This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Passion (Season 2 Episode 17 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer):
This podcast episode covers (1) who the protagonist is – Angel or Buffy? (2) weaving together two strong plots; (3) underscoring tragedy by shifting a character’s tone; and (4) dramatic irony that ratchets up emotional pain.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
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Episode Transcript for Passion
Hello and welcome to 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 WritingAsASecondCareer.com
Today we’re talking about Season Two Episode Seventeen Passion.
What’s Included In Passion
- who the protagonist is here (Angel, whose voice we hear first, or Buffy);
- how a shift in a character’s actions and words underscores the tragedy here;
- and using dramatic irony to ratchet up emotional pain of the audience.
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.
Passion was written by Ty King and directed by Michael Gershman.
This episode raises interesting questions about who the protagonist is. And it shows two plots, or the same plot from two different points of view, weaving together. That’s something that usually is difficult to do, but that is done very well in this episode. And that’s despite that some of the plot turns I usually look for are not quite as clear.
Yet there are significant turns that keep the story moving and engaging. So that’s another reason I find this one very interesting.
Opening Conflict In Passion
We began with intense conflict. Buffy and Xander are dancing at the Bronze. That’s not the intense conflict – they are having fun. But Angel is watching from a distance. We know there is danger here for Buffy.
The voiceover is about passion. Angel tells us it lies in all of us. “Waiting, unwanted, it will stir, open its jaws and howl.”
We see the Buffy, Willow, Xander and Cordelia leave the Bronze. But we are not hearing them. We only hear music, and Angel in the shadows behind them is biting and killing a woman.
Angel In Buffy’s House
We switch to outside view of Buffy’s bedroom, looking through her window. Buffy peers out, looking troubled.
Angel comes in during the night. He strokes her hair.
And the voiceover continues: “Passion rules us all and we obey. What other choice do we have?”
And we go to Credits. That was 2 minutes 29 seconds in.
In the morning Buffy wakes up. She finds an envelope, and inside it is a charcoal drawing of her sleeping.
Buffy Seeks Help From Giles
At the library, Buffy tells Giles about it. When Cordelia asks how Angel could come in, Giles explains to everyone that once they are invited vampires can come in any time. They don’t need an invitation each time.
Cordelia panics. She invited Angel into her car once, and now he can come in anytime. We get some humor here.
Xander: Yep you’re doomed to giving him and his vamp pals a lift whenever they feel like it. And those guys never chip in for gas.
This is the first example of Cordelia and Xander being comic relief. Cordelia in the fashion we’ve become used to where she is very self-focused and sometimes misses the emotions of others. And that contrast to her later response toward the end of the episode.
The Story Spark In Passion
All of this happens leading up to right around 4 minutes 30 seconds, when Giles will identify what’s happening. This is where we usually see our Story Spark or Inciting Incident – about 10% into a story.
It sets off our main plot. Here, as Giles will say in a moment, it is that Angel is stepping up his harassment of Buffy.
If I needed to pick a particular second in the episode, it is that drawing, that charcoal drawing, that he leaves for her. His point is to let her know that he has done it.
Buffy says there must be a spell to reverse that invitation. A no shoes, no pulse, no service kind of thing.
Giles tells them Angel is stepping up his harassment.
Cordelia” What, by leaving a drawing? Why doesn’t he just slit her throat or kill her while she sleeps or cut her heart out?
Everyone gives her a look, and she says, “What I’m trying to help.” And Giles says Yes and then goes on.
He says these are tactics to throw the opponent off her game, provoke her into making a mistake.
Xander: The na-na-na-na-na approach to battle.
Giles: Yes, Xander once more you’ve managed to boil a complex thought down to its simplest possible form.
He then advises Buffy that it’s best to ignore this provocation. But she is worried because of what Angel told her about how he went after Drusilla’s family when he was obsessed with her. And she says she needs to tell her mom something.
Giles warns her against telling the truth, says it would be too dangerous for Buffy to reveal her identity. But he reassures her he’ll find spell to keep Angel out. In the meantime, he says to keep a level head, don’t let Angel get to her.
Buffy: So basically ignore him and maybe he’ll go away.
Xander then points out that he didn’t scold Buffy about oversimplifying and says, “Watcher’s Pet.”
Jenny And Willow
Now we see Jenny at the end of her computer class. She asks Willow if she can cover class for a few minutes tomorrow if Jenny is late. She has something to take care of.
Willow is super excited about this. And then immediately starts to worry about what if the students don’t recognize her authority.
Buffy and Giles come to the door, and Willow apologizes for talking to Jenny.
Willow: Sorry, I have to talk to her. She’s a teacher and teachers have to re-respected, even if they’re only filling in….
And she rambles on about that, showing more of her anxiety. I like that we get this moment. It’s characterization for Willow. It also shows the tension in there. That Willow and her other friends, they still really like Jenny as a teacher. It’s a difficult position.
