she's really that anxious to come up against Angel. And she says she wants it over with and then that they better go, she hasn't even started studying for finals get.

Xander says something like, oh, finals, why didn't you let me die?

Buffy: Look on the bright side. It'll all be over soon.

The Story Spark Of The First Half (Becoming Part One)?

We’re at 4 minutes 19 seconds in. Angel from the shadows says to himself, “Yes, my love, it will.”

And we go to credits.

This is about 10% through the episode. Usually at that point in any story we see the Story Spark or Inciting Incident that gets the story rolling.

But Becoming is part one of the two-episode arc. So 10% in would be more like 8-10 minutes in.

I do think this comment, though, is that hint of conflict we need to keep our attention and keep the audience engaged.

Our next scene after the credits shows us what really got the story rolling. Though we don't know exactly when it happened.

The Monolith

At 5 minutes 19 seconds in, two men in a museum are working on a large rectangular rock. It stands about 10 feet tall, or 5 feet taller than the two men. It's a few feet deep, maybe 5 feet wide, grey stone, craggy, with writing on it.

Giles walks into the room. The curator is happy to see him, saying he called the Washington Institute and they told him that the best authority in obscure relics was right here in Sunnydale. Giles smiles, but says this might be a bit exaggerated.

This is a nice small amount of conflict to help the exposition come in. If you hadn't seen the show before you would know something about Giles. The curator says the construction workers dug up this rock outside of town and they don't know what it is.

Recurring Images

Interestingly, the rock looks a little like the monoliths we see in Agents of Shield, another Joss Whedon show. I mention it only because it shows that, like all artists, Whedon has recurring themes and imagery that comes back into his stories.

I've noticed this in many writers’ work, including my own. And I always feel like I need to be a little cautious about repeating those themes. But on the other hand, it clearly is part of what drives each of us to create. And audience members are often drawn to those same visions and images.

Giles Doesn’t Like Surprises

Here, Giles looks over the rock. He uses a pick to scrape a sample into a jar and sees that there is a seam in the rock. And he ays he assumes they haven't tried to open it.

The curator hadn't realized it could be opened. And he's ready to go ahead right now, but Giles asks him to wait. He wants to translate the text on it first.

Curator: You don't want to be surprised?

Giles: As a rule, no.

This is our first call back to the episode Surprise. That episode was part one of the two-part episode where Angel lost his soul. A pivotal point for the series and for Buffy and Angel, as this two-parter now is.

And I can't help thinking Giles’s dislike of surprises relates back to that moment.

A Fish Story

The next scene takes place in the cafeteria, Xander acts out Buffy's fight scene from the night before using fish sticks and a toothpick. Cordelia laughs.

Oz: I thought it was riveting. I was a little unclear about some of the themes.

Willow is sitting on Oz's lap. So we quickly learn that she has a boyfriend even if we missed previous episodes. Or if we only saw Go Fish and weren't aware of Oz at all.

Buffy says the theme of the story is that Angel is too much of a coward to face her.

Xander says the other thing was buy American but it got kind of buried.

Willow asks if Buffy thinks she's ready to face Angel. Buffy says she wishes people would stop asking her. She's ready. She's also willing and able.

Buffy: It's the one test I’m likely to pass.

Willow says don't worry she'll get Buffy through finals.

The Story Spark In Becoming Parts One And Two

And then at about 8.5 minutes in they agree to meet in Willow's classroom to go over chemistry after six o’clock.

I see this as the Story Spark for the two-part story, even though it's a little short of 10% through the double episode. Though we don't know why it's so significant, this decision sets the story in motion from Buffy's perspective. Because in the classroom after school is where and when Buffy will find that lost plastic disk with Jenny's spell on it to restore Angel's soul.

It's not completely clear here, though, where exactly a single Story Spark is.

Unlike other episodes where even one of the points is unclear and it kind of muddles the plot for me, though, I don't feel that way, here. I feel here that it works. And maybe it's because we already have so many plots in motion.

We've got this flashback on Angel — we are going to learn more about that because of Whistler's voiceover. We have the finding of this rock her monolith. And we have Buffy's tension over schoolwork and this moment that will lead to trying to restore Angel's soul.

Cafeteria Conflict

Back to the cafeteria. Cordelia expresses admiration for Willow. She says Willow really has the teaching bug. She's taking over the computer class, tutoring, and it's great because that way when she goes out and fails in the real world she’ll be falling forward into something instead of falling back.

Xander says that was about 65% actual compliment and was that a personal best? This is more nice use of kind of low-level conflict to get in more exposition. This time about Willow taking over Ms. Calendar's class.

