Becoming Part 2 S2 E22 (Buffy and the Art of Story)

Buffy and the Art of Story Podcast CoverThis week on the podcast Buffy and the Art of Story Becoming Part 2 (Season 2 Episode 22 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer):

This podcast episode covers (1) why the pace of Part 2 is so fast compared to Becoming Part 1; (2) how to show emotion through a character’s actions; (3) the elements of a pyrrhic victory; (4) and how the episode plays out Season 2 themes and foreshadows future relationships.

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

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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 2

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

This Monday we’re talking about Becoming Part Two. That is Season Two episode Twenty-Two. The second half of the two-episode finale.

What’s Included

We’ll cover:

  1. the plot points from the Midpoint of the two-episode arc through the end;
  2. episode plot turns;
  3. how the pace of Part Two differs From Part One
  4. showing emotion through a character’s actions;
  5. the concept of a Pyrrhic victory;
  6. and how the episode plays out themes that are present throughout Season Two and foreshadows future relationships and developments.

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 Two was written and directed by Joss Whedon.

Opening Conflict Of Becoming Part Two

We start right where we left off. And it is a fantastic opening conflict for the episode.

Kendra is lying dead on the library floor. We hear a cop say, “Freeze,” as Buffy is leaning over Kendra.

There are two police officers. They pull Buffy away. One determines that Kendra is dead. The other says, “What about up there?”

And for the first time Buffy looks up and sees Xander lying in front of the bookshelves. She tries to get to him. But the police officer drags her out. She is protesting that she didn’t do anything, and Snyder comes in with more police and says, “Why do I find that so hard to believe?”

He then tells the cops that if there’s trouble, Buffy is behind it.

Buffy Breaks Away

When Buffy tries to tell the male cop that she just wants to see if her friends are okay, he says that’s enough and tries to cuff her. She punches him and runs.

The female cop comes out of the library and fires her gun at Buffy as Buffy is fleeing. The woman cop radios in that a fugitive, a homicide suspect, is on the run and very dangerous.

We are only 1 minute 13 seconds in, and we go to credits.

We come back at the hospital. Buffy is wearing a black knit cap. Her hair is still long and hanging down. But she is dressed sort of unlike herself in this somewhat oversized coat that is not stylish at all. And is dark in color.

All the same, the cops’ radio description included that she had long blond hair. So when two cops come in later and don’t notice her, it cements the idea that the cops in Sunnydale are also a bit slow. (Something Principal Snyder will explicitly say later on.)

She sees Xander. They hug. He pulls her closer.

Xander Turns Serious

When the two cops come in, Buffy had just asked about Willow. Xander didn’t get a chance to answer before he hugged her. As he releases her she jokes, “Okay, that was about equal parts protecting me and copping a feel, right?”

Xander gives her this serious look and doesn’t say anything. And Buffy says, “What is it?”

We’ve established over these two seasons that Xander always has the joke, the sarcasm. The observation that’s often somewhat inappropriate and at inappropriate times.

So when he says nothing and just looks at Buffy we already know that something terrible has happened to Willow.

Willow’s Injuries

The scene shifts. We see Willow in a hospital bed unconscious. There’s a bandage on her head. At 3 minutes 21 seconds in, Xander and Buffy are in the hospital room. He says the doctor said its head trauma and Willow can wake up any time. But the longer that she is under the worse it is.

Buffy says she should never have let Willow try the curse. That Angel must have known.

Dramatic Irony

So we have here dramatic irony – where we as the audience know something the characters don’t.

And here it’s that it wasn’t about stopping Willow from doing the curse. It was about taking Giles away.

So there are two things that are characters don’t know. (1) Angel’s purpose – that his purpose is to figure out how to do the ritual with Acathala, and (2) that he sees Giles as the key to that.

Dealing With The Parents

Buffy asks about Willow’s parents and Xander says he called them. They are in Arizona with relatives. We don’t expect to see her parents because we pretty much don’t see anyone’s parents other than Joyce. But for the sake of reality you have to have this mention of where they are.

Otherwise, it would stand out so much it would be distracting to the audience wondering in a why on earth would her parents not be here.

Buffy also asks about Oz. And Xander says he forgot. He’ll call him.

Cordelia Ran

Cordelia comes in. And just the way she and Xander hug we know it’s the first time they’ve seen each other. She tells them that she ran. And she probably got through three counties before she realized no one was chasing her.

She looks at the floor and says, “Not too brave.”

But Buffy tells her she did the right thing.

Story Spark For Becoming Part Two

We are now at 4 minutes 37 seconds in. In a self-contained episode this is where we would see the Story Spark or Inciting Incident that gets the main plot rolling. It typically comes 10% through. Now we’re in a two-episode arc. So we’re long past getting the story started for that arc.

But this does serve as a Story Spark for this episode. Because this is right where Xander asks if Giles kept up with Cordelia. And she says she didn’t see him.

Xander tells Buffy he’s not in the hospital. So this is that moment when Buffy realizes that Giles is gone.

Angel Tortures Giles

The scene switches to Giles face down on the floor. Angel is also on the floor. On his stomach, head propped on his arms and looking at Giles, who now wakes up.

Angel says he wants to torture Giles. It’s been a long time since he tortured anyone. They didn’t even have chain saws back then. But he walks over to the stone statue of Acathla and says, “Oh, yeah, Acathla, he’s an even harder guy to wake up than you.”

And he tells Giles that he has said the words. He’s tried the ritual. He had blood on his hands and nothing. And he thinks that because Giles knows so much he’ll be able to tell Angel what he’s doing wrong. Then Angel says, “But honestly I sort of hope you don’t. because I really want to torture you.”

David Boreanaz really sells this. This is the darkest that we’ve seen Angel. There’s no joking, no sarcasm, no mocking. It is another time when we have built this character to be a certain way and to now see him so serious, without that mocking and joking underscores that he means it. He wants his answer about Acathla.

But even more in that moment, I completely believe that he would rather torture Giles.

Police Question Joyce

We switch to the Summers’ house. The police are questioning Joyce. The main one is that balding, thin detective who questioned Buffy in the episode Ted. (Where Joyce’s boyfriend turned out to be a robot, and Buffy thought that she killed him.) And we will see this detective again. I really love that he keeps returning and we have that continuity,

Joyce is saying she doesn’t know where Buffy is. She thinks she stayed over at her friend Willow’s. And the detective says, “Willow Rosenberg?”