Jenny’s Planning Something
Also, this Jenny needing to go and do something – we’ll see later it is her going to the Magic shop. So it’s a nice way to bring Jenny into this episode in a way that we don’t realize is going to be key to the story.
Giles stays back to talk to Jenny after the others leave.
He tells her about Angel being in Buffy’s bedroom and says he needs a spell. She gives him a book that might help. She’s been reading up since Angel turned.
Jenny: I know you feel betrayed.
Giles: Yes, well that’s one of the unpleasant side effects of betrayal.
We get some of the best Giles lines throughout this episode. Both heart rending like this one and funny like his earlier ones. I think this is because well, one, the writers are amazing at dialogue. But also, while this is Buffy’s story, and Angel’s story, it is also Giles’ story.
So we get some of our best Giles here, which makes us feel all the more for him.
Jenny And Giles In Love
Jenny says she was raised by the people that Angel hurt most. Her duty to them was the first thing she learned. And she didn’t know what would happen.
She didn’t know she’d fall in love with Giles.
Giles is surprised. We have his and Jenny’s theme music playing. And she says that that just came out but she doesn’t want to take it back. She wants to make this all up to him.
Giles says he understands but he’s not the one she needs to make it up to.
Dinner With Joyce
At dinner, Joyce asks Buffy what’s wrong and urges her to talk.
Joyce: You can tell me anything. I’ve read all the parenting books.
And I love that we get this additional reference to Joyce. Before she talked about parenting tapes. Now we hear she’s reading books.
So Buffy asks if she remembers Angel, and Joyce says, “oh, that college boy that was tutoring you.” Which is a reference to the episode Angel in Season One.
Another one where we had intertwining Buffy and Angel plots.
Buffy Warns Joyce
Buffy tries to explain it. She says they were dating, and now they’re not. Joyce says, “Don’t tell me. He’s changed. He’s not the same guy you fell for.”
And Buffy says yes, that he’s sending her notes and she doesn’t want to see him. If he shows up she’ll talk to him. But don’t invite him in.
So she is anticipating that there can have a spell soon to keep Angel out, but also wants to cue her mom that Angel could be dangerous.
The One-Quarter Twist In Passion
We are coming to our One-Quarter Twist. This comes from outside the protagonist and spins the story in a new direction.
At 11.5 minutes in, Willow and Buffy are on the phone. We’re seeing Willow in her room. She says she agrees with Giles, don’t let Angel get to you, then at 12 minutes she sees an envelope on her bed.
So remember in Lie To Me, the episode about Buffy’s friend Ford, Willow invited Angel into her room. So he can come in.
And he has. Because she opens the envelope and finds her goldfish dead inside strung together on a fishing line. This is a little past one quarter, but I see it as that first major twist. Because Angel is doing what Buffy feared. He is escalating the harassment by going after people Buffy loves.
Will Garlic Repel Angel?
In our next scene. Willow and Buffy are in Buffy’s bedroom with garlic hung all around them. One of the few references we get to the traditional idea that garlic repels vampires.
And Buffy says it’s so strange when things like this happen her first thought is to run to Angel.
I think this is part of why the show works so well. Most of us have felt this way at some time. You have someone you love who is in your life, who you turned to. And something happens. A break up. And it’s terrible, and yet your first thought is to go to that person for comfort for help and you realize all over again that you can’t. That the person is gone.
All Angel Thinks About
Buffy also apologizes about the goldfish. Willow says she’s okay with it, but she says, “Though for the first time I’m glad my parents didn’t let me have a puppy.”
And that’s a call back to last week when we heard Giles start to tell Buffy what Angel did to a puppy.
Willow points out that one thing hasn’t changed. Buffy is still the only thing Angel thinks about.
Drusilla Brings Spike A Puppy
Continuing our puppy theme, which is sort of interesting, Drusilla brings Spike a puppy. She’s trying to get him to eat it. And she even does almost like a little airplane thing that parents do with toddlers.
Spike, not surprisingly, doesn’t love this. He says he won’t have her feeding him like a child. Ad Angel says why not? She already bathes him and dresses him and carries him around because he still in that wheelchair. Angel implies he’s having sex with Dru in Spike’s place.
Drusilla loves being fought over, but suddenly she seems to be in terrible pain. She says the air, it worries, because an old enemy is seeking help.
Jenny Visits The Magic Shop
Jenny walks into the Magic Shop. The proprietor offers her a love potion or voodoo doll. And she says, “I need an Orb of Thessala. He says, “Oh you’re in the trade,” and apologizes for giving her the pitch he usually does for tourists. And he talks about how Ouija boards and love potions and revenge spells, especially around Valentine’s Day, pay the rent.
He gives her the orb and says it’s a spirit vault for rituals of the undead. He sold a couple as new age paperweights. And he tells her, you know the transliteration annals are lost and the surviving text is gibberish without them. And he says, “I mentioned it because we have a strict no refund policy,” at least giving us some plot reason or some character reason for this exchange of info.
