This week on Buffy and the Art of Story: Surprise (Season 2 Episode 13 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer), the first of a two-part story:
This podcast episode covers (1) hooks that keep the audience coming back – especially when the episode ends; (2) exposition through conflict; (3) snappy dialogue that makes drama more intense by contrast; and (4) how the full story arc's plot points intersect the turns in Surprise.
As always, the discussion is spoiler-free, except at the end (with plenty of warning).
Last Week: Bad Eggs
Next Up: Innocence (Part 2 of a 2-Part Episode)
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Episode Transcript for Surprise
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 Thirteen, Surprise. It is the first of a two-part storyline.
In particular, I’ll talk about:
- the strong hooks in this episode the keep the audience coming back after commercial breaks;
- what you can learn from them about keeping your readers hooked;
- the use of conflict to catch audience members up on major developments that haven't been mentioned in the last couple episodes;
- the fantastic dialogue here and how its wit and humor makes the danger and drama more intense by contrast; and
- how the plot points for this single episode interplay with those of the tw- episode story arc to keep the story moving and engaging.
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.
Aurprise was written by Marti Noxon and directed by Michael Lange.
Because it is the first part of the two-part story which ends in Innocence, we will get only to the Midpoint of that story and will pick up there next Monday.
Opening Conflict In Surprise
We start with our opening conflict. Buffy is in bed, but she wakes up during the night, seeming restless, and drinks some water. She goes out into the hall. Drusilla appears behind her.
Buffy doesn't notice. This all seems real until Buffy opens the door and goes into the Bronze. She is still wearing a pair of shiny silk pajamas. The music is very mellow. Willow is sitting at a high top table. She gives Buffy a cheery wave, and she speaks French and has a monkey in front of her.
(I have been working on my French during this Covid-19 lockdown, but I'm sorry to say I'm not quite quick enough to get anything about that other than something about pants. Which makes me think of Oz's joke about the monkey being the only animal in the animal crackers who wears pants. At some point I'll have to look up what Willow actually says there.)
Joyce Asks If Buffy’s Ready And Angel Dusts
Buffy sees Joyce. Her mother walks over to her. Joyce has a very large cup and saucer. And she says, “Do you really think you're ready, Buffy?”
Buffy says, “What?”
Joyce drops the saucer and it breaks on the floor. Buffy seems a little disturbed, but she sees Angel and smiles. They walk towards each other. But from behind Drusilla stakes him.
Angel reaches toward Buffy, his hand almost touches her. Two rings fall off of his finger as he turns to dust. Buffy says, “Angel!” And Drusilla says, “Happy birthday, Buffy.”
Buffy wakes up.
Using Dreams In Fiction
I think I mentioned before, there is an old saying, “Tell a dream, lose a reader.” The idea is that readers often don't appreciate being drawn into something that turns out to be a dream, and perhaps doesn't move the story forward.
In Buffy, however, dreams are used to move the story. As we’ll see, this dream will be key too much of what is happening in the early part of the story. Also, it creates conflict and tension.
We are at 2 minutes 22 seconds in at the end of the dream. We go to credits.
Because we have already established that Buffy does have prophetic dreams, the fact that she sees Drusilla, and her dream killing Angel, is deeply disturbing to the audience. It also lets us know that on some level Buffy is perhaps aware that Drusilla is still alive, even though she and the others are hopeful that both Spike and Drusilla died in the church. (Something the characters will mention again later when we come back from the credits.)
Angel Reassures Buffy
Buffy knocks on Angel's door, making sure he's all right. She tells him about her dream and says that in it, Drusilla was alive “and she killed you right in front of me.”
Angel reassures her that it's not real, but she says her dream about the Master came true. This is the first instance of getting in a little exposition here through conflict for any audience members who have missed this. Or missed that Buffy's dreams are sometimes prophetic.
There's a reason for Buffy to say this because she's worried. And Angel is, in reassuring her, also somewhat contradicting her. He says not every dream she has comes true and asks what else she dreamed last night. This is a great question to help Buffy calm down. She hesitates and says she dreamed that she and Giles opened an office supply warehouse in Vegas.
