This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Innocence (Season 2 Episode 14 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the conclusion of a two-part story:
This podcast episode covers (1) the most heart-breaking Midpoint Reversal in all of Buffy; (2) how setting affects a scene’s emotional impact; (3) making the audience love your characters; and (4) why sometimes it’s good to write yourself into a corner.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
Last Week: Surprise
Next Up: Phases
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Episode Transcript for Innocence
Today we're talking about Season Two Episode Fourteen. Innocence is the second half of a two-part episode that began in Surprise, which I talked about last Monday.
For Innocence, we'll talk about:
- how where scene takes place affects the characters and the emotional resonance of the story;
- making the audience love your characters;
- why writing yourself into a corner sometimes can be a great thing; and
- how this episode incorporates a heart-wrenching subplot in the midst of an epic main plot.
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 innocence was written and directed by Joss Whedon.
There also is a scene-by-scene commentary on the DVD addition done by Whedon. And there is a very short interview with him as well.
Opening Conflict And A Hook
Because this is the second part of the two-part story, we have already covered the Opening Conflict, the Story Spark or Inciting Incident, and the One-Quarter Twist. We stopped at that Midpoint Commitment by Buffy, our protagonist, where she and Angel throw caution to the wind and make love after that harrowing experience with The Judge.
We also hinted at a major reversal for Buffy at the Midpoint. It’s where Angel is out in the alley, gasping Buffy's name in terrible pain.
This episode, Innocence, does start with its own opening conflict. Because we don't start right in the alley with Angel. We start in the factory with Drusilla and Spike.
Immediately we get some tension and conflict. Spike says, “I'm not happy, Pet.” He goes on to say that Angel and the Slayer are still alive. Plus they know where Spike and Drusilla are, and they know about The Judge. Spike thinks that they should vacate the factory.
Drusilla disagrees, saying, “Nonsense.” Angel and the Slayer won't bother them at the factory or come back. She says, “My Angel is too smart.” So interesting when she is opposing Spike.
Spike also complains about The Judge, calling him Big Blue. And says all he's doing is just sitting there not doing anything. Spike wants to know when can they go out and end some lives.
All of this dialogue gets in some quick exposition, catching the audience up on much of the plot from the last episode. It ends with a hook as Drusilla cries out and falls on the floor is if she is in pain. She says Angel's name. But a second later she smiles.
Buffy’s Reversal – Angel Changes
We fade to Buffy. She is asleep in Angel’s bed. She opens her eyes, hears the rain falling, and sees she is alone. Thunder claps as she looks around and says, “Angel?”
Out in the alley, we are back where we ended the last episode. Angel has fallen on the pavement and says, “Buffy.”
A woman in a leather coat, who was smoking in a doorway, comes over to ask if he's all right. He stands suddenly and says, “Y es the pain is gone now.” He turns and bites her, then lets her go and exhales smoke. He is in vamp face, and he says, “I feel just fine.:
That is 2 minutes 40 seconds in, and we go to credits.
This is that total reversal for Buffy. Angel has become evil. I also see it has a Story Spark or Inciting Incident. What gets our main plot rolling for this episode is Angel changing.
So we will see these major plot points within this episode, and we’ll see them playing out with the two-episode story arc.
And that is part of what keeps these two episodes moving so well.
The Day After
After the credits, Buffy comes into the back door at home. It's a sunny day. Joyce comes out from another room and says, “So did you have fun last night?”
We see this momentary panic on Buffy's face. She says, “Fun?” and Joyce says, “ At Willow's.” Because last night Buffy, Xander, and Willow all called their parents and told them they were staying at one of the other’s houses. Buffy covers. She's a little awkward but says yes, and Joyce asks her if something is wrong. Buffy says no. And Joyce says, “I don't know you just look – “ and she shakes her head and leaves.
Ready To Rescue Buffy
At the library Xander enters and says he had no luck at the bus depot finding any parts of The Judge coming in. This catches us up on what our friends were doing at the end of the last episode. Jenny and Willow look somber. Giles tells Xander that Buffy and Angel never checked in the night before. This means The Judge is very likely operational.
Xander says they need to go and try to help Buffy and Angel, go to the factory. But Cordelia says, “And do what except be afraid and die?”
Xander tells her no one is asking her to go. But Giles says she may have a point. If Buffy and Angel couldn't stand against The Judge, were hurt, the others don't have much chance.
Willow agrees with Xander and thinks the others are being terrible. They both head toward the door, but Buffy walks in. Xander says, “We were just going to rescue you.” And Willow, with a sidelong look at the other, says, “Well, some of us were.”
Buffy tells them The Judge is assembled. She's very upset to hear that Angel didn't check in with the others. She tells them that she and Angel had to hide. They were stuck in the sewer tunnels, and that's why they didn't call.
Willow reassures her, saying she's sure Angel will come by.
Giles asks about The Judge. Buffy says she kicked him. She barely touched him, but it burned. And Giles says eventually The Judge will be able to reduce humans to charcoal with a look.
Willow and Buffy talk. Willow is worried that Angel went after The Judge, and Buffy says no, maybe Angel just needed – and she breaks off and says she just wishes he'd contact her. She needs to talk to him. This is as they're walking in the hall and as they head up the stairs. Jenny comes around the corner, clearly having been listening.
In the commentary, Joss Whedon noted that there was another scene right here that got cut. In it, Buffy sat in class and remembered the sex with Angel from the night before. Joss said it was very surreal and arty and it got cut mainly for time. And because it really didn't add to the narrative.