And the other one says, “Second victim.” And the detective says, “Your daughter has a history of violence,” and he gives her his card and says to call if Buffy “decides” to stop by. Clearly implying that Joyce is a bad mom.

Buffy Meets Whistler

Buffy goes to Giles’ apartment and she finds Whistler. He’s that demon we saw in the last episode, only in the flashback who set Angel on the path, showed him Buffy. And Angel made the choice to try to do something, to become someone in the world and do something positive.

Buffy asks what Whistler is doing there. He jokes that is looking for a date for the prom. And Buffy has no patience with this. She shoves him up against the wall. She says if he has information, she’ll be grateful for it.

But then she says, “If you’re gonna crack jokes I’m gonna pull out your rib cage and wear it as a hat.”

This, too, is Buffy different than usual. Normally she is quipping. Even when she was fighting Angel in the last episode she was quipping and kind of jeering at him.

Here she is so serious.

Whistler Gives Buffy Information

Whistler marvels all the same at her use of imagery. But then he does tell her it was not supposed to go down this way. He figured this would be Angel’s big day. But he thought Angel would be here to stop Acathla, not bring him forth.

Whistler: Then you two made with the smoochies and now he’s a creep again.

A great line of understatement and exposition combined.

Being somewhat cryptic, Whistler next says, “What are you gonna do? What you prepared to do? What are you prepared to give up?

Buffy says he obviously doesn’t have anything useful to tell her.

Buffy: What are you – just some immortal demon sent down to even the score between good and evil?

Whistler: “Wow. Good guess.”

But Buffy is really angry.

Buffy: Well, why don’t you try getting off your immortal ass and fighting evil? Because I’m sick and tired of doing it myself.

Whistler: In the end, you’re always by yourself. You’re all you’ve got. That’s the point.

Conflict Through Personalities And Circumstances

This scene is a good example of using the contrasting personalities and circumstances of two characters who are allies to all the same create conflict between them.

We’ve established from the last episode that Whistler likes to use what he probably sees as this kind of wry humor. A bit of this wise guy kind of persona. And that he doesn’t want to say things outright. He led Angel to where he wanted him to go. Or where he hoped to go by showing him Buffy. By parceling out a little bit at a time so Angel could reach his own conclusions. And he’s adopting the same strategy here.

While he has some urgency, he doesn’t have the same investment as Buffy. He’s an immortal demon. It isn’t as vital to him as to her.

So you have this conflict. She just wants answers. He wants to trail out the breadcrumbs.

I like that contrast. It’s a nice example of how to have some conflict when really what you’re doing is Buffy is getting information.

She is disgusted and leaves. But as she is heading out the door, he calls after her that the sword isn’t enough, she has to know how to use it.

Whistler In Waiting

Now I will walk back a little of what I said about this being a nice example. Because while in some ways it is, it also feels a little bit artificial to me that Whistler is parceling out this information. Especially because Buffy will come back later and he is just still there waiting for her.

So it really does feel like, okay, the writers just didn’t want Buffy to get all the information at once. But it does help that we’ve established that this is how Whistler does things.

Also, I did not realize until I watched this time that Whistler actually has given her something really valuable that we don’t recognize. Because it sounds like he’s just being cryptic. That’s how it is, you’re all you’ve got. Blah blah blah.

But it turns out that really is key.

Spike Surprises Buffy

Buffy is now walking in the park and a cop car pulls up behind her. So this cop, despite her ingenious disguise of a knit cap on her head, recognized her. He gets out, pulls a gun on her, and then someone from offscreen kicks and punches the cop and knocks him out. And he is lying on the hood and we see that it’s Spike.

He says, “Hello, cutie.” Buffy’s eyes widen and we cut to a commercial.

This is a great hook before the commercial because of course we want to know why Spike’s there. Also, this is another small amount of dramatic irony. Because as the audience we know that Spike got out of the wheelchair and has been hiding that from Drusilla and Angel. Buffy doesn’t know that.

She punches Spike. He tries to hold her off without really fighting her, saying that he’s waving a white flag. But Buffy pulls a stake and says they’re mortal enemies. They don’t get Time Outs.

A Proposal From Spike

Spike: You want a go-around, pet, I’ll have a gay old time of it. You want to stop Angel, we’ll have to play things a bit differently.

Buffy asks what he’s talking about.

Spike: I’m talking about your ex, pet. I’m talking about putting him in the bloody ground.

Buffy is skeptical about him. She’s still holding the stake. But as they talk she gradually lowers it, though she’s saying she can’t believe they think she’ll fall for this trick.

But Spike says, “He’s got your Watcher,” and that Angel is probably torturing him.

This is what convinces her. And we know from the previous episodes that Giles is the person Buffy cannot get through this without. And of course she knows Giles is gone. So this adds the sense that Spike might be telling her the truth.

And he says, “I want to stop Angel,” and he gets the small little grin and says, “I want to save the world.”

Vampires Talk Big

Then he tells her vampires like to talk big, ending the world. “It’s just tough guy talk.” As he’s explaining he grabs a cigarette from the cop who’s still passed out, lights it, and continues on. About how he loves the world, it’s got dog racing, and Manchester United, and billions of people walking around like Happy Meals with legs. And then someone comes along with a vision, a real passion for destruction. And that Angel could really pull it off.

And I feel like that word Passion is not accidental. Given that that was the name of the episode where Angel killed Jenny Calendar.

Buffy is still skeptical. She says but why would he ever come to her?

Spike looks at the ground and he says he wants Drusilla back. The way she acts with Angel, he can’t stand it.

Buffy says he’s pathetic. And he says, “I can’t fight them alone and neither can you.”

After punching him again, she says she hates him. And he says, “I’m all you’ve got.”

I love this scene between the two of them. They are both being honest with each other. And it takes Spike a while to convince Buffy. As it should. If she just went along with him, despite that we know he is telling the truth, she would just seem far too gullible to be our hero.