Cordelia laughs and squeals as she and Xander joke around. And she tells him to get his fish hands off of her. A nice double reference to fish sticks that he just used and the last episode, Go Fish.

Principal Snyder, though, is not amused. He walks in and tells them that's enough. And he turns to Willow and says, “And you. Is there a chair shortage?”

Willow says she didn't read about and then, “Oh I get it,” and slides into a chair.

Snyder: This isn't an orgy, people. It's a classroom.

Buffy: Yeah, where they teach lunch.

Snyder: Just give me a reason to kick you out, Summers. Just give me a reason.

This echoes early in the season when Snyder told Giles that, I think he said, “I smell an expulsion coming.” And throughout he has been pinpointing Buffy as what he sees as the source of a lot of the trouble in the school.

London Flashback

Now were about 9 minutes 40 seconds in, and we switch to London in 1860. We see church grounds. There is a spire and chanting or singing in the background. A woman in a veil kneels and crosses herself in church. It's Drusilla. She goes into a confessional.

If you haven't been in one of these, there are three booths. The priest is in the center and on either side a person can come in and wait to confess their sins to the priest. The booths were for the most part soundproof. So that you couldn't hear what was going on in the other side until the priest slid open this window.

But there was a net or grate over that window so that neither side could really see each other. And the idea was that the priest wouldn't know who was making their confession.

As the audience, we see that Angelus is in the confessional and has just killed the priest.

Key Moment For Drusilla

Drusilla is unaware. She says it's two days since her last confession. Angel plays the role of the priest. At first it seems like he's doing it just to avoid detection. But then he becomes intrigued by her.

So we are seeing now the first time he meets Drusilla. And he is hidden from her in the same way that later in the episode he will be hidden when he first sees Buffy.

Drusilla sounds as lucid as we've ever heard her.

And I love this glimpse into her life as a human. She tells Angel she's been “seeing again. That yesterday something came over her. She saw a horrible crash in the mine.

Her mother told her it meant nothing. But then today there was a cave-in and two men died. Her mother told Drusilla she's cursed. She's an affront to God.

Drusilla says she doesn't mean to do it, to see things. She's so upset. She tells Angel that she tries to be pure. And she's crying as she says, “I don't want to be an evil thing.”

Angel Manipulates Dru

Angel tells her to hush. “The Lord has a plan for all his creatures. Even a devil child like you. All the Hail Marys in the world won't help that.”

She begs him. She wants to be pure. Please help her. Please.

And he says finally, “Say ten Our Fathers and an Act of Contrition. How does that sound?” She thanks him. And he tells her God is watching her.

From previous episodes we know that after this, he tormented her. Killed all her family and tortured her until she went into a convent. Then he turned her into a vampire.

Episode One-Quarter Twist

That part is not said here. But we do see what ultimately happens to Drusilla because the scene switches to her drifting into the courtyard in the dark. She says the moon started whispering to her. Something terrible is coming it at the museum. A tomb with a surprise inside.

So this is our second mention of a surprise. And it cues us that this will affect Buffy and Angel in some cataclysmic way.

We’re at almost 13.5 minutes in. I see this as a One-Quarter Twist in the episode. That major plot turn generally comes from outside the protagonist and spins the story in a new way. Though we are in a two-episode story arc, so we aren't at its one quarter point. Yet I do like the way this episode has its own momentum.

Because this scene does turn the story. Dru, Angel, and Spike learn about the museum find.

Not without a little bit of sparring between Angel and Spike.

Angel (to Drusilla): You can see all that in your head?

Spike: No, you ninny. She read it in the morning paper.

And he hands Angel the paper with a front-page article about an obelisk being found.

Angel: Soon it'll stop whispering. Soon it'll scream.

Buffy Struggles

The scene switches to Buffy and Willow in Willow's classroom.

Buffy: Waa, this of us doesn't make any sense.

Willow: Sure it does. (She takes Buffy's paper.) Oh, no, this doesn't make any sense.

Buffy says it senseless she's frustrated and feels stupid. But Willow says at least she knows that, so she's learning. Buffy, feeling more encouraged, is about to look at her paper again. A pencil slips out of her fingers rolls across the desk. It falls into the space between the desk and the file cabinet.

We see there a small plastic disc back from the episode Passion where Jenny was killed. She had saved the spell to restore Angel's soul on this disc. And it fell there and nobody knew about it.

Buffy doesn't see it now when she retrieves her pencil. She sits up again and says, “Okay I'm learn girl.”