Jenny says that’s okay, she’s working on computer program to translate. He asks what she’s planning on doing with them when she gets that done. She says it’s a present for a friend – his soul.
And we cut to commercial.
At School Again
Outside the school, Willow is upset to see Jenny and says something like “five hours lesson preparation out the window.”
Buffy follows Jenny and wants to talk to her. She really struggles with letting Jenny off the hook. Because she first says:
Buffy: I know you feel badly, and I wanted to say – good, keep it up.
Jenny: Don’t worry I will.
Jenny starts to walk on.
Buffy: Wait. He misses you.
She goes on to tell Jenny that Giles doesn’t say it, but she knows he’s lonely, and she doesn’t want him to be lonely. She doesn’t want anyone to be.
Jenny: If I can make it up to you –
Buffy: We’re good. Let’s leave it.
Reversing The Invitation
In the next scene, Giles tells Buffy and her friends that he’s found a spell to reverse the invitation.
Cordelia: Thank God, I had to switch cars with my grandmother.
Another interesting view into Cordelia’s world.
We’re then at Willow’s bedroom. She nails a cross on the wall and says how will she explain this to her dad. Ira Rosenberg’s only daughter nailing crucifixes to the wall.
(I can’t help mentioning it is not a crucifix. Many many years of going to Catholic mass and CCD – Catholic education for public school kids – a crucifix is where you have the depiction of the body of Christ hanging on the cross. If it’s just a cross without that, it’s a cross not a crucifix.)
Willow also says she has to go to Xander’s just watch Charlie Brown Christmas. But it’s worth it when he does the Snoopy dance.
Willow’s Fish Tank Is Empty
Cordelia is at the fish tank and says, “Do you know, there are no fish in here?”
Another example of being a little tone deaf on Cordelia’s part. Though to be fair she might not have known about Willow’s fish. She then finds an envelope on the bed.
Inside is a charcoal drawing of Joyce asleep.
I’m surprised that Buffy didn’t do her house first. I never noticed that before they mentioned they already did Cordelia’s car. So they did the car and Willow’s bedroom.
I didn’t notice before because I just love the episode, the dialogue, the humor about the Snoopy dance, the dramatic moment of the drawin. So I didn’t notice that it kind of doesn’t fit Buffy’s character.
Peanuts And Parents
On the other hand, maybe it fits because as teenagers, their world is mainly about school and friends and their daily lives, and with less thought about parents.
In fact, the reference to Peanuts is interesting – that Charlie Brown Christmas. Because in peanuts the adults are all just those whah whah whah voices. And that is largely true in Buffy’s world. Other than Giles, because he’s her Watcher, and occasionally Joyce. So that doesn’t quite fit for Buffy, because we know she is very concerned about her mom.
We switch to Buffy’s house. And the answer of why she doesn’t do it sooner is we want this dramatic scene. We wanted to deal with the fact that she finds this envelope, and that Angel is anticipating where she will go. He left the envelope for her at Willow’s, which makes his psychological warfare very effective.
Nearing The Midpoint Of Passion
We are coming to the Midpoint of the episode. Angel is waiting outside, right at the front door. Joyce pulls up from the grocery store, gets out. And in the way I see , to the extent Angel is the protagonist, as a Midpoint Commitment for him.
Usually at the Midpoint, we have the protagonist throwing caution to the wind, committing to the quest, or suffering a major reversal.
Here, in a way this is Angel’s commitment. Because normally we see him pop into Buffy’s world the way he did when he confronted Teresa. But usually it’s just a blip. He really lives mainly with Drusilla and Spike. And in the shadows. Leaving envelopes, coming in at night.
But here he is confronting Joyce, having this conversation with her so out in the open. And he is going after the person, other than Giles, who is most key to Buffy.
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Reversal For Buffy
This point in the episode is also a major reversal for Buffy as our protagonist because Angel as Angelus is interacting with her mother. The one person close to her who doesn’t know what’s really going on and whon she loves so much.
Angel plays the stalker boyfriend perfectly. He says, “Mrs. Summers, I need to talk to you.” He tells her he needs to be with Buffy, and she has to intervene to help him.
Joyce is terrific in this. She’s very clear with Angel. Very firm.
Joyce: I’m telling you leave her alone. You’re scaring her. You need to back off.
And it’s also nice because we don’t often get to see Joyce as a character being able to protect Buffy. Usually Buffy, whether her mom knows it or not, is protecting Joyce and protecting everyone else.
Angel Scares Joyce At Midpoint of Passion
Joyce fumbles for her keys and oranges fall out. Angel helps her pick them up.
We are 21 minutes 47 seconds in, so right about at that episode Midpoint.
And Angel says Joyce doesn’t understand.
Angel: I’ll die without Buffy. She’ll die without me.
Joyce: Are you threatening her?
And Joyce says she’s calling the police. And Angel goes on: “I haven’t been able to sleep since the night we made love.”
So more significant reversal for Buffy – that now her mother will know this. It leads to Buffy’s commitment in this episode.