(I just love that because as a writer, I have just always been so fond of office supply stores. Seeing the notebooks, pens, and way back, typewriter supplies.)
10% Into The Episode
Normally we would see our Story Spark or Inciting Incident here. It's what usually comes about 10% into any story, and it sets the main plot in motion.
Because this is a two-part episode, I don't think that we see the spark for the overall two-episode story arc here. But it is interesting to me that at 4 minutes 20 seconds in we have Buffy saying, “But what if Drusilla is alive? We never saw her body.”
This is right about 10% into the episode. And it raises the central conflict here that Drusilla is in fact alive and is actively working on a plot that will endanger not just Buffy and all of Sunnydale. And the world.
Angel reassures Buffy on two levels. Saying Drusilla is not alive, but if she is, they’ll deal with it.
We also have what we see at times in Buffy – dramatic irony. That is where the audience knows something that the characters do not. We know from a few episodes ago that Drusilla was in fact restored to her former strength by the ritual. So she is very powerful. Also that spike was injured, but she got him out of the church.
Buffy And Angel Together
Buffy starts saying what if again, but Angel kisses her. We get the Buffy and Angel theme music when they kiss. Then he says, “What if what?” And Buffy says, “I'm sorry, were we talking?”
She says she has to go to school. He says he knows, but instead they are kissing again. She goes to the door as if to leave but shuts it and stays inside with Angel. He says she still hasn't told him what she wants for her birthday. Buffy says, “Surprise me.” Angel says, “Okay I will.”
I never noticed this before, but in light of the end of this episode, this is heartbreaking. And such a good use of the episode title.
Moving Toward The Story Spark
We are moving toward the Story Spark for the two-episode arc. Buffy is having trouble leaving and breaking away from Angel. She says she likes seeing him first thing in the morning. He says it's bedtime for him. Buffy says, “Then I like seeing you at bedtime.” Then she gives this little laugh and says, “You know what I mean.”
Angel smiles and says, “I think so. What do you mean?” And Buffy says, “I like seeing you. And the part at the end of the night where we say goodbye, it's getting harder.”
We switch to Willow at school. They’re sitting on a bench outside. She is a little in awe that Buffy said “I like seeing you at bedtime.”
That leads to them talking about sex. Buffy says she doesn't know what to do, Willow asks her what she wants. And Buffy says to act on want can be wrong. But what if she never feels this way again?
Encapsulating the dilemma at the entire heart of this episode and the Buffy/Angel relationship. Willow says, “Carpe diem. You told me that once.” And Buffy says, “Fish of the day?” Willow says, “Not carp, carpe. It means seize the day.”
Story Spark In Surprise/Innocence
Now we get our Story Spark.In the next part of the scene, Buffy says she thinks she and Angel are going to. That once you get to a certain point seizing is sort of inevitable.
Willow says wow twice. Props to Alyson Hannigan for how she is able to say the same word, because she'll say it again after the commercial break, with slightly different inflection each time.
After Buffy says seizing is inevitable, we go to a commercial break.
This was about 8 minutes in, and the two-episode arc would be about 88 minutes total, so right about 10% through the story.
Also, another great hook. Because we now know that Buffy is thinking that she and Angel will make love for the first time.
Placing Hooks In Your Story
On return from the commercial break, Willow says Wow again. So we are right where we left.
Notice that while a break with a strong hook can be used to then come back with a brand-new scene, it can also be used to break in the middle of the scene. Here, it’s at the commercial break. In a novel it could be your chapter ending. For pacing, you might want to break in the middle of the scene if you have something key like that. The advantage is that it will make it very difficult for readers to put down the book at that chapter break. Which is otherwise a natural place to stop reading.
Also, if it's a long scene – or like this one a scene that is just two people talking, which sometimes can lack momentum –you can increase the pace by breaking it at a strategic point.
What About Oz?