But he also commented that when he tries to actually be artistic, “I tend to confuse people,” and that it's better when he just tells the story.
Literary v. Commercial
This reminded me of the distinction between literary fiction writing and commercial and genre fiction. It's not really a bright line. I best heard it described as a sort of continuum. At the literary extreme it is all about the writing and the style of the writing and the beauty of it. The art of the writing itself. At the other end it is all about the plot and the story.
Not that many stories fall at one end or the other. But people do tend to like things that lean a certain way. Some people love the beauty of the writing. Some people just want the story and that is the main distinction between literary and commercial fiction (or I like to think of it, more plot-based fiction). And I found it interesting because I think Joss Whedon stories are so amazing. I love the elements of his writing the dialogue, the characterization, but all of those really go to the story more than the style. Because his dialogue is amazing, and yet it always serves the story. It is rarely there just to be good dialogue.
So I found it interesting that he said when he tried to do this very artistic scene that was all about how it was shot and doing something interesting artistically, he ended up cutting it. And feeling like it didn't work because it didn't move the story and it confused people.
We switch to the factory. We’re about 7 minutes in. Drusilla is lying on her back on a table, dreamily naming all the stars though she's inside. Spike asks if she has seen any more. What happens to Angel?
A sarcastic voice comes from behind Spike as Angel – now Angelus – walks in and answers Spike's question. He says, “Well, he moved to New York and tried to fulfill his Broadway dream” and goes on with this story about what happens to Angel.
Joss said the idea of Spike and Drusilla as villains was to get the villains more incorporated into the real lives of the characters. Because in Season One, the Master was always a separate villain. We saw him completely separate from our usual cast of characters.
And here, Spike, Dru, and Angel, now are all going to be incorporated into our characters’ lives, as Spike and Dru already have been. He also loved the triangle idea of Spike, Dru, and Angel because it shows vampires as more complex than before.
The Judge Judges Angelus
In this scene, Spike doesn't realize yet Angel has changed. Even though Angel makes fun of Spike rolling through the streets on his wheelchair and is so sarcastic in a way that we have never seen Angel be. Spike tells Angel to look over his shoulder. He points to The Judge. The Judge touches Angel, and nothing happens.
Spike says something like, “What are you doing? Just burn him.” And Angel says, “Gee, maybe he's broken.”
The Judge says Angel is clean, there's no humanity in him. And Joss said this was a way to show the audience that Angel really had gone bad. He was not faking it There wasn't some ulterior plot of Angel to pretend to be bad. Which is also why they had Angel kills someone in that scene before the credits, the teaser. He did not want the audience to have any question.
So once The Judge has said this, we get a commercial break.
When we come back, Spike now is happy. He says to Angel, “No more of this I've-got-a-soul crap?” And he's laughing and Dru is dancing, and Spike says it made him sick to see Angel as the Slayer's lapdog.
Angel growls at Spike and lunges at him, but then he kisses him on the head. Spike says, “N ow it's three against one, which is the kind of odds I like to play.” Angel, though, is not ready to end the world yet when they tell him of their plan with The Judge. He says give him a night. He needs to go after the Slayer first, and he guarantees she won't be anything resembling a threat after he's done with her.
Cordelia And Xander Subplot
Back at the library, Willow is on the phone with Buffy trying to reassure her that Angel must have a plan, that's why he's missing. And he's not dead. The others are going through all of the books looking for answers about The Judge.
In the stacks, Cordelia is looking through a book. Xander asks if she's found anything. She says no weapon forged, it takes an army to take him down – all the same things. Xander apologizes for snapping at her when she didn't want to go after Buffy. And she says, “Well, I'm reeling from that new experience.” She also says he was all ready to rush out and die for his beloved Buffy, and he'd never die for her. He says he might die from her, does that get him any points? When she says no, he says, “Come on, can't we just kiss and make up?”
She says she doesn’t want make up. She smiles, though, and says, “But I'm okay with the other part.”
In the commentary, Joss said one of his favorite things on the show is the changing relationships. And the idea of Cordelia falling for Xander was a perfect sort of romance because they are so wrong for each other. He really liked developing Cordelia, who was kind of just the mean girl in Season One, and now she is showing real vulnerability. He also said that there is nothing more painful in the world than when Alyson Hannigan does her big eyes, which happens in a second.
Cordelia and Xander are kissing and when they break apart, we see Willow standing there at the end of the row of books. Just looking stricken. Xander runs after her. Cordelia looks upset. I feel like she feels for Willow.
Willow runs out in the hall in. Xander follows her.
Willow And Xander Subplot
I love also that in the midst of this huge turmoil for Buffy and Angel, The Judge planning to end the world, we get this subplot with Willow and Xander. And I think it works so well without distracting or slowing the momentum of the main plot for a couple reasons.
One is that we love Willow so much and we feel so much for her in the circumstance. The other is, as we'll see, it is always intertwined with the main plot. Here, Cordelia and Xander didn't just randomly argue. He snapped at her over that they all thought Buffy and Angel might be dead or hurt and Xander wanted to go after Buffy. Despite that it probably would've been a foolish thing to do.
Then in the stacks they are researching to try to figure out what's going on with The Judge. Willow is probably coming back there also to get more books and she sees them.
Out in the hall we have some fantastic dialogue.
Willow: I knew it. I knew it. Well, not knew it in the sense of having the slightest idea. But I knew there was something I didn't know. You two were fighting way too much. It's not natural.