But when Willow talks, Buffy says, “Déjà vu.” And says she has a perfect memory of the pencil rolling, and she sets it rolling again. It drops again into that space. And this time Buffy notices the disc when she retrieves the pencil.

Discovering A Disc

She hands it to Willow, who says it's not hers. But it must be Miss Calendar's. She pops it into the disk drive. Buffy says it seems kind of morbid to look at Miss Calendar's files. And Willow says she's been through most of them.

Buffy asks if that makes Willow more or less morbid, and Willow says she had to do it to teach the class.

Handling Backstory Without Spoiling Past Installments

So we have more conflict, somewhat minor, but it helps us get in that exposition. Why Willow is teaching, that she looked at Jenny's files, and that Jenny is dead.

The file decrypts.

Buffy is looking at it and says, “Does that say restoration?”

Willow, though, is not looking at the screen. She's looking at Buffy. And says, “Oh, it's probably one of Miss Calendar spells. Even though she wasn't a practicing witch….”

So we get a little more exposition. And it fits because Buffy might not know all of what Willow has been finding on the computer or that much about Miss Calendar's spells. And there is tension because Buffy is tense.

She's staring at the screen, seeing something that Willow has missed. and she interrupts and says, “Willow.”

Willow looks and says, “Oh boy, oh boy. Oh boy.”

And we cut.

That scene worked whether you know the back story or not. So it's a great example of how to handle that.

If you are writing any sort of installment series – a movie a novel – sometimes you need to quickly catch your reader up on past events. And this is a good way to do it, to have enough to put it in context for the new viewer woven in with a little bit of tension. The tension keeps it interesting. But avoid having so much detail that it bores the audience that already knows what happened.

Flashback To Original Spell

Our next scene shows the original spell to restore Angel's soul. So this is another flashback. It's the point of view of someone who is running and breathing hard. We switch between that and a gray-haired woman chanting with candles lit.

Angel is running. He falls to the ground. The glass by the old woman glows. Angel's eyes glow. He is disoriented. He asks where he is.

A man has come to meet him, and he tells Angel that everything he's done he'll remember it all in a moment. The face of everyone he's killed. It will all haunt him and he will know true suffering.

Angel says, “Killed. I don't, I don't – ”

And then it hits him. And he says, “No no no.” He is sobbing.

Happiness, Anxiety, And Writing

Because were living in anxious times, today's episode is sponsored by my book, Happiness, Anxiety And Writing: Using Your Creativity To Live A Calmer, Happier Life.

Asking “What if?” and imagining the worst possible outcomes works great to ratchet up tension and conflict in stories. But in real life it adds to anxiety. As do a lot of habits creative people develop.

This book shares ways to use your imagination to create a calmer, happier life, rather than increasing your stress. The book covers:

  • techniques to derail anxious thoughts you otherwise repeat;
  • ways to talk to yourself and others that promote calm rather than reinforce worry;
  • specific targeted exercises to direct your creative mind and imagination in a positive way;
  • and how and when to write and rewrite the best parts of your life for greater happiness.

Part memoir, part How To, I include in the book examples from my own experience dealing with anxiety and learning to create a more relaxed and healthier lifestyle. Look for Happiness, Anxiety And Writing by L.M. Lilly on Amazon, through your local bookstore, wherever you buy e-books, or through the link in the show notes.

The Best Use Of Flashbacks

This episode I think has the best use of flashbacks that we've seen. Because these flashbacks, if we put them all together, tell their own story. Which is the story of Angel becoming a vampire, getting a soul, and later wanting to end the world, as well as some of what happens in between.

They also carry our theme of Becoming. Angel becoming a vampire. Drusilla becoming a vampire. And a little bit later, Buffy becoming the Slayer.

The Curse

Nearly 18 minutes in we are in the library. Buffy and Willow tell the others that Miss Calendar was trying to replicate the curse to restore Angel's soul.

Cordelia: This is good, right? I mean, we can curse him again.

Giles says it points the way but it requires more black arts knowledge than he has. Willow, though, says she's been researching the black arts for fun – educational fun –and she may be able to do the spell. Giles warns her that channeling such potent magics through herself could open a door she can't close.

Buffy says she doesn't want Willow putting herself in danger. Willow also says she doesn't want danger. Big no to danger. But she might be the best person to do this.

Xander Pushes Back

Xander jumps in and says, “Hi. For those of you who have just tuned in, everyone here is a crazy person.” He goes on to say that so the spell might restore Angel's humanity. Who cares? Angel's a killer.

He stands as he's talking.