Then we get a great ending. Because she finally says, “Okay talk.” But the cop starts groaning and Spike starts to turn and says, “Just let me kill this guy.” Like it’s just this little loose end to tie up.

And Buffy clears her throat and he says, “Oh, right.” They walk off and leave the cop on the hood.

Becoming Part Two – Episode One-Quarter Twist

We are now about one quarter through the episode at 10 minutes 47 seconds in. That moment of Spike and Buffy agreeing to work together is a great One-Quarter Twist for this episode. Usually at that point in a story we see this major turn that comes from outside the protagonist and spins the story in a new direction, which is what we have here.

This is a two-part story arc and we’re well past that point in the story as a whole. We don’t really have to have a specific one-quarter major plot turn here. And yet we do, and that is what helps keep this episode really moving along.

Also, notice overall that so much is happening here in the present-day story, in contrast to Becoming Part One. It still had a nice plot structure and moved along, but half of it was telling the story of the past and then some of the present-day story.

But now it is all present day. It is all moving and all that we learned in the flashbacks is paying off.

Xander At Willow’s Side

In the hospital, Xander is holding Willow’s hand. She’s still unconscious. And he talks to her, telling her to wake up. He needs her. How else will he past trig, and who will he call each night to talk about all the things they did all day? He says, “You’re my best friend. You always – “ And then he says, “I love you.”

There is some controversy in the fandom. Is Xander saying, “I love you” in a romantic way? I have always read it as him saying from his heart how much he loves her, his best friend, and she has always been there.

Either way, Willow starts wake up. And she says, “Oz?” and we hear say, “I’m here.”

He has just walked into the room. Xander quickly moves out of the way and says he’ll go get the doctor.

This is part of why I see this is Xander’s declaration of his deep love for his friend, as opposed to being a romantic statement. Because nothing in the way that he gets out of the way seems like he was disappointed that she says, “Oz.”

Joyce Meets Spike

Spike and Buffy are walking together to Buffy’s house. They reach the front walk. Joyce pulls up in her SUV and leaps out, she’s been looking for Buffy. She’s really worried. And she says, “Who is this man? What’s going on?”

Spike: What, your mum doesn’t know?

Buffy shoots him a look and she tries to cover. She tells her mom she’s in a rock band with Spike. Spike says that Buffy plays the triangle, but Buffy, at the same time, says she plays the drums. And they are awkward.

Joyce is very skeptical. She looks at Spike and says, “And what do you do?” And he says, “Well, I sing.”

Which is really funny because James Marsters is is a really good singer.

Buffy keeps trying to get Joyce to go inside, while Joyce wants answers.

Buffy Tells Her Secret

A vampire attacks. Buffy and Spike without a word fight him together. And Buffy dusts him.

This is such a great moment because it is the first time they act as a team. And it just happens so seamlessly. Spike says it was one of the Angel’s boys. “He won’t get a chance to tattle on us now.”

Joyce is really confused and shocked. And finally Buffy says, “Mom, I’m a Vampire Slayer.”

This also underscores Buffy and Spike working as a team. She has now told her mom this monumental thing that she has been hiding and covering for. And she did it in front of Spike. In a way, with Spike’s support.

And we cut to a commercial.

So, another great hook. Because how is Joyce going to take this but the writers delay that even more.

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Body Language

Buffy is in the kitchen. She’s on the phone with Willow, and Willow is saying she’s okay. The doctors don’t think her brain got mushed. She’s sorry she didn’t get to turn Angel. Buffy says that’s okay. It makes it easier because now she knows she’ll never get Angel back.

In the living room, more great use of body language to convey feeling. Joyce is sitting on the couch in front of the coffee table. She’s clutching her drink with both hands. And her feet on the floor are turned really awkwardly. They’re inward with her toes pointing at each other.

Spike is sitting in a chair. His hands are folded in his lap, angled slightly away from Joyce. It conveys his awkwardness so well because normally we see Spike in motion. Even in the wheelchair, his body language is always expressive. His face shows expression. He’s moving his arms.

And here he is just sitting and looking awkwardly away from Joyce.

Plans To Hit The Mansion

Now Buffy is talking to Xander on the phone. And remember this is before the age when everyone had cell phones. So they exist, but mostly people talk on landlines, which is why Buffy would be in the kitchen talking, leaving Joyce in the other room.

She tells Xander she found out that Angel is holed up with the others at a mansion on the edge of town. It’s the one she and Xander noticed once before, so this is a really quick way to establish why Xander later in the episode will know where to find Buffy. She tells Xander she’s hitting the mansion at daybreak.

But she doesn’t need backup. She’s got it covered.

In the living room, Joyce asks Spike, “Have we met?” And Spike says, “You hit me with an ax one time.” And he mimes holding up an ax from that scene in School Hard. Where Spike was introduced, and Joyce intervened to help Buffy.

And he says, “Remember? Get the hell away from my daughter.”

Joyce nods and takes a breath and says, “Do you live here in town?”

And I really love Joyce trying to make conversation with Spike even though she is in shock over all of this.

Fortunately for both of them, Buffy comes back. Buffy reassures Joyce that Willow is fine and then speaks directly to Spike. He walks over to her.

Cutting A Deal

They’re face-to-face. Spike wants Buffy to let him and Drusilla leave town and in exchange he’ll help her kill Angel.

And Joyce says, “Angel your boyfriend?”

Buffy ignores her and says, “No deal. Dru killed Kendra.”

Spike: Dru bagged a Slayer? She didn’t tell me. Ickle for her. Though not from your perspective I suppose.

As the scene continues, Buffy and Spike continue making their deal and Joyce keeps interrupting. Sometimes Buffy gives her a quick answer; sometime she ignores her. One of the things Joyce asks is did Kendra explode and Buffy says no, that Kendra’s a Slayer.

And Joyce says, “Honey, are you sure you’re a Vampire Slayer?” And a few lines later she says, “Have you tried not being a Slayer?”

In between, Spike is making his case for letting him and Drusilla go. He says they’ll leave the country and Buffy will never hear from them again he bloody well hopes.

Buffy finally agrees but says, “If Giles dies, she dies.”

This is probably the hardest thing for Joyce to see – her daughter saying this. Making the deal like she will kill Drusilla. Maybe Joyce grasps that Drusilla is a vampire. She probably does. But there’s so much she has to take in here.