Xander: I know it's weird.
Willow: Weird? It’s against all laws of God and man. It's Cordelia. Remember, the We Hate Cordelia Club, of which you are the Treasurer?
Xander says he was going to tell her, and she says, “What stopped you? Could it be shame?”
And Xander tells her she's overreacting. Then we get the lines that lead to the most heartbreaking thing from Willow.
Xander: We were just kissing. It didn't mean that much.
Willow (no longer yelling, her voice is soft and it breaks): No. Just that you'd rather be with someone you hate than be with me.
And she runs out. Xander looks after her, looking helpless. We get this beautiful plaintive music and it carries over into the next scene where Buffy is walking toward her house. She stops in front of it, then turns away and heads to Angel's apartment.
Escalating Emotional Pain At Angel’s
This scene is another example of escalation. If you remember back when I talked about Nightmares, the scene with Buffy and her dad. Where every line just escalates this conflict and emotional pain when you didn't think that it could get any worse. The writers just keep turning it up again and again.
Here, when Buffy enters Angel's apartment, it seems like it's deserted. She walks toward the bed and sees his shirt lying there. So she knows that he’s been back. It doesn't look the way it did when she left. So she is already distraught, and he walks out behind her, shirtless.
She hears him and turns and runs and hugs him and says, “Angel, my God.”
He does hug her back, and he says he's sorry. And he sort of sounds like himself. He says he didn't mean to frighten her. At the same time, he is not quite himself. Because he acts like he's surprised that she's upset or that she was worried. This adds to Buffy's unease. She should feel better because here Angel is. Yet he's acting very odd. Like it's no, no big deal, which she will say.
And she says, “You just disappeared.” He says, “What? I took off.” She meets casualness with more intensity and says, “But you didn't say anything. You just left.”
Angel starts putting his shirt back on and says, “Like I really wanted to stick around after that.” Buffy says, “What?” We can see in her face she just can barely comprehend what he is saying. And he calls her kiddo and says she has a lot to learn about men, but he guesses she proved that last .
All of this is just as he is casually buttoning up his shirt.
Buffy looks devastated and says, “What are you saying?”
He tells her, “Let's not make an issue of it. Let's not talk about it at all.” And he puts his coat on.
Actions And Tone Underscore Angel’s Cruelty
All of his actions, his tone, and his words, which are so dismissive and casual – it’s like he's putting on his clothes and he can't even bother to stop what he's doing and really look at her and focus on her. At the same time, it's so very intimate. That act of getting dressed in front of her.
Buffy is trying to process this and she says, “Was it me? Was I not – good?”
I feel it just it just keeps getting more horrible because he chuckles and says oh, she was great, really. He says, “I thought you were a Pro.”
A tone we have never heard him use with her. And she says, “How can you say this to me?” He tells her lighten up, it was a good time. It doesn't have to be a big deal.
When Buffy says it is a big deal, Angel again ratchets up the emotional pain and the awfulness. He says, “It's what? Bells ringing, fireworks, a dulcet choir or pretty little birdies?” He giggles when he says this.
That is somehow even more unnerving, Angel giggling. And he says, “Come on, Buffy. It's not like I've never been there before.” He moves his hand toward her face like he's about to tap her nose or chuck her under the chin or something, like a little girl. She jerks away and says in this low voice that’s almost a whisper, “Don't touch me.”
He kind of points his finger at her and says he should've known she wouldn't be able to handle this. He heads for the door. And she says, “Angel.”
And he turns toward her with this awful grin and she says again, almost in a whisper, “I love you.” It sounds desperate. Like how can this be happening? Even though he's just said he these terrible things she wants to bring him back to where they were last night.
Angel does worse than not responding. He says, “Love you too,” and he points his finger toward her as he says it, just making this joke of it and mocking her. He turns and opens the door opens it. Before leaving, he adds that final terrible thing. “I'll call you.” And walks out.
We can tell from his profile – we can't quite see his eyes rolling, tut the way his expression is we know that's what he's doing. And he shuts the door.
Buffy's face — she swallows hard and starts to cry. This is so devastating. Because we know – it's dramatic irony – that Angel has been turned. But Buffy doesn't, and to her it is this man that she loved rejecting her. This lovemaking that mattered so much to her and that she thought was this deep connection with him doesn’t matter to him at all. We saw all that wedding imagery, the exchange of rings. And worse and not mattering, it's a joke. He's making fun of her.
This is about 15 minutes, 30 seconds in. This is almost a One-Quarter Twist for Buffy's personal story in this episode. It comes from outside of her, outside the protagonist, and sends the story in a totally new direction where she has to deal with this emotional loss.
Setting Is Key
In the commentary, Joss said that initially they wrote and shot the scene with Buffy running into Angel at her house. And he said it it wasn't working. That it was in the wrong place. You needed to see them in Angel's bedroom. It needed to be intimate. You needed to see him with his shirt off.
Instead of the two characters in woolly coats standing outside. And he said it showed he had a lot to learn as writer and a director. When they shot it again, it worked amazingly as we see.
While when we’re writing a novel or short story we don't have actors playing the parts, we do have the characters. So it's a good lesson. If the scene is not working – your dialogue, your conflict – you’re not getting the emotion you want, it is worth looking at if that scene is in the right place. Have you used the setting to the greatest emotional impact?
And maybe that's a better question. Not that there is one right place. (Although that particular scene, I think there was a right place and that was it.)