Buffy says it's not that simple. They argue. Cordelia stands behind Xander and says he has a point. He gets angry and says for once he wishes she'd support him and then that he realizes she did, and now he's embarrassed so he'll just go back to his point.

Angel needs to die.

Giles says cursing Angel seems to have been Jenny's last wish. And Xander says, “Yeah well, Jenny's dead.”

I think this may be the only time that Xander calls her Jenny rather than Miss Calendar.

Giles steps toward him and says, “Don't you ever – ”  They're all yelling and Buffy yells at them to stop it.

Willow Is There For Buffy

Buffy and Willow face each other. The camera does a close up on them. And Willow asks Buffy what she wants. As always, the great friend. Buffy doesn't know what she wants, but she says what happen to Angel wasn't his fault.

Xander: Yeah, but what happened to Miss Calendar is.

He goes on to say that Buffy can paint it anyway she wants, but the way he sees it, “you want to forget all about Ms. Calendar's murder so you can get your boyfriend back.”

Buffy walks out.

Episode Midpoint Reversals All Around

We're a little past 20 minutes in, so we are nearing the Midpoint of the episode and the one-quarter point timing wise of the two-episode arc. At a story’s Midpoint, we usually see a major reversal for the protagonist or a major commitment to the quest or both. So we will see one of those at the end of this episode, which is the Midpoint of the two-episode arc here.

Though I think it's interesting that we do see a bit of a reversal for Buffy here in that she is so discouraged that her friends – at least Xander and Cordelia – are not supporting her. And Giles is warning of the danger of doing this thing.

The next scene also has something of a reversal for Buffy. Drusilla, Angel, and other vampires go to the museum and kill the curator. Angel looks at that giant stone and says, “I'll take one of these to go.”

At 20 minutes 50 seconds in, Buffy is on the phone to Willow. She's gathering supplies for patrolling.

Buffy: Xander was pretty much being – Willow! Where did you learn that word?

This is nice. We don't technically need this moment. But I like that the show acknowledges that Xander was being awful.

As Buffy gathers supplies she sees the ring that Angel gave her. She is holding it  and looking at it as she tells Willow she doesn't know what she wants to do.

The Buffy and Angel theme music plays in the background.

A Surprise Visit

In the next scene Buffy is out patrolling and Kendra, the other Vampire Slayer surprises her.

Buffy: You know, polite people call before they jump out of bushes to attack you.

She guesses the reason Kendra is there is that Kendra's watcher told her a dark power is about to rise in Sunnydale. Kendra says that's pretty much it. And Buffy says, “Any idea what it is?

Cut To The Big Rock No One Else Has

And here we get one of my favorite cuts ever in Buffy because we switch to Spike, Angel, and Drusilla. So Buffy’s just said, “Any idea what it is?” And Spike says –

Spike: It's a big rock. I can't wait to tell my friends. They don't have a rock this big.

They are all in a long hallway. He is in his wheelchair at one and the rock is at the other end of the hall. Spike, Angel, and Drusilla are looking at it. Angel responds to Spike, and he is scornful. He says Spike never learned history. And Spike says, “Let's have a lesson then.”

Angel says the demon Acathla was meant to swallow the world. He was killed by a virtuous night who pierced his heart and Acathla turned to stone. He was buried, “where neither man nor demon would want to look. Unless, of course, they're putting up low-rent housing.”

The other vampires open the stone box. Inside is Acathla, made of stone but with a sword piercing into his chest. Angel says that when someone worthy pulls out the sword Acathla will awaken and swallow the world whole.

One-Quarter Twist Of Becoming Parts One And Two

Angel approaches Acathla and says, “My friends, we’re about to make history.”

And this is the One-Quarter Twist in our two-episode arc.

Ao about one quarter through a well-structured story we see something coming from outside the protagonist and spinning the story in a new direction. And we get that here because now our story will focus on Angel trying to bring Acathla awake to swallow the world. And Buffy stopping him.

Acathla looks a little bit like The Judge from Surprise and Innocence. So it is another call back to that pivotal Buffy and Angel episode. And I don't think it's an accident that with The Judge, Spike and Dru wanted to essentially end the world by ridding the earth of the plague of humanity.

And here, Angel wants to have the world sucked into hell.

We cut to a commercial.

Giles Warns Of The Stakes

And then we are back in the library. Giles gets off the phone. He tells the others that the artifact (meaning that rock) is missing, and the curator is dead.

Buffy: And we’re sure it was the tomb of Alfalfa?