Buffy Commits To The Quest
At 22.5 minutes in the door opens. Buffy and Willow are chanting in Latin. and then Buffy says to Angel, “Sorry, Angel, I changed the locks,” and slams the door.
So this isn’t quite the throwing of caution to the wind that we sometimes see for the protagonist. But it is in an emotional and subtle sense because this is the most directly that Buffy has shown Joyce this part of her world. They are doing a spell in front of Joyce.
Hope For Giles And Jenny
We switch to Giles in Jenny’s classroom. She says she’s working late tonight on a special project. And she tells him she spoke to Buffy, and Buffy said he missed her.
Giles says something like, “Well, she’s a meddlesome girl.”
Jenny tells him she might have some news, she needs to finish up, could she see him later. He says she can stop by his home. We get the Jenny and Giles theme music, and he looks so happy and leaves.
We switch to Drusilla at magic shop. She’s holding the puppy, which she has named Sunshine.
Drusilla: Miss Sunshine wants to know what you and the mean teacher talked about.
Drusilla learning about Jenny’s spell is another reversal for Buffy and for everyone.
While there isn’t just one clear reversal or commitment, here we see this series of reversals.
Jenny is now in her classroom. It’s dark. (There is apparently no budget for after hours lights at Sunnydale High.) And this is another major reversal that will drive the rest of the story.
Because Jenny is very happy. She clicks and keys and says to herself, “That’s it, it’s gonna work,” and she saves to one of these small plastic discs.
(I forget what they were called. But they were big advancement at the time because before that we had these floppy disks that were bigger they held less. And they were harder to manage. These were smaller square plastic discs, I want to say compact discs but I’m not sure if that’s the right term.)
Anyway, she saves to that and pops it out. And she prints on one of these old dot matrix printers that had this rolling paper that went through the printer. They made this very distinctive noise. And as it is printing Angel comes into the classroom.
Angel Stops The Spell
Jenny jumps to her feet. She says something about how did he get in. And he says the Latin inscription over the door, which I cannot pronounce. I think Jenny translates it as “enter all ye who seek knowledge.” And Angel says, “What can I say? I’m a knowledge seeker.”
Although my guess is it’s a public place. He could come in.
Jenny: I can help you.
Angel: Yeah, I know. You can restore my soul.
He picks up the Orb of Thessula and says you know what he hates about these things? And he flings it at the wall and it breaks. He says, “They’re so fragile.”
He also throws the computer to the ground and it catches fire and burns. (Even back then computers were not so badly designed that they would catch fire if they broke, at least as far as I know. But we’ll go with it.
And he burns the pages over the flames. Jenny is trying to say she can cure him.
Angel: No thanks. Been there, done that, déjà vu just isn’t what it used to be.
What TV Can Get Away With
Television shows have more leeway for things like computers bursting into flames than novels do. Partly because in a novel as we’re reading we think about it more. On a TV show, like this one especially, action is going very fast. The writers can play with reality of a bit more and be less true to it because not too many people are gonna pause and say, “Wait – can that computer really burst into flames?”
So I envy TV and movie writers for that.
Why Angel Doesn’t Bit Jenny
Jenny tries to run. She goes out in the hallway. Angel plays cat and mouse with her. He lets her feel like she might be getting away eventually.
At the top of the stairs, though, he blocks her way, grabs her, twists her neck, and kills her. I was so sure when I first watched that she wasn’t really going to die, but she does.
In the interview on the DVD, Joss Whedon said they have Angel in vamp face when he kills Jenny, even though he doesn’t need to because he’s not biting her. But they felt that if he had on his human face no one would ever want to see Buffy kissing that face again.
He also said Angel doesn’t bite Jenny for two reasons.
One, they didn’t want anyone thinking she might come back as a vampire. But it was also an insult to break her neck. Like he wasn’t even bothering to feed on her.
I saw it is he’s doing it purely for sport.
The Pain Escalates In Passion
From here on, we have this emotional escalation much like we saw in Nightmares. (The one with all the people at the school and their nightmares come true.) There, we had that scene with Buffy and her dad where every sentence was just that much more awful than the last one. And you didn’t think it could get any worse.
Or in Innocence. The Buffy and Angel seen in his bedroom when she doesn’t know he turned yet and he so awful to her. And you keep thinking the writers can’t make this any more terrible for her, and they do.
So here we don’t see it in one scene, we see throughout the episode. It keeps ratcheting up the tragedy. The awfulness and the pain.
Giles At Buffy’s House
Next we see the Giles knocking on Buffy’s door. Willow lets him in. And we realize that Giles doesn’t know yet. He’s come by to see how the spell went.
The next couple scenes are wonderful in themselves. Added for us as viewers – we know this has happened [Jenny’s death], so we’re feeling this for Giles, even though he is completely unaware right now. And everyone is.
So it adds to that, drawing us through the episode, keeping us engaged.