I don't know that all scenes have that one perfect place. But to look and say is this the setting that is going to bring out the most emotion? The most of the characters feelings? That can make a huge, huge difference.
Time Allows You To Write Characters Different From You
Joss also said he felt like an ugly person writing the scene because he could make Angel say these terrible things. I think that goes to the question of how do you as a writer write things that maybe you don't want to write. Or write a character who is mean, and you're not mean?
Or, as an example, I had a friend who kept saying she had a genius character. And how could she write a genius when she wasn’t one. Or writing a character who is really witty and funny if you’re not the kind of person who just pops off one-liners. All of those things.
The advantage you have is you’re the writer, can you have time. So it can take you fifteen minutes to figure out that next horrible line, or that next very funny line, or something this amazing deduction the character makes. It might take you fifteen minutes to figure it out. It may take you an hour. But on the page, the character comes out with it immediately.
So it may take you longer to create a character who is not who you, or who is ramped up from what you would ever do or say. But on the page that thinking you did, that time that you took, doesn't show. To the reader, this is just this character being who the character.
In terms of emotional resonance, Joss said he thought this scene with Buffy and Angel was the best scene that they had ever done on the show.
Solving Scene Problems – Jenny And Her Uncle
We then switch to Jenny and her uncle. And for different reasons, Joss says this is a scene that he loved because he had to solve so many problems with it.
So we have Jenny saying to her uncle that she couldn't keep Angel from Buffy. And she argues that Angel could help them stop The Judge. That he might be the only chance. But the uncle tells her it's too late. And he explains the curse. He says Angel was meant to suffer, not to live as human. So “one moment of true happiness, of contentment, one moment where the soul that we restored no longer plagues his thoughts, and that soul is taken from him.”
Jenny realizes that if that happened that means, Angelus is back. The uncle says yes, he hoped to stop it but he realizes now it was all arranged to be part of the plan. Jenny says that Buffy loves him. And the uncle says now she'll have to kill him. Jenny says unless Angel kills Buffy first. That it's insanity and people will die.
The uncle previously said that vengeance is a living thing. And now he says, “Yes. It is not justice we serve, it is vengeance.”
I love this quote. I saw this whole thing as part of the theme of the episode and a real comment on the idea of vengeance. How when we want revenge, how twisted it can become. And how vengeance and justice are not the same. I've always loved and admired that quote.
Writing Yourself Into A Corner – And Out Again
And it turns out that quote came from necessity.
Because Joss said he had some serious problems in terms of the Jenny storyline. He said Jenny had never really done anything. Which is true. Though she was sent there to supposedly watch Angel, she hadn't really done anything. He said that was partly because they didn't decide that Jenny would be part of this clan until later. So they didn't have anything that she had done that made sense.
He also said the whole curse doesn't make sense. It's a terrible plan to have Angel’s soul be yanked away the moment he is truly happy.
So they had pretty much written themselves into a corner. Joss said luckily he had experience dealing with that kind of thing because he worked for a long time as a script doctor. And one thing you do is you get handed a script, and there are elements that the producers or directors love. But there are things that just aren't working. It's the script doctor's job to make those work. To make elements that do not fit or things that are not built in somehow work.
He took a walk along the Santa Monica Pier and he was desperately trying to connect up all these things about the curse. Why would Angel lose his soul? It doesn't make any sense. And he came up with that idea of vengeance as this living thing. This sort of arbitrary god.
I just love that because of those problems this wonderful commentary came out of it. This thing that really does hold it together.
And this also is a great example of what I talked about last Monday where when you do your world building sort of as you need it on the fly. Sometimes you get to this place where you don't know what to do. But it almost I think forces a sort of creativity. It sometimes makes you come up with something really powerful.
At the school, Willow comes back. She's walking very slowly. We see from her body language how bad she still feels.
Xander is out in the hall and he says he's glad she came back. They can't do it without her. And we get a great quote from Willow that really shows how mature she is and how emotionally aware. Because she's able to say how she feels and yet be there to help. And to continue being friends with Xander.
Willow: Let's get this straight. I don't understand it. I don't want to understand it. You have gross emotional problems and things are not okay between us. But what’s happening right now is more important than that.
Xander nods, and he says okay. Willow asks where they stand about The Judge.
So right here is a great example of how this Willow/Xander subplot is woven into the main plot. So the main plot doesn't stop it in its tracks while we go to one side to deal with Willow and Xander. It is part of it.
Because Xander answers Willow and says they’re where they were when she left. No weapon forged. It took an army. And Willow says, “Yeah, where's an army when you need one?”
And Xander gets an idea. But we don't find out yet what it is because the lights go out.
Angelus Reveals Himself
They start to head for the library, but Angel calls their names. He’s standing near the exit in the dark so they don't see his face.
Willow asks if he saw Buffy, and he says yeah. He sounds like himself. He says he is something to show them and tells Xander to go get the others. Willow walks slowly toward Angel, asking what it is. And he says, “It's amazing.”
Something in his tone makes Xander turn around. Jenny comes out of the library with a cross and tells Willow to get away from Angel and walk to her. But it's too late. Angel grabs Willow from behind. Jenny says he's not Angel anymore. Angel says, “Wrong. I am Angel, at last.”
And he says he has a message for Buffy. From behind him Buffy says he should give it to her himself. He spins around, still gripping Willow by the throat, and says it's not the kind of message he can say. It involves her finding the dead bodies of all her friends. Buffy tries to say that some part of him must remember who he is. He says, “Dream on, schoolgirl. Your boyfriend's dead.”