Joyce And Buffy Argue

Spike leaves. Joyce and Buffy argue. Joyce is saying things like it’s because you didn’t have a strong father figure isn’t it? And Buffy tells her it’s fate, accept it.

And Joyce is in denial. She wants to call the police. Buffy says it’ll only get the police killed. It’s a great example of, again, two people who should be allies, who really care about each other.

We saw Buffy in Season One struggle with rejecting her destiny as the Slayer in that first double episode. And she is continuing to fight, always saying she wants a normal life. She has had this time to figure it out.

Joyce has been in denial the whole time, and now that she is forced to confront this.

Her initial reaction, it is awful, it is to question Buffy. And this is where the metaphor is so strong as well to the Coming Out story.

Buffy has told her this thing about herself that she kept hidden. And her mom reacts in the way that Buffy probably always feared. Yes, she didn’t tell her mother because it was all that secret identity and keeping everyone safe. But on some level she probably feared that Joyce would reject her. And initially, that is what Joyce is doing. She doesn’t believe Buffy, despite having seen it.

And Buffy is saying wake up. Joyce watched blood out of her clothes how many times.

Joyce wants to maintain her denial. And then ultimately in the scene she will almost throw Buffy out. Not quite.

Episode Midpoint Commitment

When Buffy is telling her how hard it is, Joyce doesn’t listen.

Joyce: Well, it stops now.

Buffy: No, it doesn’t stop. It never stops. Do you think I chose this? Do you have any idea how hard it is? How lonely? But I have to save the world. Again.

Joyce: This is insane. Buffy, you need help.

Buffy: I’m not crazy.

Joyce tries to keep her from leaving. Buffy pushes her aside. And this is where Joyce says, “You walk out of this house don’t even think about coming back.”

Buffy leaves, but she doesn’t shut the door behind her. Very symbolic and also conveying her emotions. Joyce, we see her face kind of crumble. She sags onto the counter and puts her head in her hands. And we know that she already regrets how she handled this.

I see that scene with Buffy telling her mom the truth as the episode Midpoint Commitment. Buffy has thrown caution to the wind by telling her mother the truth about herself. And that is one of the things that we see at a strong Midpoint.

The Three-Quarter Turn In Becoming

As far as the two-episode arc, we are at or nearing the Three-Quarter Turn. As it should, the Three-Quarter Turn here arises from the Midpoint. From that reversal Buffy suffered where Kendra was killed and Willow’s spell was interrupted.

Now we’re in the hospital. We are going to see Willow make her own sort of “throw caution to the wind” commitment, but also spin the story. Cordelia is commenting on Buffy’s showdown tomorrow morning. And she says she wishes they could help – “you know, without dying.”

This is where Willow says she wants to try the curse again, she never got to finish the spell. Xander doesn’t like the idea. It’s powerful magic, and Willow is weak. A very quick reminder and call back to Giles talking about the dangers of doing this spell.

Willow says she’s okay. We get some humor because Xander says she doesn’t look it. And she does still look weak. She still has his bandage on her head. And he says to Cordelia to tell her.

Cordelia: You should listen to him. The hair, it’s so flat. And the lips….

Willow, though, insists.

Willow: Do you see my Resolve Face? You’ve seen it before. You know what it means.

And she points out if the curse works it’ll stop Angel from awakening Acathla.

Oz has been sitting in a chair off screen. And he says something like, “Wow, I sure missed a lot. Because this is all making a kind of sense that’s not.”

This too is such a quick scene. But it has so much conflict. A major turn. It fills in some information for viewers who missed Becoming Part One. That is a lot.

So again, the pace in this episode is very quick in contrast to Becoming Part One. Willow tells us to go with Cordelia to the library to get what she needs. And then tells Xander to go to Buffy tell her that Willow is trying the spell. Maybe Buffy can stall Angel.

Spike Under Cover

Back to Giles and Angel. Giles looks exhausted. As if he’s been through so much. Angel tells him he’s been brave but it’s enough, Angel can make the pain stop. Anthony Stuart Head does a great job of acting like he is ready to give up. He haltingly tells Angel that to be worthy and wake in Acathla he must perform the ritual – in a tutu.

Angel” All right, someone get the chainsaw.

But Spike comes in on his wheelchair.

Spike: Now, now don’t let’s lose our temper.

Angel: Stay out of it, Sit and Spin.

But Spike says Angel will never get answers if he kills Giles. Angel is suspicious of this and asks when Spike got so levelheaded. And Spike says, Right about the time you became so pigheaded.” And Angel buys it.

I love that Spike is so much better at undercover then Buffy. And we knew that because he’s been hiding from Drusilla and Angel that he can walk.

Spike tells Angel there is another way. And he calls Drusilla and asks if she wants to play the game. So we also see that Spike is clever. Because he will throughout this devise ways to put things off, to keep Giles alive, without it looking like that’s his motive.

Buffy Crosses Principal Snyder

Buffy goes to the library to get that sword that we saw last episode (that Kendra brought). She’s just unzipped its case when Principal Snyder walks in. He tells her this is a crime scene, but then she’s a criminal.

Buffy argues, saying the police will figure it out, they’ll realize she didn’t do it. And here’s where Snyder says, “In case you haven’t noticed, the police in Sunnydale are deeply stupid.” And he says it doesn’t matter, Buffy has proved to be too much of a liability for the school. He pauses, says this is the type of moment you have savor, and he says, “You’re expelled.”

Buffy doesn’t answer. She just pulls out the sword. Snyder looks really nervous. She studies the blade and then says, “You never ever got a single date in high school did you?”

And Snyder says, “Your point being?”

This exchange doubles down on some of the High School is Hell metaphor. This idea that some teachers and others in authority take out their frustrations from their high school experience on their students. Of course, not that that never happens in real life.

Buffy points the sword toward Snyder but doesn’t touch him with it and walks around him and out.

In the interview on the DVD, Joss Whedon says his point in Becoming Part One and Two was to strip away everything from Buffy. She has now lost her family. Joyce says don’t come back because of who Buffy is, because of her duties as the Slayer. Now she has lost school. So gradually she’s losing all the things that to this point have helped her survive. Not letting herself be defined down to only her role as the Slayer has kept her alive. And now these things are being taken away.