Willow tells Giles the ritual went fine but…. And Willow, it’s great. She says that Angel showed up and told Buffy’s mom that he and Buffy “well, you know that they had – you do know right?’ And he says yes and she says she wasn’t sure, him being a librarian and all. Giles says, “No, thank you I got it.”
Joyce and Buffy are upstairs talking, and Giles asks if maybe he should intervene on Buffy’s behalf with her mom.
Willow: Sure. Like what would you say?
Giles: You will tell Buffy I dropped by?
And he leaves.
Joyce Worries As Buffy Explains
We switch to Buffy and Joyce. Buffy is trying to explain the spell. She says Angel’s just really superstitious and that will help keep him away.
Joyce asks if Angel was her first, and then says maybe she doesn’t want to know. But Buffy says yes the first — the only.
Joyce is angry at Buffy, saying Angel’s older, too old. Also obviously not very stable. And she thought Buffy would use better judgment.
Buffy tries to explain and Joyce doesn’t let her. She says “you had sex with boy didn’t even tell me were dating.” Buffy says she can’t tell her everything. And Joyce says, “How about anything?”
Is Joyce Being Unfair
Joyce is so angry. In some ways, this seems a little bit unfair. Because we’ll learn that Joyce and Buffy apparently have not talked about sex before. Buffy’s seventeen, so it seems , in a way, Joyce is blaming Buffy for her own failure to open these conversations.
But she goes on to say. You can shut me out. I’m pretty much used to it. But don’t ever expect me to stop caring about you. I never will.” And she tells Buffy she loves her more than anything in the world.
Joyce then says that’s Buffy’s cue to roll her eyes, and Buffy says no, she’s not grossed out. She’s not rolling her eyes. And they have this really nice moment:
Joyce: I guess that was the talk.
Buffy: How’d it go?
Joyce: I don’t know. It was my first.
I do love this moment between them.
A Complicated Relationship
And I think the show does a great job of showing this complication of being a parent.
We’ve seen that Joyce is trying, and yet here’s an example of that initially it seems like she’s not doing a great job. And yet she gets important part out. How much she loves Buffy.
And we see that’s where this anger comes from. A nice use of conflict bringing out character and bringing out their relationship.
This idea of this being the first “talk” is another example — I think in a novel it would be more challenging. Because in a novel, we are getting the characters’ interior thoughts. And you would have to — not at length – but somehow deal with why the Joyce and Buffy never talked about this before.
But the show moves quickly. So we don’t really spend time on thinking, “Hey, Buffy’s seventeen. Wouldn’t Joyce have had this conversation earlier?”
What The Audience Brings To Fiction
We all bring something different to fiction. That question didn’t occur to me when I first saw the episode because I grew up with a mom who was not comfortable talking about those kinds of things.
But Joyce has been built as a character who is very forthright. As someone who I don’t see would be uncomfortable with that. So I think there is a little bit of a disconnect there between this being the circumstance and who Joyce has been built to be.
But again, I think in the TV show we had a whistle past it because we can’t spend a ton of time here.
We are waiting to find out what happens with Giles and Jenny.
Angel Set The Scene For Giles
We switch to Giles apartment. This whole scene is all the more heartbreaking because of dramatic irony. Which is where we know something the character doesn’t.
And here we know what Giles is going to learn.
So he comes in. There’s beautiful, sweeping music playing. Classical music. He finds a bottle of champagne on ice. And a single red rose with a note that says Upstairs.
He smiles, takes off his glasses, smooths his hair. These gestures show us so much about Giles’ anticipation. His happiness. On the stairs there are lit candles and rose petals leading him up.
And this is just killing us because we know what’s coming.
The Three-Quarter Turn In Passion: Giles Sees Jenny
He sees Jenny in bed. At first thinks she’s waiting for him. And then at 33.5 minutes in he realizes her neck is bent wrong. He drops the champagne bottle and glasses. The music crescendos as the glass shatters at his feet.
This is the third major plot turn. That is the Three-Quarter Turn. It usually comes out of the Midpoint Commitment and Reversal in a well0structured story, and it’s generally about three quarters through an episode or book. (Which is why call it that.) Here it is not quite as clear if it comes out of the Reversal.
The Midpoint To The Turn
If we see the major reversal at the Midpoint as coming a little later, when Drusilla learns about Jenny’s plan, then this clearly arises from it. If we see the reversal and commitment as Angelus revealing himself to Joyce and confronting her, putting her directly in danger, and telling Joyce about he and Buffy making love, then it’s not quite so clear.
Although it is the escalation of his harassment of Buffy by killing her friends.
We pan back from Giles’ face. Now he is in the forefront as the police process the scene behind him. A detective says he needs Giles to answer some questions.
The Ecstasy Of Grief
In Angel’s viewpoint again, from outside the Summers’ house on the first floor, we look through the window into the dining living room area.
Willow and Buffy are together. They look relatively happy.
We get this voiceover again:
Angel: Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief.