As Angel's talking to Buffy, Xander takes the cross from Jenny and creeps up behind Angel. Buffy is telling them to leave Willow alone and deal with her, and Xander thrust the cross at Angel, surprising him. Angel reflexively jerks away and throws Willow to the side. Then he grabs Buffy by the shoulders and says, “Things are about to get very interesting.” He kisses her, flings her against the wall, and stalks out.
This is nearly the episode Midpoint, and it seems like a major reversal for Buffy. But it gets worse. So I think that Midpoint is still coming. We are also coming up to the three-quarter plot turn for the entire story arc. But first, we cut to a commercial.
First, I want to say thank you to patrons. I so appreciate your support. If you would like to join them, you can find a link in the show notes and you'll get access to the breakdown of Jessica Jones, the pilot episode.
Also, if you would find it helpful to have a little more guidance with how to apply these plot points specifically, when writing a novel, you may want to check Out The One-Year Novelist, A Quick Guide To Plotting And Writing Your Novel In One Year. And I should say in one year or less. It’s very adaptable. If you have already done your plot, you can skip right to the writing part. If you have more time to write, you can accelerate the process. Or if your life is not predictable so that you can’t write the same amount every day or every week, you can adapt the schedule that way as well.
It is meant to be very flexible because I have written novels during both times in my life. Times when I had a 9-to-5 job and times and I had a job where there was never an hour that I could truly be sure that I would not be working.
Giles Leans Toward Panic
And we're back in the library. Giles is leaning towards blind panic. It was enough with The Judge, he wasn't prepared for Angel crossing over. Willow asks if Buffy's okay. Buffy shakes her head and says she should've known. She says, “I saw him at the house and he was different.”
Interesting that she says “at the house.” So it seems like this scene must've been filmed before they realized it should be in Angel's apartment.
Buffy goes on to say she should have known because of the things he said. Giles says, “What things” And Buffy says, “It's private.
And the next moment, we get what I see as the Three-Quarter Turn of the double episode arc.
The Three-Quarter Turn In Surprise/Innocence
It's about 22 minutes in. So it's right about three quarters through this whole story.
Giles is pushing Buffy to tell them what Angel said and what happened. And he says if only they knew what set it off, Angel's change. And Buffy says, “What you mean?” Giles says some event must have set it off “if anyone would know, Buffy, it should be you. Did anything happen last night?”
This that turn, that major reversal for Buffy. So it’s the episode Midpoint for her because she realizes that their lovemaking somehow caused this. She couldn't be more devastated.
We would've thought nothing could get worse for Buffy. First, she thinks Angel is not who she thought and he's rejecting her. And it's terrible emotionally. Then she finds out, well, he really is not who she thought. And because he’s become Angelus, she has not only lost Angel, but there is Angelus, this evil being. And now it is so much worse because she feels personally responsible. That she is the one who did this.
As Giles pushes her, she says, “Giles, please, I can't” and leaves. He calls after her, saying something like, “We can afford to be emotional at this time.”
Willow says, “Giles, shut up.” And we see that Willow has put together what happened.
Joss Whedon On Willow And On Planning Scenes
In the commentary, Joss said a couple things. One is that he loves Willow's bond with Buffy. That it is kind of transcendent. And I agree.
He also commented on strategy. Saying that when they have scenes in the library, it's almost always information is coming out, exposition, and there are a number of people there. He said he goes there and walks through it. Figures out exactly where everyone will be. I think that is a great idea.
I don't have sets to go to. But sometimes when I am struggling with the scene, I’ve drawn on a piece of paper either the room or the neighborhood. I am not an artist by any means. I would not share those drawings. They are really bad line drawings. But I have done that to help me get that sense of who is there and what are they doing.
Likewise, I have gone to some of the places and just sat there and looked around. Or taken a video of them and figured out, okay, yes, this is the bench. This is how far it is from the Picasso sculpture. This is what my character would really see and observe and hear and so forth. So that can be really valuable.
Cordelia says how terrible things are. She lists all the awful things, including not just The Judge being operational but Angel turning and the Slayer being a basket case. And she ends with, “I'd say we've hit bottom.” And then some great quotes. Xander says, “I have a plan.” And Cordelia says, “Oh no, here's a lower place.”
Xander explains that he is figured out a way to deal with The Judge, and he needs Cordelia's help.
Back to the factory warehouse. Angel is going on about the look on Buffy's face being priceless. When Spike says, “So you didn't kill her,” he says of course not. Another great quote:
Spike: I know you haven't been in the game for a while, mate, but we do still kill people. It's sort of our raison d'être you know.
Drusilla says no, Angel doesn't want to kill Buffy. He wants to hurt her, “just like you hurt me.” She says it with a little laugh. And Angel says, “No one knows me like you do, Dru.”
Angel tells Spike he doesn't get it. Spike tried to kill Buffy and look at him. Angel laughs at Spike in wheelchair and says that force won't do it. “To kill this girl you have to love her.”
Buffy Learns Through Her Dream
Back at home, Buffy is in her bedroom. She’s looking at the cross on the necklace that Angel gave her, and the ring he gave her. She sobs and curls up on her bed. We drift into dream. Buffy and Angel in bed. We see the rings on their hands.
It is almost that artistic type of approach to a flashback of their lovemaking that Joss was talking about earlier. Although it is clear what's happening. Angel whispers, “I love you,” and it's very sweet. We see him touching her face. It emphasizes for me the horribleness of how Angel treats her the next day.