She will mangle the name throughout the episode. Giles corrects her, and Willow asks what sucking into hell means exactly. Giles says the demon dimension is different from ours. With one breath, Icathla sucks the world into it and all non-demon life will suffer horrible eternal torment.

Buffy: So that would be the literal sect into hell. Neat.

Buffy tells Willow she should try the curse. Kendra, in a much more kind way than Xander, says, “I tend to side with your friend Xander. Angel should be killed.”

And Buffy says she'll fight Angel, she’ll kill them if she has to, but if she loses Willow might be their only hope.

Willow: I don't want to be the only hope. I crumble under pressure. Let's have another hope.

Kendra pulls out a sword from a case that she brought with her. And she says they have another hope. A sword blessed by the knight who originally slew Icathla. If all else fails, it might stop him.

Spells And Rituals In Becoming Part One

Willow needs another day to figure out the spell. And she needs an Orb of Thessala. Whatever that is. Giles says it's a spirit vault for rituals of the undead. “I've got one. I've been using one as a paperweight.”

This is a nice call back to the episode, Passion, the one where Jenny was killed. If you remember, she was in the shop to get an Orb of Thessala. And the shopkeeper scoffed at the people who buy them as new age paperweights.

Giles says Angel has a ritual of his own to complete before he can remove the sword and hopefully it will take some time. This at the moment seems like a bit of a throwaway line, or a way to explain why we don't immediately have the ritual go forward.

But it turns out that this is key to a development at the very end of the episode.

Spike, Angel, And Drusilla

We switch to Drusilla. Spike is in another room alone and is out of his wheelchair. She calls to him and he hops into it just before she comes into the room. She says it's time to begin.

In the long hallway a man is on his knees. His shirt is off. He's tied up. And Angel recites words for the ritual ending with: “Bear witness as I ascend. As I become.”

Spike looks bored, Angel vamps out. He bites the guy and there is blood on Angel's hand. Angel says, “Everything I am has led me here.”

We switch to Manhattan 1996. Angel is again in an alley. So we have the repetition of that image from when he became a vampire. He looks very grubby. He chases a rat and misses and falls into bags of garbage.

A man a bit shorter and slighter than Angel who's wearing a bowler hat observes this and says, “You're so sad. A vampire with a soul.” He takes Angel for a walk. Introduces himself as Whistler, says he's technically a demon, but they're not all bad.

And he buys Angel a hot dog and tells him that butchers are throwing out blood every day. But Angel is here living on rats, and he needs to live in the world a little.

He also tells Angel he can go either way from here. Become a more vile rodent than he already is. Or he can become someone. Whistler wants to show him something – or rather someone – and Angel can decide.

Angel Sees Buffy For The First Time

The next scene visually contrasts to the alley. It is bright and sunny and open.

Buffy is walking out of a high school with three friends. This is a flashback. She has very long hair and she has a lollipop

Angel is parked a little distance away in a black car with blacked out windows. He rolls down one a little and peers through – an echo of that confessional scene with Drusilla where he was hidden from her by that screen.

Buffy, very bubbly, is telling her friends how her dad wants her to wear a dress to the dance that she already wore before. And she says, “And I’m like, Dad, why do you hate me?”

One of her friends asks if Tyler is taking her to the dance and she says, “Where were you when I got over Tyler?” But then she says he’ll have to crawl on his hands and knees to get her to go to the dance with him and he’s scheduled to do that after class. So she’s going to wait.

As her friends leave, she says, “Call me. Call me! Call me.” So she seems very much like Cordelia, although a bit nicer. Perhaps I'm just reading that in because I want to. But I do think that is the feel of the scene.

Angel Watches When Buffy Is Called

Buffy sits on the steps after her friends leave. A man comes up to her. He is balding he has kind of a big mustache. He wears a suit that is looks like a cheaper version of what Giles wears. The man says, “Buffy Summers?” And Buffy says, “Yeah. Hi. What?”

She asks if he's from the department store because she was going to pay for that lipstick, really. He tells her that her destiny awaits. She says she's destiny free and he says she alone can stop the vampires.

About 32 minutes in, it’s night, and Buffy fights a vampire in a park. She's struggling and stumbling. But she finally gets it on the ground. She stakes the vampire but misses the heart. Tries again and hits it. And she leaps, or tumbles, back in shock when the vampire dusts. And the water says, “You see? You see your power.”

Angel is watching from a distance.

Buffy Hears Her Parents Fight

And we continue in his [Angel’s] point of view, looking into Buffy's house. Joyce is yelling at her about being late and not even calling. Buffy says she was with Tyler and lost track of time. Joyce is still upset, but says she was just worried.