The phone rings inside. From outside, through that window, we watch Buffy answer. We see her face as she listens. She hands the phone to Willow. And Buffy slides down to the floor. Her back is against the wall, and she slides down and sits on the floor.
We now hear Willow the way you might through that window. We hear just that she says No and she sobs. Her whole body shows her grief.
Joyce Comforts Willow
Joyce comes in and goes to Willow.
It’s set up so that maybe she doesn’t quite register Buffy there on the floor. And she’s holding Willow and trying to comfort her.
With any other writer, I feel like this would be the climax of the episode. The apex of the grief and the pain that Angel caused. But it’s not. Because we’re just going to keep ratcheting up the emotional pain and the stakes here.
So about 36 minutes in, we’re outside. Xander and Cordelia drive up in her car. Xander gets out the passenger side and says Giles is gone from the station. They went there to find him.
Underscoring The Characters’ Pain
Buffy asks Cordelia will she drive them to Giles’ house. And she says, “Of course.”
This is that moment I feel has such significance. It’s so minor, but Cordelia is muted. “Of course.” No comments, no observations, no funny lines (not that she doesn’t find funny but ones the audience does). None of that.
Just “of course.” That change in tone underscores our emotional pain and the tragedy here.
Giles Grabs The Weapons
At Giles’ apartment. We see Giles. He’s alone. And he takes a large bag of weapons and leaves. We close up on a charcoal drawing of Jenny.
And cut to commercial.
That drawing wasn’t there before Giles came back. So we know Angel actually went back to place that drawing for Giles and Buffy to find later.
Back to Giles’ apartment. Xander sees the champagne bucket, and he thinks Giles had big night planned. But Buffy says Giles didn’t set this up, Angel did. And she shows him the drawing.
Xander Says I Told You So
Buffy says Giles has gone to kill Angel.
Xander now – and this totally fits his character, but it doesn’t make me like him – he says it’s about time somebody tried to kill Angel. He gets a little push back and he says he hated Angel before everyone else jumped on the bandwagon and he thinks he deserves kudos for not saying I told you so sooner.
And that’s the part of the Xander that I understand his point, but he’s kind of awful here.
But Buffy says, “I agree.” But she says there’s one problem with Giles and a revenge scenario. It’s going to get him killed.
Spike’s Not Happy
At the factory, Spike also is not happy.
Spike: Are you insane? We’re supposed to kill the bitch. Not leave gag gifts in her friends; beds.
Drusilla: But the teacher was going to restore Angel’s soul
Now Spike, I love this, he says something like who cares, he finds himself preferring the Buffy whipped Angel. This one’s not playing with full deck.
Spike: His little pranks will only leave us with one incredibly brassed off Slayer.
Angel says don’t worry, he has it all under control and a flaming arrow flies in and hits him in the shoulder.
Who Is The Protagonist: Goals
So now we’re going to the Climax of the episode. First I want to revisit the question I asked at the beginning: who is the protagonist?
The protagonist should (a) have a goal; (b) Pursuit of that goal active; (c) be the main point of view character; and (d) have the most at stake.
So Angel has a goal here: to harass Buffy. And he actively pursues that goal. We could argue that he is the most active in this episode. Buffy in many ways is reacting.
But she does have a goal as well. And it is from that Inciting Incident or Story Spark on: to protect her family and friends. And she also actively pursues it. It’s just not a violent goal like Angel’s. But she is telling her mom things to try to put her mom on guard. She has Giles looking for a spell. She does the spells.
So they both actively pursue a goal.
Who Is The Protagonist: Point Of View
We do get a strong Angel point of view here. We start in his point of view. And we get key scenes from it in a way that we normally don’t – literally looking through windows at Buffy. And we get his ongoing commentary about passion. Which is ominous and also conveys a theme for the episode. And, as I’ll talk about in Spoilers, for the rest of the season and some of next season.
But we also see Buffy’s point of view as much if not more. What she’s going through. How she is trying to stop him. Her experiences with Joyce.
And we will end in her point of view directly when she’s at Jenny’s grave. And then in a way through Willow. We’re definitely saying that not literally through Buffy’s eyes, but we are in sympathy with Buffy and Willow and the others at that point.
So point of view could go either way, though it is very strong for Angel.
Who Is The Protagonist: What’s At Stake
Finally, the protagonist should have the most at stake.
And that’s where I think Buffy is the protagonist her. Because she has at stake her friends, Willow, she has her mom at stake, and we’ll see Giles in a moment. And that is just the highest stakes for Buffy.
Her life is always on the line. But this is direct threats to the people she cares about the most, while Angel doesn’t really have anything at stake.
If this strategy doesn’t devastate Buffy he will try another. He doesn’t have the high stakes here.
So ultimately I think that Buffy is the protagonist.
Intertwining Plots In Passion
But it is really interesting because from Angel’s point of view and Buffy’s point of view we really have in a way these two intertwining plots that are very strong.
It reminds me of the episode Angel where I saw the Master’s plot, as the antagonist that it was essentially really his plot. And Buffy and Angel each had their own subplots about their relationship and what else was happening.