Story Questions

Snyder dials his cell phone and he says, “It’s Snyder. Tell the mayor I have good news.”

Now, we’ll never find out in this episode why he called the mayor. This is a great example of a story question, something you can weave in there that raises a question. Usually you want to answer those with in your novel. You would weave those in throughout, then tie them up on at the end.

But if you have an installment series, you probably want one or two small ones that you don’t answer. That helps keep the reader going into the next installment, the next book, the next episode or film.

So here, this is a little question that makes us wonder: What is the role of the mayor? How is Snyder connected to him?

You do have to be a little careful with that. If you put into many of those and don’t answer them by the end of the current installment readers will get angry. Because they have read this whole book, and they have not gotten answers.

But here, what the mayor’s role is doesn’t affect the story. So it is okay leaving it hanging there. And it makes us curious. Also I like that we don’t know what the good news is. Is the good news that he expelled? That Buffy has the sword and maybe can stop Acathla? We don’t know.

Drusilla Tricks Giles

We are back to Giles. Drusilla is standing behind him. And she says, “Let’s see what’s inside. Of course.”

And she moves in front of him. Her face right in front of his face. Her words are very similar to what she said to Kendra in Becoming Part One: “Look at me. Be in me.”

And then she says, “See with your heart.”

She covers his eyes with her hand, takes her hand away, and now she is Jenny

Calendar Giles is near tears for the first time that we have seen while he’s being tortured. After being tortured, also no tears. But here he almost is crying. And he says, “I thought I lost you.”

Jenny says she’ll never leave him. And plays this out is if she’s worried. Asks did he tell Angel about the ritual and how can she help. And gradually she gets it out of him. She urges him: “Tell me what to do.” Says he knows she’ll help, they’ll be together, and have “all the things we never had.”

Eventually, he says to keep Angel away from Acathla. And finally that it’s Angel’s blood. That is the key.

Drusilla, still as Jenny, kisses Giles. Angel and Spike are watching. And Angel says, “blood, of course,” it has to be his own. His blood, his life.

Not Killing Giles

And then he says to Drusilla, “Kill him.” But Spike says what if he’s lying? So again saving Giles’s life. And Angel says, “Right, don’t kill them.” And then that he kind of likes having Spike watch his back. It’s like old times.

Now they both turn and really see that Dru is still kissing Giles.

Spike: Drusilla.

Angel: Honey.

Drusilla: Sorry, I was in the moment.

And we see Giles’ face as it hits him that it was not really Jenny.

Whistler Again

At 28 minutes 53 seconds in Buffy’s gone back to Giles’ apartment to talk to Whistler. She asks what did he man – the sword is not enough. After making another joke he tells her. Angel is the key. The blood opens the vortex, and Acathla will open his mouth to swallow the world.

We knew that, but now we learn that only Angel’s blood will close it. With one blow, Buffy has to send them both to hell and close Acathla.

But he warns her she should get there before Acathla opens his mouth, because the sooner she kills Angel, the easier it’ll be for her.

She says don’t worry about her. She has nothing left to lose. But as she leaves he says, “Wrong, kid. You got one more thing.”

This last line, it’s a hook or a question that is meant to keep the audience coming back.

You do want to have that with a scene or chapter ending. Usually I think Buffy is fantastic at this. This one, though, feels a little artificial to me.

I guess you could say its purpose is also its foreshadowing. It’s preparing us. But to me it feels purposely put there, and it’s distracting from the story. And it’s a tiny thing to say distracts me in this episode.

Upping The Stakes In Becoming Part Two

We are almost at thirty minutes, and that means we have about 12 or 13 minutes left. And yet it feels like this whole thing from here on is the climax. And it does what we saw with Becoming Part One where there was a major reversal, and we thought that was it – Kendra’s death. And then it just up the stakes to a greater reversal and a greater reversal.

And we will see something like that here. There is more than one moment that could be the culmination, could be the climax. And then the stakes will be upped again.

I hate using that term. It’s like I’m trying to do a pun. And I’m not. It just happens.

The episode does continue to escalate the tension beyond where you could end the story

Nearing The Climax

So the sun is rising over the trees. Buffy is walking toward the mansion with the sword. And Xander kind of jumps out and says the cavalry’s here. “The cavalry’s a frightened guy with a rock, but it’s here.”

She gives a stake and tells him to get Giles out. She’ll be too busy fighting and killing to protect Xander.

He admires the sword. She says it’s a present for Angel.

Xander: Willow. She told me to tell you –

They both stop and look at each other. And Xander, you can almost see him making this decision.

Xander: Kick his ass.

And Buffy just walks on.

Xander’s Motives

So this is another area of questioning, controversy, among the legions of fans, podcasters, and commenters. Did Xander – what are his motives here? A lot of people read it as this is an extension of his pettiness and jealousy about Angel. He doesn’t want Buffy to have her boyfriend back. Or he resents it.

I always read it as Xander feeling like telling Buffy that Willow is trying the curse could undermine her. Could make it hard for her to fight Angel and end up getting her killed. Because she even said to Willow it makes it easier knowing she won’t get him back. So I read it is Xander trying to decide what will help Buffy the most.

Now even that can be problematic because he is making a decision for her about the information. He thinks she is better off having it withheld. And he’s going expressly against Willow saying to tell Buffy. Also, we have seen throughout the show Willow is the one who is consistently on Buffy’s side. Even when she is worried for Buffy or disagrees with Buffy, she is there to support her friend.

Xander is ignoring that. He is contradicting it.

So I love the moment because there is so much going on there. And so much for the audience to consider and think about.

Angel Starts The Ritual

Angel, inside, is chanting in Latin before Acathla.

In the hospital there are lit candles on a tray. Cordelia has incense and Willow tells Oz he doesn’t have to understand the Latin. She hopes. Just say the words.

We cut back to Angel. He has now cut his hand so he has his own blood on it. Buffy, from nowhere, kills a vampire and says, “Hello, Lover.” Echoing what he said to her before they started to fight in Becoming Part One.

Angel is annoyed.

He says, “I don’t have time for you,” and also, “Do you really think you can take us all?”

And Buffy says, “No, I don’t.”