So Buffy now says, “Speaking of wow, what about Oz? Any wow potential there?”
Willow says, “I like his hands.” And Buffy says, “A fixation on insignificant detail is a definite crush sign.”
Which is for some reason a line I just really enjoy. Willow says she doesn't know, Oz is a senior. Buffy, in one of the first really funny lines in the episode, says, “You think he's too old because he's a senior? Please, my boyfriend had a bicentennial.”
Willow is still waffling, and Buffy says, “You can't spend the rest of your life waiting for Xander to wake up and smell the hottie. Make a move. Do the talking thing.”
But Willow is worried. She says, “What if the talking thing becomes the awkward silence thing?” Buffy tells her she won't know unless she tries.
Willow Invites Oz To Buffy’s Party
Oz is sitting under a tree strumming electric guitar. (Not plugged in of course because they’re outside.)
Willow asks if his band has a gig. He says no, practice, and then says, “See our band's kind of moving toward this new sound where we suck. So, practice.” She thinks they sound good. They talk for a while, and then there is one of those awkward silences she was worried about.
Oz tells her he is going to ask her to go out with him tomorrow night and he's kind of nervous about it.
Willow: Well, if it helps at all, I'm gonna say yes.
Oz: Yeah, it helps, it creates a comfort zone. Do you want to go out with me tomorrow night?”
Willow (puts her hand to her head): Oh I can't.
Oz: Well, see, I like that you're unpredictable.
Willow explains it's Buffy's birthday and that they're throwing her a surprise party. But with a shy smile she says he could come as her date. He agrees and she walks away. Both of them are smiling,
Cordelia And Conflict-Based Exposition
Xander and Cordelia are at Cordelia's locker, talking about the party. Xander says they're both going, and maybe they should go together. Cordelia says why and Xander says maybe they should admit they're dating.
So again, we get some conflict here that fills in the audience in case they have not been watching every episode.
And Cordelia says to him, “Groping in a broom closet isn't dating. It's not dating until guy spends money. Xander says, “Fine, I'll spend, we'll grope, whatever,” but he thinks it's ridiculous that they are hiding from their friends. Being very Cordelia-like she says of course he wants to tell everyone, he has nothing to be ashamed of. Xander as has had enough. So he walks off and runs into Giles and Buffy.
The Tone Of Surprise
Jenny also walks over. All of them sit at one of the ever-present tables where people gather in Sunnydale High.
Giles comments that Buffy looks a little tired. She tells him about her dream that Drusilla killed Angel and that it really freaked her out. He asks if she thinks it's a portent. She’s not sure. So he tells her they should be careful but not to worry unduly.
All of this, the Willow and Oz banter, the Cordelia and Xander sparring, Buffy talking about seizing the day, all these things could make us think that we are in one of the lighter episodes. It's fun so far. That makes this turn, which is going to happen in a second to the end of the world aspects, so much more striking and visceral.
A Turn Toward End-Of-The-World Sparks A Story
We switch to the factory warehouse where Spike and Drusilla are living. This is the Inciting Incident or Story Spark in the Drusilla side of the story. It could also serve as an episode One-Quarter Twist. It's about 12.5 minutes in, and our episodes are usually about 44 minutes long.
We see the vampire with the glasses, Dalton. He’s the one who we've seen before stealing the cross from the tomb and struggling to translate the manuscript that ultimately led to Drusilla's cure. He says he has Drusilla's package.
Spike, who is in a wheelchair, and his face is all scarred, seems rather down. He asks is Drusilla she wants to have a party. Maybe they should do it in Vienna. He doesn't like this place. Sunnydale is cursed.
But she says her gatherings are always perfect, she has good games for everyone. A moment later, though, she loses it because the flowers are all wrong. She starts shredding them, and almost shrieking.
Spike, in a very calm voice, says, “Let's try something different with the flowers then.”
And she calms down and switches to her presents, asking if she can open them. And saying “Can I? Can I?”