Here, I think we see the main plot, but we see it from these two perspectives that come together really well now.
The Climax Begins
We’re at the climax at about 39 minutes in. The factory is on fire in parts. And Giles lights a torch and swings at Angel and beats him with it.
Angel is quipping. Tt first he is irritated more than in peril. Although there is some danger. Drusilla starts to go to help him, and Spike pulls her back and says, “No fair going in unless he tags you first.”
I think this works so well because we have seen this building Angel and Spike conflict. And I think Spike is like, yeah, whatever. I’m just as happy to see Angel go down here.
Also, we have set up that Drusilla, despite her loving that Angel and Spike fight over her, she does care for Spike. She is very concerned for him. So I find it believable that she stays back even though clearly Spike can’t hold her back. She’s far more physically powerful than him. But she agrees, and they stay out of the fight.
Fight At The Factory
The fight escalates. Giles actually knocks Angel down but then he stands, grabs Giles by the neck, and lifts him up. And says:
Angel: All right you’ve had your fun, but you know what it’s time for now?
Buffy: My fun.
She comes from behind him and starts kicking him. I like this so much because we almost think Giles might be getting the better of Angel and we realize Angel’s just playing with him. And I like that because, yeah, Giles is a good fighter. He’s very smart.
But Angel is so strong and so smart or maybe so cunning you couldn’t buy that Giles could get the better of him for very long.
Buffy fights Angel, and she is getting the better of him there, going up to the next level onto this catwalk. We can see difference in her fighting from in Innocence. That’s the episode where Angel turned, where she’s fighting him but she’s not quite going in for the kill. She can’t kill him.
Going For The Kill
She is going for the kill here. Angel, though, starts laughing despite that she probably is about to overpower him. And he says:
Angel: You going to let your old man just burn?
Buffy looks down. The fire has gotten out of control. Giles is on the floor and she needs to save him. So she leaps down and drags him out. And this is where our emotions raise even further, which I would not have thought was possible.
Giles is yelling at Buffy, and he’s saying why did you come here? It’s not your fight.
He really wanted to get the better of Angel. And in his fury and hurt and grief he doesn’t see that he was going to die. Or he doesn’t care.
And Buffy punches him and knocks him to the ground.
Buffy: Are you trying to get yourself killed?
And she just starts sobbing and hugs him and holds him and says:
Buffy: You can’t leave me. I can’t do this alone.
Climax Or Falling Action?
We have not seen Buffy fall apart. We’ve seen her very emotional since Angel turned. That moment in the car with Giles, with Joyce later. But it was a very muted. The kind of we see that pain in her face, but we didn’t see her sobbing and breaking down. And here she does. And it is so very moving. So that was our climax.
That is why I see that as part of the Climax or the Climax, not the Falling Action.
In the Falling Action is where we tie up the loose ends. I don’t think that was a tying up loose ends. I think that was the Climax of the episode.
Falling Action In Passion
In the Falling Action we get Angel’s voice over again. He is talking about passion again, and he says it hurts more than we can bear. And we see Giles pulling the police tape off his door and going into his empty apartment.
Angel: If we could live without passion, maybe we’d know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Without passion, we’d be truly dead.
We then switch to the graveyard. As Angel is saying “we’d be truly dead,” Giles and Buffy are at Jenny’s tomb. There’s music in the background. (I found an article after I watched that aid Anthony Stuart Head did vocals in that music. So I have to listen again. I’ll put a link to the article in the show notes.)
Buffy: I’m sorry I couldn’t kill him for you for her when I had the chance. I wasn’t ready. I think I finally am.
Over Buffy’s last sentence, the scene switches to Willow walking into Jenny’s classroom. She tells the class that she’s filling in until the new computer teacher arrives. Something that could only happen in Sunnydale where we have a student taking over.
Nothing Can Bring Angel Back?
But we continue with Buffy’s voiceover then. She says she can’t hold onto the past, Angel’s gone and nothing’s ever going to bring him back.
This is as Willow puts her books down on the desk. And she knocks something to the floor. We see it’s that plastic disc with the spell on it. And it falls into the space between the desk and cabinet.
So more emotional pain at the very end because the key to restoring Angel’s soul still exists, but none of them know it.
And the episode’s finished. So it is a great hook as well for the rest of the season.
DVD Commentary: The Point Of Jenny’s Death
A couple other things from that DVD interview with Joss Whedon. He said this episode is Angel’s first real offensive against Buffy. And that they specifically put the death of Jenny at a pivotal moment in this story arc for the season. Because Angel needed to kill someone to tell the audience that not everyone is safe. That someone integral to the show, whose death is final and scary, can be ripped away from us.
And he said it is also to show Angel is not just a little evil. He’s not just grouchy. He is Buffy’s enemy. And the episode is there to make Buffy realize that she has to kill him and get him out of her life.