Then Buffy in the dream is at a grave. Angel is there in the sun. He looks at her and says, “You have to know what to see.” Buffy turns and sees Jenny all dressed in black, pulling a veil down over her face.
So this is an example of dream moving the story forward. It also fills in that scene that we missed with Buffy and Angel when they are finally making love. In a very television, PG sort of way. But we get that emotional moment that we missed and saw only the aftermath of. This also moves the story because we see Buffy making this connection between Jenny and what happened.
Buffy Confronts Jenny
The next scene, the music changes. It becomes very intense with a driving beat. Buffy walks into school, straight into Jenny's classroom. Giles is there are talking to Jenny. Buffy ignores him, grabs Jenny by the throat, and pins her on the desk. She then immediately let's go but says, “What do you know?” Giles sends the students away, saying he'll deal with it.
And Buffy is saying, “Did you do it? Did you change him?” And, “Did you know this was going to happen?”
Giles yells at Buffy, says she can't go around accusing everybody. But Jenny says, “I didn't know exactly. I was told – “ And Giles is just shocked. Jenny tells him she's sorry, but that Angel was supposed to pay for what he did to her people. She tells Buffy she didn't know what would happen until after, she swears she would've told Buffy.
And Buffy says, “So what was me. I did it.” Jenny says, “I think so,” and she explains about the moment of true happiness.
Giles says, “I don't understand. How do you know you were responsible – ” And Buffy just looks at him. He looks back and takes off his glasses and says, “Oh.”
Cursing Angel Again?
Buffy tells Jenny to curse him again. Jenny says she can't. The magics are long lost. But if she can't help, Buffy wants Jenny to take her to someone who can.
We cut to the uncle. He hears the door open behind him and says, “I knew she would bring you. I suppose you want answers.”
But it’s Angel. He says, “Not really.”
Joss said that he had this long scene planned where Angel tortured the uncle and kind of monologued. Then he cut it because he realized even before they shot it that as soon as Angel spoke it's over. We all know what will happen.
Subplot: Oz Doesn’t Kiss Willow
We cut to rainy night outside a military base. Willow and Oz wait in his van. (In a previous scene, Xander said they needed transportation something, bigger than a car. And Willow said, “No problem, Oz has a van.”)
She and Oz wait while Cordelia and Xander sneak in through fence to the base. When they're caught, Xander pretends he's a soldier on leave bringing his girl in to impress her. He uses what he remembers from when he was a soldier on Halloween to fool the guard into thinking he really belongs there. They get into the armory to steal something, but we don't know what.
While Oz and Willow are waiting there talking and Willow suddenly says, “Do you want to make out with me? Oz says, “What?” and she says forget it, she's sorry.
But then she says, “Well, do you?” Oz tells her that sometimes in class he's thinking – and he says I'm not thinking about class because that would never happen — but he thinks about kissing Willow. He says it's like freeze-frame. And he makes it sound so amazing. She kind of looks at him expectantly and he says no, he's not going to kiss her.
Willow doesn't understand why. And we get a wonderful line from Oz.
Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it would appear that you're trying to make your friend Xander jealous, or even the score or something. And that's on the empty side. See in my fantasy, when I'm kissing you, you're kissing me. It's okay. I can wait.
Making The Audience Love Oz
Joss Whedon said that Oz was based on someone he knew who was very laid-back and cool and just wanted a character that was so cool that he sees how cool Willow is even when she was hidden in that big Eskimo outfit and Inca mummy girl, but the audience was not loving Oz. He said they were very vocal about it. They wanted Willow with Xander because Willow is so into Xander. And he wrote this scene that makes Willow love Oz. He said Willow really falls for Oz and that moment when explains why he isn't going to kiss her and says he can wait and we see that in Willow's face and because Willow falls for Oz the audience falls for Oz.
Three-Quarters Through Innocence
We now switch to the uncle’s. Buffy, Jenny, and Giles did in fact go there. Jenny runs to the body. On the wall in blood is written, “Was it good for you too?”
Giles tells Buffy Angel is doing it deliberately to make it harder for her. And she says he's only making it easier, she knows what she has to do. Kill him.
This is about 34 minutes in, and so note that is really close to three quarters through this episode. Normally our Three-Quarter Turn grows out of the protagonist’s actions at the Midpoint and turns the story in yet another new direction. Or it can grow out of a reversal and turn the story again. And so here, this grows out of the reversal that Buffy suffered and all of her decisions. And it spins the story because now she knows she has to kill Angel.
We cut to commercial.
The Judge Is Read
When we get back, we’re in the factory. The Judge is saying that he's ready. Angel, with more sarcasm, says to Spike, “Too bad you can't come with. I'll be thinking of you.” Spike gives him this look and say. “I won't be in this chair forever.” And this is great, not just foreshadowing, but it's already developing this triangle. This tension between Spike and Angel.
We see Xander putting a large rectangular box on a table in Giles’ office. He says, “Happy Birthday, Buffy” and hopes she likes the color. We still don't see what's inside. It looks a bit like the box The Judge's arm came in at Buffy's party, though it's newer and it's more of a regular shape. But it's a nice echo back to that. Because that was Dru's birthday present and now this is Buffy's.
Jenny comes in and she wants to help. Buffy says, “Get out.” Jenny says something to Giles and he says, “She said get out,” and turns his back on her. It is so sad but I love Giles in this moment because he puts Buffy first.