Spike says, “just a peek” When she looks in an oblong box, he asks if she likes it. And she says, “It reeks of death” and “It will be the best party ever. Because it will be the last.”
And commercial break. So again, a nice hook, a nice moment. We don't know what's in the box. But we now know Drusilla is having a party, and it's her birthday as well as Buffy's. And they’re planning something that has dire consequences.
A Moment With Joyce And A Hook
When we come back from the commercial break, Buffy is talking to Joyce about taking a trip to the mall. Joyce is taking her shopping for her birthday and asks Buffy if seventeen feels any different than sixteen.
So we know that today is her official birthday. Buffy says now that her mom mentions it, she does feel more responsible. She wants to talk about getting her driver's license and reminds Joyce that she promised they could talk about again when Buffy turned seventeen.
Joyce is skeptical. She's holding a plate. And she says, “Do you really think you're ready, Buffy?” and drops the plate. It breaks just like in Buffy's dream.
We then switch to Jenny Calendar in her classroom. There was no commercial break there, but notice that we have a nice end-of-scene hook with this repetition from Buffy's dream, making us think Angel is in danger. Specifically, from Drusilla.
And instead of immediately picking up with Dru, or with Buffy going to Giles or to Angel, we switch to Jenny. So that interest, that desire to know how that plays out, keeps us through this next scene. One which initially might not seem that important.
Jenny Calendar’s Secrets Revealed
So a man in old-fashioned clothes enters Jenny's classroom, startling her. She eventually calls him uncle.
(This actor died in 2005. His name is Vincent Schiavelli. IMDB says he was selected in 1997 by Vanity Fair as one of the best character actors in America and he made over a hundred and twenty film and television appearances. I am not at all surprised. I feel like I always see him in this sort of ominous part. He may very well do other types.)
He says the elder woman has been watching the signs. Jenny says the curse still holds, nothing's wrong. But the uncle says the elder woman says “his pain is lessening, she can feel it.” And Jenny hesitantly says, “There is a girl.” He says to Jenny with great intensity how could she let this happen?
And she promises that Angel still suffers, and he even makes amends. He saved her life.
Uncle yells at her and says how can she forget that Angel killed the most beloved member of their tribe? Vengeance demands that his pain is eternal, as theirs is. “If this girl gives him one minute of happiness it's one minute too much.” And he reminds her, or berates her. He says, “You think you are Jenny calendar now?” And reminds her she is Jana of the Calderash people. And says the time for watching is past, it must end now. Jenny should do what she must to “take her from him.” She says she will see to it.
Another Hook Keeps Us Engaged
At 17 minutes 42 seconds in, Buffy is finishing telling Giles about her dream.
So note that last scene, again you have a wonderful hook at the end. This great revelation about Jenny being from the tribe of the young woman that Angel killed. Which resulted in the curse that gave him back his soul. And now she saying she will separate Angel and Buffy.
We then switch to a less dramatic scene, which is talking about Buffy's dreams and what they should do about it. Not quite as exciting. But we are tense and there's all this conflict going. So it keeps us engaged, along with some great dialogue.
Buffy Worries And Giles Reassures
Xander and Willow come into the library. They’re excited, saying, “Happy Birthday, Buffy!” Buffy is not enthused. Giles tries to reassure her. He says dreams aren't prophecies, she can still protect Angel. And he reminds her that she subverted the dream she had that the Master rose. She stopped it.
And Xander says, “You ground his bones to make your bread.” Buffy says that's true, except for the bread part. But she wants to stay a step ahead. And Giles says absolutely. He’ll read up on Drusilla. Buffy should go to class and come back and meet Giles at the library that evening.
After she leaves Willow and Xander are sad. Willow says so much for the surprise party, and she bought little hats and everything. But Giles says they are having a party tonight. Xander says, “Looks like Mr. Caution Man, but the sound he makes is funny.”
Perspective From Giles
And Giles explains that the party should go ahead, though he won't be wearing a little hat. That Buffy and Angel might be in danger, but they have been before and they will be again. And he says, “One thing I've learned in my tenure here on the Hellmouth is that there is no good time to relax. Buffy's turning seventeen just this once and she deserves a party.”