Joss said he wanted it to be as hard for the audience as possible. And I think he succeeded. His goal was he wanted them to know that redeeming Angel and getting him back would be difficult or impossible and so fraught with consequences that the audience wouldn’t be sure if they wanted him back.
I think that this episode achieves all of that.
That it for this episode other than Spoilers, which I hope you’ll stick around for. If you don’t, thank you so much for listening. If you have thoughts on the show, questions about story structure or character, anything you like to share: connect on Twitter @LisaMLilly #BuffyStory or you can email me Lisa @ LisaLilly.com.
I will see you. I hope next Monday for Killed By Death. Where we get the wonderful Cordelia quote about how tact is just not saying true things.
And we’re back for Spoilers.
The Series Bible
I’ll start with a fun one. Willow mentioning the Snoopy dance. I so love this because it comes back in Season Six, The Replacement where we have two Xanders. One of them proves he is Xander by actually doing the Snoopy dance. This is less foreshadowing and more the idea of really tracking your character development.
A lot of authors, and I’m sure screenwriters, keep what’s called a Series Bible, where you make notes of this kind of information. So that you don’t have to go back and look through previous episode or books. And you know, hey, Willow goes to Xander’s for the Charlie Brown Christmas special and Xander does a Snoopy dance.
And they draw on that four seasons later. I think there’s another word for it in screenwriting, but it’ just not coming to mind. That idea of the Series Bible.
Foreshadowing What Joyce Learns
The Joyce scene with Angel outside the house. I found it so striking because in the season finale at that very same spot Joyce will encounter Spike and Buffy. And Buffy will try to cover and explain why Spike is there. It’s a great scene.
Then a vampire approaches. And Buffy dusts him in front of Joyce.
It’s the first time Joyce sees that Buffy is the Slayer. And Buffy has to explain it to her. I love that we have that kind of resonance with Joyce being forced, or Buffy being forced, to tell her mother more about her real identity. And it happens at the same place. I think that that can’t be an accident.
What Does The Disk Mean?
The computer disk falling in between the desk and cabinet. This is so interesting because on the one hand, it could be like an obvious foreshadowing for the audience. Hey, the spell is still here. Probably this is going to be important. Maybe Angel will get his soul back.
But given the way the show was written, it could also be just Joss Whedon twisting the knife. Saying yeah, it’s right there, and they’re never going to know it.
So you don’t really know for sure when you first see the episode. But it does set up the finale where Willow finds the disk and realizes that they could potentially bring Angel back.
Because we also find out she has started experimenting with Jenny’s spells.
Overall the voiceover on passion does carry the theme of the episode. What Giles talked about: This idea of love versus obsession. And Angel in a way I think is talking about the same thing. Passion, obsession. What it drives us to do.
Just as it drives Xander to say these things about somebody needs to kill Angel.
In the rest of the season we will see that play out. Cordelia and Xander have these really strong feelings about we should not bring Angel back. Which is driven by their emotions.
And likewise Buffy deciding that Willow should try. How much is a logical thing, because that would stop Angel from all this killing, and how much is she wants him back.
And Willow’s love for Buffy and friendship so strong that she will do whatever Buffy want. But also what she thinks is right.
So there is just so much going on there. And it foreshadows Season Three when Buffy knows Angel is back and doesn’t tell everyone. Those high emotions. Everything that happen here informs that. How can she tell them that he’s back, especially when we see at the end of the season he’ll torture Giles? How can she tell Giles he’s back? And then that passion drives everyone’s anger toward Buffy for sheltering Angel.
So much here in this episode!
And then there’s Joss’s comment in the interview that he wanted it so the audience wouldn’t be sure if they wanted Angel back. If they wanted his soul restored. And that is all foreshadowed here because Angel, we know now his soul could be lost. And because he killed Jenny we know the dire consequences. So it is a very real fear, grounded in reality, of what could happen.
So we are on the sides of all the characters. Of Buffy wanting to restore the soul. Of the others, fearing it in the finale. And then in Season Three.
And I will end with one last, less foreshadowing more I think sort of an Easter egg for those fans who really paid attention. It would be more obvious now if you are binge watching Buffy. But at the time the episodes could often be quite spread out.
I don’t recall how much there was between Passion and the finale. But it was probably at least six weeks, might’ve been more. So we will see it when they talk about possibly doing the spell to restore Angel’s soul.
Remember, the proprietor in this episode of the Magic Shop said an Orb of Thessala, he sold some as New Age paperweights. Kind of scoffing at these people who don’t really know the trade. And we’ll when Willow says you need an Orb of Thessala, Giles goes in his office and brings one out. He’s been using it as a paperweight.
That’s just a I think a fun thing for the fans.
That is it for this episode.
Next Week: Killed By Death
Thank you again for listening. I hope you will come back next Monday for Killed By Death. It is a somewhat lighter episode, or I guess I should say it’s a one-off episode. Not one of my favorites as I remember it. But as often happens as I do this podcast perhaps I will change my mind.
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.