And behind Angel, this is such a quick moment, we see Spike stand, and he clocks Angel. I don’t know if he has a pipe or a cane. But he knocks him to the ground.

Spike is just wailing on Angel, as Buffy fights the other vampires. Drusilla runs at Spike.

Xander comes in and punches one vampire.

We go back to the hospital. Oz is reading Latin aloud. Willow is speaking the spell in English.

Willow: Not dead, not of the living.

Back to Xander getting Giles untied. Giles isn’t really cooperating because he doesn’t think Xander’s real.

Giles: They get in my head. Show me things I want to see.

Xander (looking at Giles): Then why would they make you see me?

Giles: You’re right. Let’s go.

Angel Draws The Sword

Spike and Drusilla are still fighting. Buffy is fighting with all the other vampires. And Angel gets up off the floor.

We’re at 33.5 minutes in. He goes to Acathla, grabs the sword, and draws it out. And we see flashing lights everywhere.

In the hospital, Willow falters. Her words slow down.

Buffy and Angel now are in a sword fight. Angel tells Buffy Acathla is about to wake up and she’s going to hell.

Buffy: Save me a seat.

In the hospital, Willow is breathing very hard. Suddenly, her head jerks up. Her chin goes up, she’s staring at the ceiling, and then her head jerks back down. She’s looking down, but she’s not reading. She switches to Latin. And she’s speaking very fast.

Cordelia and Oz are worried.

Oz: Is this a good thing?

Cordelia: Hey, speak English.

Angel is winning the sword fight. He drives Buffy out into the courtyard, which is mostly in shadows. Inside, Spike finally overpowers Drusilla. He gets her in a choke hold, cutting off her air, and she goes unconscious.

Inconsistent Breathing

So remember how Angel couldn’t give Buffy CPR because vampires have no breath?

This has always bothered me with Spike and Dru because why would that work on a vampire? All the same, the first time through – probably the next couple times I watched – I don’t care that it’s inconsistent because the plot, the story, is so good.

The emotion is so strong. And important thing is Spike overpowers Drusilla.

I suspect the writers wanted to do it in a way that was not overly violent. Spike wants to get her out. He does not want to hurt her.

The Climax Of Becoming Parts One And Two Begins

Angel has fought Buffy into a corner. As Spike leaves, he sees them. And he looks concerned and says, “God, he’s going to kill her.”

Then he tilts his head, arches one eyebrow, almost gives a little shrug, and walks out carrying Drusilla.

Buffy is crouching in a corner against a wall. There is just a slant of sunlight over her face. Angel stands over her, pointing the sword at her face.

Angel: That’s everything. No weapons, no friends, no hope. (Buffy shuts her eyes.) Take all that away and what’s left?

He thrusts his sword for the kill.

Buffy raises both hands, even though her eyes are still shut, claps them together around the sword. Stops it dead.

Buffy: Me.

And shoves the sword back at him.

So this is that call back to when Whistler said, “You’re always alone. You’re all you’ve got.” So he did say something that mattered. I like to think Buffy would have gotten here anyway. She would have said this anyway.

It is really powerful and the whole momentum of the fight changes.

Another Metaphor

This is also a nice inversion of what Spike said in School Hard. Where he got so disgusted because he’s trying to kill Buffy and Joyce shows up and helps Buffy. And he’s like, “A Slayer with family and friends – who ever heard of that?”

And it’s clear that that gives Buffy her strength, helps her win fights and survive.

But here we have the opposite of that. And I feel like this is another metaphor, not for high school, but for life. That need for balance. Between having a centered, developed self and this strong feeling of who you are inside, but without the family and friends and things in life that you love and enjoy then you’re unbalanced.

Throughout the season Buffy has drawn on both. In the beginning of the season in the pilot, she tries to push everyone away and go it alone. And that doesn’t work. That is very dangerous.

Now here she finds if she has to, though, she has that strength inside herself. So the message I think of this season is that Buffy as the Slayer needs both. As we all do.

Weaker Possible Climaxes

So now we are at the Climax.

In a weaker story, we could’ve had a climax where Spike knocks out Angel, there’s this fight, then Buffy fights Angel and prevails. We don’t even get that moment with Buffy saying, “Me,” and pushing back.

And that could work. Buffy as the protagonist would still prevail. And it would be because she made that alliance with Spike, so would be through her own doing. But there wouldn’t be this deep emotion. And there wouldn’t be this moment where all is lost. Where she looks like she’s going to die and then she gets through it by calling on her inner strength.

We also could’ve had a much, much weaker climax. Where they have this fight and Willow’s spell works. And Angel’s back to himself. Buffy doesn’t have to kill him and all is good.

That would be weaker because then Buffy is not really the one who prevails. We want our protagonist to be the one who saves the day. Or the protagonist can lose, but even if the protagonist loses it should be the protagonist who is active, who is pulling out all the stops.

And I see that sometimes in plot outlines. That somebody comes in from outside the protagonist and just saves the day. Or it’s just good luck. Angel slips and falls and falls on a stake.

As writers, we don’t always know quite how to have the protagonist use all their strength and skill and cunning and yet still have it be a dramatic fight. Sometimes we don’t want to torture our protagonist. We like that protagonist so much we don’t want to make it hard for them. But you really need that in a climax.

The Climax Sets Up That Last Twist

We get this amazing Climax here because it would’ve been truly a big enough moment with Buffy saying, “Me,” and turning the tide in the fight. And the momentum.

But because all of this happened, the first time through I am pretty sure I forgot that Angel had pulled the sword out and Acathla was still going to open. Or maybe I thought that there was something more he had to do than pulling the sword.

Because we’ve had Drusilla and Spike fighting, we’ve seen Willow with the spell, we had the sword fight, which was amazing in itself, and that moment with Buffy and Angel in the courtyard. If they had this fight and now Angel pulled out the sword, it would be uppermost in our minds as viewers.

But instead we have all this in between. So we really focus on Buffy’s triumph as she fights Angel back into the manor. And then we even have a couple more things because we see Spike driving Drusilla out of town in a car with all the windows blacked out. Very much a reflection both of Angel, when he first saw Buffy and was looking out of that blacked out car, and when Spike first drove into town in School Hard.