They go to the factory and don't find anyone there. Spike is hiding and listening to them. They talk about where might The Judge be, that he needs bodies and the Bronze is closed. So they figure out the most people will likely be at the mall. Which would have probably been true back then.
We switch to the mall. There are people in line at a concession stand. It's sort of an open area almost like a food court.
Angel, Dru, The Judge, and other vamps enter. They’re up at the top of the stairs, on a somewhat higher level than that food court area. The Judge burns man. It's almost like a lightning bolt comes out of his fingers crackling of electricity. And this man just a few feet away burns up.
The Climax Of Surprise And Innocence
We are now at the climax of our two-episode story arc. It's 36 minutes 50 seconds in. Buffy enters with her friends. Giles is carrying the box on his shoulder.
We switch to The Judge, Angel on one side, Dru on the other. Angel is smiling. The Judge is shooting these bolts of electricity that are zigzagging through the crowd. Just as we close up on Angel smiling, an arrow hits The Judge's chest. The people are okay, and The Judge says, “Who dares?”
We Pan to Buffy. She is standing on the counter holding a crossbow and says, “I think I got his attention.” The Judge tells her she's a fool. “No weapon forged can stop me.”
And Buffy says that was then. She hands down her crossbow. Someone else hands her the rocket launcher. She puts it on her shoulder and says, “This is now.”
As it powers up, people in the crowd are running. Drusilla and Angel look at each other and dive off that upper-level to get out of the way. It's all in slow motion. The Judge says, “What's that do?”
Buffy fires. As it hits The Judge Angel and Dru hit the floor. Dru squeals and runs as pieces of The Judge rain down everywhere. Angel, looking exasperated, runs the other way.
I love all of this because it so fits Buffy, who is not constrained by the old rules. So she gets this rocket launcher that didn't exist when The Judge was previously dismembered. and I love that it's such an ensemble effort. Everybody together researched and Xander had this idea of Cordelia helping and going get it And Oz and Willow brought it back. Everybody took part in this.
It wasn't just the one girl in all the world.
Falling Action In Surprise And Innocence
Now we are at Falling Action for this main part of the plot with The Judge. We have to tie up the loose ends from our story. Falling is a little bit literal here, because Angel and Drusilla do fall with the blast.
Buffy says this was her best present ever. But she says they can't be sure he's dead and tells the others to pick up the pieces and keep them separate. And Cordelia says, “Pieces. We get the pieces. Our job sucks.” But she goes off to do it.
Now we have to deal with Angel.
Part Of The Climax?
So in a way this is part of the Climax. Though we started that Falling Action of tying up loose ends, this is the Climax of the Buffy and Angel part of the story. Buffy sees him leaving. He glances back, sees her, and ducks into a side hallway. She follows him toward the back in where the movie theater is. There's no one else around.
And Angel is again saying horrible things to her. He tells her the worst part was pretending to love her and says, “If I knew how easily you'd give it up, I wouldn't have even bothered.” But she says it doesn't work anymore. He's not Angel. And he says she'd like to think that but it doesn't matter. The important thing is she made him the man he is today. They start fighting.
We switch to our friends out in the food court. Oz is pointing to the ground and says arm.
It's funny, and in the commentary, Joss said that juxtaposing these types of scenes is the most important thing.
Angel and Buffy, as they fight, he continues to say these kinds of intimate, awful things to her that could've fit with what she originally thought was happening. That Angel just did not love her and was mocking her. Although now she knows it's Angelus, it still makes it so much more than just a physical fight.
She throws him into a glass case, kicks him against the wall. He’s sort of cowering. Buffy pulls out a stake and then looks at his face. And even though he has that horrible like mocking grin still on his face, she can't do it. She starts lowering the stake and he says, “You can't do it. You can't kill me.”
She kicks him really hard in the crotch. He groans and falls to his knees. She walks away and says, “Give me time.”
This is the climax of the Buffy and Angel plot. And now we get the Falling Action from that.
More Falling Action
Giles drives Buffy home. He pulls up in front of her house and tells her it's not over. Angel will come after her particularly. Buffy is staring straight ahead through the windshield. And she says, “You must be so disappointed in me. Giles looks at her and says no.
And she finally looks at him and he says he's not. Buffy says it's all her fault and he tells her he doesn't believe it is. And says, “Do you want me to wag my finger at you and tell you you acted rashly? You did and I can.” But he he knows she loved Angel, and Angel proved more than once he loved her. She couldn't have known what would happen. And then he says:
Giles: The coming months are going to be hard. I suspect on all of us. But if it's guilt you're looking form Buffy. I'm not your man. All you will get from me is my support and my respect.
And her face just crumples.
Buffy Got Older
The scene cuts. We see an old black and white movie where a couple is dancing. The woman is singing “goodnight, my love” and something about their moment together now is ending. (I looked this up. The movie is called stowaway. It's from the 1930s.)
Joyce brings out cupcakes and asks what Buffy did for her birthday. And Buffy says, “I got older.”
Joyce looks a little concerned, but says, “You look the same to me.” She lights candle on one of the cupcakes and tells Buffy her to make a wish.
Buffy looks at the candle and says, “I'll just let it burn.”
I thought the previous line, “I got older” was one of the most heartbreaking I'd ever heard. And then when she says “I'll just let it burn” it’s so much sadder. Joyce strokes Buffy's hair and Buffy leans into her mom.
The song finishes and that is the end of the episode.