Buffy goes into another room, but she overhears Hank and Joyce arguing. Hank is angry at Joyce. He says she won’t discipline Buffy, and he always has to be the ogre.

This is a call back to Season One, Nightmares, where Buffy, one of her biggest fears was that she was the cause of the divorce. She was why her father left.

The Flashbacks Work

At about 33 minutes in we switch back to Whistler and Angel. And Whistler says the Slayer will have it tough. She's just a kid. Angel says he wants to help her. He wants to become someone.

So we have seen Buffy and how she becomes the Slayer, something that we didn't get to see in the series before this. And it seems very fitting to have it here. And I think that flashback works because it is part of Angel's story, which is told through these flashbacks.

Unlike in some episodes, it doesn’t slow or stop the story. It is part of the story.

Whistler tells Angel. It won't be easy. The more he is in the world, the more he'll see how apart he is from it.

The Ritual Fails

We switch to present day. In the long hallway Angel is continuing the ritual. And he says, “I have strayed. I have been lost.” He approaches Acathla, grabs the sword, we get bright flashing lights, and we cut to a commercial.

We return to the same scene. The lights are flashing. Angel yanks the sword, but he can't pull it out. He’s thrown back, a sort of echo of that scene of Buffy falling back the first time she dusted the vampire.

Spike: Someone wasn't worthy.

Angel is angry. Spike is amused. Drusilla is disappointed and says what will they do?

Angel: What we always do. Turn to an old friend.

And he assures them they'll have their Armageddon.

The first time I watched this I did not even think about Giles or what Giles had been explaining to the others about Angel having a ritual to complete. So I didn't realize the old friend Angel referred to is Giles.

I love this because it is that setting up where we are surprised – at least most audience members I think were surprised – when it turns out they’re after Giles. And yet it fits so well. When you rewatch, you see how that was foreshadowed. So you are surprising the audience, but you're not blindsiding them.

A Vampire Invite

At school Buffy is taking an exam. A vampire shrouded in a blanket walks in, and lots of sunlight is in the classroom. So she is beginning, her whole body, to smoke as she speaks. She says that tonight, sundown, at the graveyard. “You will come or more will die.”

And then she burst into flames. Again raising the question for me of why are vampires willing to do these things? We have seen it before but what's the payoff for them? But it's very dramatic. And it fits that moment in the beginning when Buffy was going to send a message to Angel through a vampire.

In the library. Our friends are talking about what to do next. Buffy says she has to go meet Angel tonight. The vampire said otherwise more will die. Kendra then wants to go with her, but Buffy says no. Kendra should stay to protect the others. She reasons that as long as Angel’s fighting her he can't do the ritual to end the world.

Buffy asks Willow if she's ready with the spell. Willow says she needs about half an hour once they get everything set up. And Giles tells Buffy she just needs to hold Angel off for that long. Now we see that after that conflict, the friends are united in supporting Buffy. Because Cordelia says, why not wait here? See if Angel calls her, and she’ll know the spell worked.

But Buffy says she can't risk him killing any more people.

Dealing With Audience Objections

Cordelia asked a question many audience members might be asking. Why doesn't Buffy just stay there and stay safe?

And this is a good way to deal with objections your audience might have. Or questions about the choices your characters make. Have another character articulate them. So your protagonist, or whoever it is, can answer it.

As Buffy is leaving Xander says, “Be careful.” He sounds supportive. I'm sure he still disagrees with all of this, but he has calmed down and is offering support.

Kendra gives Buffy Mr. Pointy, her lucky stake, showing solidarity with Buffy. And Buffy says, “You named your stake? Remind me to get you a stuffed animal.”

This shows vulnerability for Kendra and the bond between them. Making what happens in the climax more heartbreaking.

Moving Toward The Episode Climaz=x

And we are moving toward the climax of the episode, which will be our Midpoint of the two-episode story arc.

At the graveyard:

Angel: Hello, Lover. I wasn't sure you'd come.

Buffy: After your immolation-o- gram? I had to show.

But she asks, shouldn't he be out destroying the world, pulling the sword out of Al Franken or whatever it is?

He says time enough for that. She's the one thing in the world that he will miss.

They fight. We’re at 38 minutes in.

Willow starts the ritual. She is sitting at the library table, and Giles reads Latin. She reads English. Cordelia walks in a circle around them with incense. Xander stands on that second level where all the bookshelves are, and Kendra is near the main library double doors that lead to the school.

The Climax Of Becoming Part One

Now we reach the climax of the episode. Vampires attack from behind Xander and grab him. More come in the library doors. Giles yells at Cordelia and Willow to run. He and Kendra fight.