The Spell Takes Hold

We switch to Willow in the hospital. The tray table is rocking with the candles on it. She grips it and keeps chanting. The orb glows, and Willow blinks. Her body slumps, and we see she is back to herself.

Now Angel, Buffy has driven him into the manor. He’s fallen on his knees, much like we saw in Becoming Part One, that flashback when he first was cursed with his soul. And also like when Darla made him into a vampire. He was on his knees in front of her.

His eyes glow as they did in the flashback. And he was confused and asked what’s happening. So we really needed that story from Becoming Part One to know that, yes, when he gets his soul back he isn’t going to remember everything right away.

H won’t what happened. There is this lag time. So we’ve established that, and we’re not expecting him to just snap back to himself.

Buffy keeps her sword raised. She is uncertain. And he says, “Buffy. What’s happening?” and she very gradually lowers her sword, much like she gradually lowered that stake in the conversation with Spike.

But finally she is convinced. Angel stands. They hold each other.

She whispers, “Angel.” And he says he feels like he hasn’t seen her in months.

His back is to the camera. We see her face as they’re holding each other. She’s so grateful he’s back. And yet you can see all the pain that she’s been through. We get the Buffy/Angel theme music.

Then Buffy opens her eyes.

Close Your Eyes

And they’re standing in front of Acathla. Angel’s back is to the stone demon. So Buffy is facing it. Her eyes widen, and we see that its mouth is starting to open.

Angel asks what’s happening. She tells him to hush, don’t worry about it, as the vortex opens behind them and it swirls, gradually getting larger.

Buffy: I love you.

Angel: I love you.

Buffy: Close your eyes.

Like Darla said to him. Buffy kisses him one last time. The vortex has become giant. It is swirling behind them as they kiss. Buffy steps back. Angel still has his eyes closed. And with one blow of the sword she strikes right below his heart and the vortex pulls him in. But slowly, so we see him going backwards into this vortex, his hand is outstretched toward Buffy, the sword is sticking out of his chest.

And he says, “Buffy.”

Acathla closes.

Buffy’s face just breaks.

The Pyrrhic Victory

She has won.

But this is a pyrrhic victory. That is where the protagonist achieves a victory or goal at too great a cost. And that is the perfect example of it.

So at the end of any story or climax, the protagonist either wins, loses or wins but at a great, almost unbearable cost.

Falling Action In Becoming Part Two

We are now in the Falling Action. We’re at 48 minutes 11 seconds in.

Acathla is turned back to stone, is dormant. Buffy is looking at it. And we get a sad Sarah McLachlan song about winter and not seeing the sun for weeks. It is also about love and it’s called Full of Grace. I put a link in the show notes if you want to cry and listen and relive this.

Buffy walks to her house. She looks at it from outside.

We switch to inside. That song is still playing throughout. Joyce is going up the stairs, looking exhausted. She says, “Buffy?”

But when she goes into Buffy’s room we see empty hangers in the closet, a few clothes on the bed, and a note. Joyce sinks down on the bed and reads it.

It tells us something about their relationship. Buffy didn’t just disappear. She did leave a note.

We switch to school. It’s bright and sunny. Oz wheels Willow in a wheelchair. Cordelia is with them. Xander and Giles meet them. No one has seen Buffy.

Oz: But we know the world didn’t end because – check it out. (He gestures to the sun to everything going on.)

Giles tells them they went to the manor. Acathla is dormant. And they speculate on what happened. Maybe Buffy had to kill Angel, and she needs to be alone. Willow hopes the spell worked and Buffy and Angel are off being alone together.

They all agree that there still school so Buffy will have to come around soon. They don’t know that Snyder expelled her.

Willow is the most hopeful that Buffy will be back in a while. They walk into the school.

Buffy’s Clothes And Actions Show Her Feelings

From across the street Buffy watches them. She turns and walks away. She is wearing a baggy sweatshirt, baggy overalls, much like we saw her in Ted after she thought she had killed him and that he was a human being.

She’s carrying a large shoulder bag. Her clothing tells us how Buffy is feeling. But also the fact that she stays apart from her friends, watches them, and doesn’t go to talk to them. Doesn’t let them know that she’s okay.

She left a note for Joyce at least.

She doesn’t even give them a hint. And I did not think about it before. Maybe this is because of the message she thinks Willow sent her about “kick his ass.” That that seems so cold to her, or she feels that they will not understand.

So she just walks away from them as well.

Also, and this is this is what I thought when I first watched it, it’s just that overwhelming.  Buffy just cannot handle all this anymore. And she’s going to leave.

The scene switches to the bus window. We see Buffy’s face, and then the bus is down the road. Past a sign that says You Are Now Leaving Sunnydale.

The Monster Needs A Hug

And that is the end of the episode.

On a more fun note, I saw something this time that I am almost certain I never saw before. Because you have to watch all the way to the end of the credits. There’s that little monster that goes across the screen. It usually says, “Grr. Argh.”

This time he goes across the screen and he says, “Oh I need a hug.” Which cracked me up.

A couple more things from the DVD interview with Joss Whedon. He commented that the biggest challenge of the show overall is keeping the tone of mixing horror, comedy, and soap opera. And we really get that here.

And he also said that he always aims for you never know what to expect. And that is definitely the case in this episode. I am sure the first time around it never occurred to me that Buffy would get Angel back, but only when it was too late and she would then have to kill him.

Angel, Dru, And Spike

Joss said that with Spike, Drusilla and Angel they deliberately left it unclear.

Is Angel, really still that attracted to Drusilla? Or does he just act like it to drive Spike crazy?

I think maybe a little bit of both. But it works because either way it motivates Spike’s alliance with Buffy and we believe it.

Next Monday I will be doing a Season Two round up. I haven’t quite figured out all the topics yet. Theme will definitely be one of them. After that I will take a break between seasons but will come back on August 3 with Season Three. Which I’m so excited about.

I’ve already talked about how I really love Season Three. It may be my favorite of all the Buffy seasons.

I do have Spoilers coming. But if you’re not sticking around for that, thank you so much for listening. And a special thank you to patrons who help support the show and demonstrate that they would like it to continue.

And I hope to see you next Monday for the Season Two round up.