The Meaning Of Innocence
Joss commented that part of the meaning of Innocence in the title is that Buffy is in a sense innocent. She hasn't lost anything of herself even though she's gone through this painful maturing process. And he said that's why Joyce says she doesn't look different. He wanted to show that Buffy is still the same good person that she was before.
Before we get to Spoilers, a few more things from the DVD commentary that deal with the issue of what are we saying about sex in Buffy. Which I talked about a bit starting in Ted. Here when Joss addresses that, he talks first about how he created the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer to deal with that blonde girl trope of her always being the victim. Also that it always seemed like the girl had sex and got punished for it by being killed.
Sex In Buffy The Vampire Slayer
But in the series, they had to make Buffy younger, so that she could be in high school longer. So they made her a sophomore, and he felt like they had to deal with sex. That first time having sex. This storyline is the horror version of “I slept with my boyfriend and now he doesn't call me.” Plus, he is killing people.
And he said he really struggled with that because he didn't want to kill the girl who has sex. And yet the show does in a way punish her. But he said the thing is, in horror, eventually you end up punishing characters for everything they do. The distinction he tried to make from the trope is that the consequence to Buffy here, the punishment is emotional, and she grows from it. She learned from it. And she doesn't get ax- murdered because she had sex.
The Most Important Buffy Episode
He also said that this episode was the most important one that they did in Buffy on two different levels.
For the network it was key because they just moved Buffy to a new night and time. One that was a better night for any show. And the network was worried not enough audience would respond or come to the show to justify that. But Surprise and Innocence did.
And to the writers, he said it was most important because of the emotional resonance. And it showed how much the show had evolved. That it was a much harder-edged story than they had ever done.
Sam And Diane
He also commented on Angel changing – that was to avoid the Sam and Diane issue from the show Cheers. Where once the couple finally gets together, they become boring. So he said he came up with the idea of Angel turning evil almost the instant that they get together.
Finally, he talked about Surprise and Innocence being the mission statement of the show. It is at once mythic – it's the Hero's Journey, Buffy losing Angel and having to fight him. And it is the personal story. I slept with someone and he doesn't call me anymore.
I hope you will stay around for Spoilers. If you aren't sticking around thank you so much for listening. I hope you'll come back next Monday for Phases, which focuses on Willow and Oz.
And we are back for Spoilers.
The End Of The World
I said last time in the Spoilers for Surprise that Spike doesn't want in the world. He likes the world. And I mentioned that by the time we get to end of Season Two, that’s where he says he likes the world. He doesn't want the world to end.
In this episode., it’s interesting because he does seem kind of gung ho about the end of the world. And irritated that Angel is delaying it. I read this as not necessarily that Spike wants to wipe out the whole world. But I think he would not mind wiping out quite a bit of humanity, including a lot of Sunnydale. Because in the beginning of this episode he is so despondent and he feels like Sunnydale is just curse for them.
So what I think that is the source of his saying “come on, let’s start the end of the world.”
The Moment Of True Happiness
Angel's curse. So this idea of one moment of true happiness. Throughout Buffy, this will be interpreted as sex. Mostly specifically sex with Buffy.
In Season Three when Angel comes back, this is what worries everybody. That Buffy and Angel will have sex again and Angel will lose his soul again.
And in Angel the show for a long time the curse is interpreted by almost all the characters (I actually think all of them) as Angel having sex with anybody. But we do get an episode – I don’t want to say too much because I don't know if all of you have seen all of Angel – but we do get an episode where that is finally clarified that it isn't just sex. It is true happiness. Great love, true happiness. All of that together.
In Buffy, it is a fantastic development because this will forever stand in Buffy's and Angel's way. They will struggle to deal with this, that there is always this fear.
Buffy And Angel At The End
And I'm really going to jump ahead to Season Seven. When we’re nearing the finale, I have always been confused by Angel coming back. Not that he comes back. But that conversation they have where he seems to be saying, oh, maybe Buffy will eventually choose to be with him. I don't get that idea because I think that was already settled. Even in Angel it’s referred to once or twice. Why they can't be together.
So I find it very odd because there's no solution for them that we have seen in either show. We’ll see when I get there. It could be that that it is justified in a way that I'm just not grasping as I'm remembering it.
Buffy’s Abandonment Fears
The emotional fall out of all of this episode for Buffy really resonates and informs her other relationships. In Nightmares, when I was talking about the Spoilers, I said that I didn't find Buffy's abandonment fears all that believable when we get to Season Four’s Fear Itself. And I mentioned how I really dislike the Parker Abrams story arc. Where Buffy falls for Parker and sleeps with him and then pines over him for what seems like forever. I never quite bought it.
Now that I am doing this podcast and looking so closely, I realize that maybe I was being too literal with that with Parker. Because that's the next time she sleeps with anybody. He is such a jerk. And it plays out in a very mundane way. He's sleeps with her, and then just doesn't call her again. And I realize now that maybe the reason Buffy has so much trouble getting over him is that isn't about Parker.
It's about Angel. And in fact, Spike taunts her with that comparison between Parker and Angel in the episode where he gets the ring that makes him invincible.
The Audience And Oz
Finally, I found it really interesting that Joss talked about how the audience was not wanting Willow to be with Oz. And he wrote that scene where Willow really falls for Oz, and so the audience then loves him too. He must've thought he needed to do that because otherwise Phases, where we find out (and Oz finds out) that he is a werewolf wouldn't have the emotional impact it does.
So on that note, thank you again for listening. I hope you will join me next Monday for Phases.
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.