I feel like these words from Giles are such good advice for life and for dealing with stress. This is part of what I love about the show. Because while most of us are not dealing with life or death stakes day in and day out, there are significant stresses and sometimes terrible things to happen. And it's a reminder to still take those moments and still celebrate parts of life. Not try to put everything good and fun aside.
Willow says Angel is coming to the party anyway, so Buffy can protect him and have cake.
Down A Dark Corridor
We next see Buffy walking in dark hall at school. (Like the locker rooms, the halls in Sunnydale are pretty dark in the evening.)
Jenny surprises her and says there's a change of plans. Giles had to go home and get a book, and Buffy shouldn't meet him at the library. They’re meeting somewhere else. Giles gave her directions. She's not sure exactly where.
Buffy comments on the oddity of Giles needing to get a book because there aren't enough of them in the library But she doesn't seem suspicious. As they go down a dark alley, Buffy sees vampires and a truck. She tells Jenny to stop. Jenny seems worried and says maybe don't get out. Buffy says, “Sorry, sacred duty, yada yada yada.”
She approaches the vampires. And we have Dalton again, the vamp with the glasses. And she says every time she sees him, he's stealing something. He runs. Other vampires get out and attack Buffy. All of this was a nice use of misdirection. Because we’re thinking Jenny is putting her plan in place to separate Buffy and Angel. And she was actually just getting Buffy to the Bronze for Buffy's party.
Now we see that as Buffy fights, the others are inside the Bronze. A few of them are wearing hats. There are balloons, and they’re hiding around the pool table so Buffy won't see them when she comes in. (I don't know how they got the Bronze on a weeknight for party, but somehow they did.)
Angel is saying, “Where is she?” And Willow says, “I think I hear her coming.” We’re hearing the sounds of Buffy fighting.
Eventually the last vampire and Buffy end up on the stage to the Bronze and she dusts him.
Surprise Near The Midpoint Of The Episode
We are getting to the Midpoint of the episode. And to the One-Quarter Twist in the two-episode arc. At 21 minutes 43 seconds in, just after Buffy has dusted the vampire, Cordelia pops out from behind the pool table and yells, “Surprise!” Even though everyone else is visible, so at that point Buffy is not really surprised.
I love that the episode title comes in right here almost at the Midpoint of the episode.
Buffy is very happy that they all planned this party for her. Willow asks Oz if he's okay.
Oz: Hey, did everybody see that guy just turn to dust?
Xander: Vampires are real, a lot of them live in Sunnydale, Willow will fill you in.
Willow: I knows it's hard to accept at first.
Oz: Actually, it explains a lot.
And I love that Oz is the one person who doesn't even temporarily deny this or reframe it. More so, it's not so much that he doesn't do it here – because everyone else is saying yes, we saw that – but clearly along the way he hasn't made up reasons for what happened. The way we saw Cordelia early on, saying, oh, they were a gang. Oz also hasn't forgotten. He clearly filed away these unusual happenings in his brain as things that he couldn't explain yet. And now he has an explanation. So he feels better.
Jenny comes in, carrying an oblong box, and says the vampires left this behind.
The One-Quarter Twist In Surprise
This is the One-Quarter Twist in the two-episode arc. The One-Quarter Twist usually comes in a quarter way through any story, sometimes a little bit later in television. And it spins the story in a new direction, but comes from outside of the protagonist. And we definitely have that here when Buffy opens this box. Before that, though, I am going to take my own break.
If you find the story structure and other plot elements and character issues I talk about helpful, you may want to check out the free story structure template. (There's a link in the show notes.) Or check out my books on story structure. One is Super Simple Story Structure. The other is The One Year Novelist, which gives you a plan for plotting and writing your novel in a year or less.