And we are back for Spoilers.

A Start For Spike

The moment with the cop. When Spike is about to kill the cop. So casual. “Let me just kill this guy.” Buffy just clears her throat, and he stops.

That moment is the first time we see Spike alter his behavior. His essential nature. Because he is allying himself with Buffy. So he is willing to do things her way, or more realistically he knows he has to to get her to work with him.

But this is such a great start for what we will see in Season Four when Spike gets that behavior modification chip and cannot behave like he normally would. I feel like that journey begins here with his choice to alter his behavior.

In contrast, Angelus. You cannot picture Angelus ever doing that. But Spike genuinely can recognize oh, right, this is not Buffy’s perspective.

Empathy And Choices

Even about Kendra, he has enough empathy to realize that Buffy sees it differently when he saying, “Oh, Dru bagged a Slayer. Ickle for her. Though not from your perspective I suppose.” And to care enough to say that even though at that point Buffy probably was going to work with him regardless.

So we see this shift. And I feel like it really sets up Spike’s entire arc.

Because while the chip takes him quite far in that arc, there is also that part of him that makes choices. And unlike Angel, who we talked about before has that soul thrust upon him, Spike will later choose to get a soul back.

And obviously it also kind of start setting up Spike and Buffy. That at some point they will have a deep relationship.

At the same time, we definitely see here that Spike has not totally altered his behavior. His moment of empathy for Buffy doesn’t change the fact that he’s willing to walk out and let her get killed. He clearly at the end thinks that Angel is almost certainly going to kill Buffy. And he leaves. He’s done his part of the deal. He helped her put one over on Angel, get the upper hand, at least for a while. And he got Drusilla out.

He does not feel obligated to stay and see it all the way through. Doesn’t care that she is going to get killed. Or does he?

When Spike Returns

Or does he?

So now I’m going to flip again because in Season Three Lovers Walk when Spike returns we will find out that Drusilla ultimately breaks it off with him. And yes, it is because he turned against her and Angel. But she says later that she saw the Slayer was all around him.

So Drusilla already, we find out later, is seeing that there is something about Spike’s choice to align with the Slayer.

Foreshadowing The Psychiatric Ward

Another hint or foreshadowing is when Joyce says to Buffy that this is insane and she needs help. And Buffy says, “I’m not crazy.”

In Season Six, Normal Again, when Buffy’s under the influence of a drug her enemies inject her with, she thinks that she is in a mental institution. That all of her life as the Slayer is a delusion.

And in a lucid moment she tells Willow that when she first told her parents about vampires, being a Slayer, they put her in a psych ward.

That felt retconned to me. But at that point we had Dawn in the world. So I even thought, well, maybe that’s something that came in when the monks changed everyone’s memories. And maybe that was part of the altered landscape.

But watching this, I think maybe the writers did have an idea that that could be part of Buffy’s back story.

On the other hand, it’s not that strange that Joyce might say that. Because while she has, yes, known Buffy got in fights, got in trouble (and washed blood out of her clothes), most of us wouldn’t think, well, she must be fighting vampires.

Xander’s Lie

The part where Xander tells Buffy this lie. When he’s about to deliver the real message that Willow is doing the curse, and then he thinks the better of it and says that Willow said, “Kick his ass.” Buffy never finds out that was not Willow’s message.

The closest we will get is the episode, I’m pretty sure it’s Season Seven, where Anya has returned to her vengeance demon ways. And she slaughters these fraternity boys. And Buffy is setting out to kill Anya. Xander and Buffy argue about what Buffy should do, and Buffy says, “I killed Angel.”

Because Xander is saying, oh, oh well, it’s fine. You don’t kill Spike, but you’re gonna kill Anya. Buffy says, “I killed Angel. Did you forget that?” And she says something like, “Oh, and your message.” She looks at Willow. “Kick his ass?”

And Willow looks so taken aback. She can’t even process it quickly enough to say she never said that. I think that’s the closest we get to the two of them addressing that.

Damaging The Buffy/Willow Friendship

And it really makes me wonder how much damage did that do? Primarily to the Buffy and Willow relationship. And is that part of why Buffy withdraws.

Because I always had a bit of a problem. It is always felt a little weird to me in later seasons, and I’ll talk about it when we get there. When Buffy is pulling away.

It feels like something the writers kind of force on her to give her inner conflict and vulnerability at times when I think Buffy would share with her friends. She would not hide from them.

But now I wonder, is that part of it?

Buffy feels like at that moment when she so needed to feel her friends support – no, they could not help her fight in that moment. But she needed to not feel alone. She needed at least to feel emotionally supported.

And she feels Willow not only passively didn’t support her, but actively said something so hurtful to Buffy. Buffy already knew she had to kill Angel. She already told Willow that. So there is in her mind no excuse — and I think no excuse had Willow really sent that message to Buffy.

And specifically, it may inform why when Buffy is back in Season Three, it takes her so long to tell her friends that Angel changed back to himself before she killed him. And that she had to kill him anyway.

Joyce And Spike

And finally, one of my favorite things – this will start this relationship between Joyce and Spike. Always Joyce will treat him like a person. She will try to be polite to him.

Even here when her mind is reeling trying to take all this in, she is making conversation. She is trying to make things seem normal and treat him like any other guest in her house. Especially one who is there to help her daughter.

And after she dies, Spike will say this. He tells Xander Joyce is the only one who treated him with respect. And he says something like, “She always had a cuppa for me.”

And we’ll see in later episodes Spike will confide how he’s feeling with Joyce and she will really try to listen.

Now often he is also doing something nefarious. This also sows the seeds for some fantastic confusion in Season Three for Joyce. Because Angel comes back. It’s a tough road but he is good again. But Joyce doesn’t know that. And Spike weaseles his way into her kitchen because he still has an invite to come in. She’s getting him hot cocoa with the little marshmallows in it. Angel comes to the door can’t get in, and the last Joyce knows, Angel is evil and Buffy had to try to kill him.

So of course she won’t invite him in. And it’s perfectly reasonable that Joyce thinks Spike is the good guy and Angel is the bad guy.

So that is it for the Spoilers and this episode. Thank you again for listening. You can tweet me, LisaMLilly #BuffyStory. Or email me.

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.