Cordelia and Willow run up the stairs. In the fighting up there a bookcase is pushed over on Willow and pins her.

We switch to Buffy and Angel fighting.

Angel: Is it me or is your heart not in this?

Buffy: Let's finish this. You and me.

Angel (laughs): You never learn, do you. This wasn't about you. This was never about you.

Buffy turns away and starts running. He calls after her.

Angel: And you fall for it every single time.

Buffy runs through the Sunnydale streets. Drusilla walks into the library, claps her hands, and says, “Enough.”

Giles has been subdued. Drusilla fights Kendra. First, physically. But then she gets her by the throat and, looking right into her eyes, Drusilla kind of moves her two fingers with her long red fingernails in front of Kendra's face. And says, “Be in my eyes. Be in me.”

Kendra sways along with Drusilla.

And we cut between Buffy running through the streets of Sunnydale and Kendra, swaying in rhythm with Drusilla. Then Drusilla slashes Kendra's throat with her fingernail and draws a line of blood across it. Like what we saw Darla do to herself with Angel.

The Midpoint Reversal For The Two-Episode Arc

Here we are at the two-part episode Midpoint. So we see a major reversal.

And what is fascinating to me is that here is the Reversal itself escalates. We think that we have hit the worst, and it just keeps getting worse. Because Kendra dies, Drusilla drops her on the floor, and that seems like that is all. It’s a major reversal. But Drusilla says, “Let's get what we came for.”

And the vampires drag Giles away.

This ups the stakes for the reversal because it is not just killing Kendra, it is taking Giles. The person that Buffy needs and relies on. Remember in Passion she told Giles, “I can't do this without you.”

Whistler’s Commentary

We hear Whistler again. And he says in voiceover:

Whistler: The 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.

He is speaking as Buffy runs into the school. Through the hallways. Now in slow motion. And the Buffy and Angel theme music plays. As Whistler finishes saying, “but it does,” Buffy reaches the library. She stops. Stares at Kendra and again in slow motion runs to Kendra, drops to the floor, and bends over Kendra's body.

The theme music continues to play.

Whistler: So what are we? Helpless puppets? No. The big moments are going to come. Uou can't help it. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are.

We’re seeing Buffy with the camera angle from behind. She is holding Kendra's hand. A gun comes into the frame, and a cop's voice says, “Freeze.”

We get even higher stakes, because now Buffy is found over this dead body. And the police – who have been so absent in Sunnydale – are right there.

To Be Continued flashes on the screen.

Whistler: You’ll see what I mean.

Next Time

And that is it for the episode.

There is an interview with Joss Whedon on the DVD. It’s split into two parts, one for Becoming Part One and one for Becoming Part Two. However, the interesting stuff, at least what I think you'll find interesting, really all goes to Part Two. So I will wait and talk about it next Monday.

I do have quite a bit to talk about with Spoilers. So I hope that you will stick around for that. If not, thank you so much for listening. I hope to see you next time for Becoming Part Two.




And we are back for Spoilers and foreshadowing.

There is so much in this episode that leads to the climax of the two-parter. Snyder saying to Buffy, “Give me a reason to kick you out,” and at the end he will do exactly that.

The World Sucked Into Hell

Giles explaining what it means the literal being sucked into hell. We so need this because we have to understand the horrible choice Buffy faces at the end of Becoming Part Two when Acathla is beginning to awaken and Angel has come back to being himself. That if she doesn't kill him, the entire world will be sucked into hell. Giles has made that so clear.

So the first time watching, we don't know what that setting up again. It just seems like it's saying the stakes are really high here. The whole world is hanging in the balance. But we have no idea that that is going to present Buffy with this awful choice.

Close Your Eyes

The moment where Darla says, “Close your eyes,” before biting Angel and starting to turn him into a vampire. I had forgotten that she says those words. And that is what Buffy says to Angel before she kills him. “Close your eyes.”

And this is the part if you listen to Still Pretty cohost Lani Diane Rich says always makes her cry. Just the theme music and “close your eyes.” And I'm right there with her. It is just heartbreaking. Also adding to the heartbreak of that scene: We saw with Angel when he is cursed the first time that as the soul is restored he is confused.

He doesn't remember what he did as a vampire at first. When he says, “Killed. I don't, I don't.” And then we see it hit him. So we have established that Angel, when his soul is restored, he won't remember.

So to him it it's just he's confused, but he's back with Buffy. Whom he loves. It would be easier for her if he were racked with guilt. If he remembered being Angelus and all the things he did. But he doesn't, and she has to kill him anyway.

That is another way that these flashbacks are used to such great effect. They are telling their own story. And yet we don't know it but they are setting up this moment to be the most intense moment of the show.

Willow’s Arc

There is also a lot of foreshadowing for Willow's story arc. I forgot how early this started. Giles says the spell requires knowledge of the black arts, and that Willow might open the door she can't close.

And of course we will see that happening in Season Six. When Willow goes on to do another spell more intense than this one. Where she has to get the Urn of Osiris on the black market. Where it is clearly a very dangerous spell. And we see what it does to her, even as she casts the spell.

This is the one to bring Buffy back from the dead. Then throughout the season we see the repercussions of that. We see Willow becoming darker and darker. Even her saying, oh I researched the black arts for fun – educational fun. To some extent Willow's desire for knowledge trips her up because she can learn so much and so fast.

And she wants to. And less and less does she make that distinction between filling her mind with things that are dark, with things that can lead to evil. She’s not differentiating. It's all educational fun.

So we see those seeds of it here. When Willow is really so innocent and just wanting to help. Wanting to learn, wanting to help. And then she’ll have that transition of yes, she wants to use magic to help, but she also starts wanting to use it for convenience. To make her life easier. Then to try to change other people. Alter them as she does with Tara to make her relationships smoother. To get what she wants.

All of that is here. And I would really love to know how much the writers knew about where Willow's character was going with magic.

Another Slayer

Kendra's death sets up Faith's arrival in Season Three. Earlier in the season we established that Buffy dying only for a minute called a new Slayer. And it's interesting in Season Three, it seems no one has really thought about whether Kendra's death will call a new Slayer until Faith arrives.

When she does I think everyone puts it together and is like oh, new Slayer.

Maybe because Buffy disappears at the end of the season. They’re so concerned with where she is, finding her, that they don't really think about, hey, isn't there another Slayer.

The Slayer Line

All of this raises interesting issues about the whole Slayer line. Because when Buffy dies a second time at the end of Season Five, no new Slayer is called. And it seems as if Buffy died the first time, calling Kendra. And it’s as if that line of Slayers switched to Kendra. Kendra dies and we get Faith. Because Faith is still alive, we don't get another Slayer when Buffy dies.

Then in Season Seven the show kind of deals with these questions by saying that the First Evil is empowered because of Buffy. Not so much her death, but because she was returned to life. So it threw off the Slayer line.

And I think that's an example perhaps of something where there's a bit of an inconsistency in the lore of the show. Or there's a question that was set up and, perhaps, the writers wrote themselves into a bit of a corner. And what they did was take that and make that the premise for the season.


We’ll talk about it more then. There is still a bit of an inconsistency. Because if bringing Buffy back created all this dissonance that gave Rhe First power, why didn't that happened when she died and Xander brought her back to life?

Now I could head cannon some reasons why. But I don't think the show ever explicitly gives us one, but will see as we go along. I may have forgotten.

Point Of View

Two more quick foreshadowings. That point of view where we are in the head of someone who is running through grass and breathing hard. We will see that again in Season Three in the episode where Angel comes back. We are in that same point of view. But in that episode (I think it's Beauty And The Beasts) we don't know who it is who is running through the grass. Is it Oz as a werewolf? Is it this other student who has been making himself into a sort of beast? Or is it Angel?

So I like that we will see that imagery again. I don't know if it was purposeful. But it seems like it fits.


And, finally, just a fun little foreshadowing. When Buffy says to the Watcher – she thinks he might be from the department store – and says oh I was going to pay for that lipstick, really. In Season Six we will find out that Dawn has been shoplifting all over the place.

I don't think there's an implication here that Buffy makes a habit of shoplifting. But it is kind of interesting that we get that and pick up on it in Season Six. That one of the ways that Dawn kind of deals with all the stress she is under is by shoplifting.

That is it for Spoilers.

If you have any thoughts you would like to share for the Season Two Round Up which I'll be doing in two weeks.

Please feel free to tweet me @LisaMLilly #BuffyStory or to email me. And of course I'm always happy to hear any thoughts or questions about Buffy or writing.

If you are patron, I did release the first Patron Only Question And Answer. You can find that on the Patreon site. You also should have gotten a message from me with a link to that post. If you have any questions you would like me to answer next time please message me through Patreon or email me.

Thanks again for listening. I hope to see you next Monday. Music for this episode was composed and performed by Robert Newcastle. The podcast Buffy and the Art of Story is a production of Spiny Woman LLC copyright 2020.