Those are available in paperback on Amazon or in e-book form wherever you like to buy e-books: Kindle, Kobo, Nook, GooglePlay or Apple Books. And there are links in the show notes. Or you can do an Internet search for the book titles by L. M. Lilly. If you have questions or comments about the show, you can connect on Twitter @LisaMLilly #BuffyStory or you can email me Lisa @ LisaLilly.com.
How The The One-Quarter Twist Turns The Story
And we're back at that One-Quarter Twist. Buffy opens that box. Inside it is a long arm clad in dark armor or cloth and a black glove. It bursts out and grabs Buffy by the throat and chokes her. She cannot get it off her neck. That is 23 minutes, 6 seconds in of a roughly 87, 88 minute story. And we go to a commercial break.
Another amazing hook. Because unlike other times when Buffy is attacked, she genuinely looks here is if she is not able to fight back or get that hand off her neck. When we come back from the commercial, we pick up right where we left off. So another example of a break in the middle of the scene.
Angel grabs the arm, helps Buffy get it off, and he slams it back in the box and closes it. Xander says, “Clearly the Hellmouth's answer to what you get the Slayer that has everything.”
Angel says, “It can't be. She wouldn't.” And Xander says, “What, vamp version of snakes in a can or do you care to share?”
Angel explains that this arm is part of The Judge.
The Legend Of The Judge
Giles and Angel talk back-and-forth about it. It's an old legend, before Angel’s time. A demon meant to rid the world from the plague of humanity. He separates the righteous and wicked and burns the righteous. Giles says the story is The Judge couldn't be killed. An army was sent against him and most of them died. But they finally dismembered The Judge. Which couldn't kill him, but his body parts were buried scattered all over the world.
And Angel says Drusilla is just crazy enough to reassemble The Judge and bring forth Armageddon. At which point Cordelia asks if anyone is going to have cake.
This use of mixed humor with drama and great danger is done so well here. It gives the audience a tiny break from the intensity so that we don't have just that one note danger, danger, danger. And that break, by doing that, highlights how serious this is.
Jenny says Angel's the only one who can do it. He has to take the arm to remotest region possible, and he agrees. Buffy says she can do it. But Jenny says No. Buffy can't disappear from school for months. Buffy is appalled at the idea of Angel being gone months and says why take so long? Angel says he'll have to get a cargo ship. He can't fly because he can't guard against daylight, and there's no other choice. This threat is so serious. He has to go right now. Tonight.
And Buffy is saying “but it's my birthday.” Jenny gets between them and says she'll drive Angel to the docks.
Dalton In Trouble
We switch to Drusilla, who is angry at Dalton. She stamps on his glasses. Then she tells him to make a wish and puts her two fingers out to jab toward his eyes, saying she's going to blow out the candles because he has lost this box.
Spike says maybe give Dalton a chance to get it back. “He's the only one I have with half a brain.” Dalton is sweating. He says he swears he'll get the box. Dru jabs her fingers toward his eyes but stops at the last second and says okay.
She's all fun and games again. She pats his head, puts his broken glasses back on him and tells him to hurry back.
At the docks, Angel is carrying the box. He and Buffy stop to say goodbye. He says he'll be back and she says when? It could be six months. It could be a year. They don't know if he'll come back. She says, “If you haven't noticed, someone pretty much always wants us dead.” Angel says, “We can't know, Buffy, nobody can That's just the deal.”
This, too, is part of the show's overall philosophy. And probably a philosophy that weaves through all of Whedon's shows. That you never know what's coming next, and you just have to do your best with what you're facing.
Angel gives Buffy a Claddagh ring he takes off his finger. He says he was going to give it to her for her birthday. And says that his people, before he was changed, exchanged it as a sign of devotion. If you turn the heart toward you, it means you belong to someone. And he says, “like this,” showing the one he is wearing. They kiss after he tells her to put her ring on.
Romeo And Juliet Raise The Stakes
This so reminds me of Romeo and Juliet. We’ll see Joss Whedon use Shakespeare quite a bit, call back to Shakespeare plots. And Romeo and Juliet had that secret wedding. My sophomore English teacher made a big point while we watched West Claddagh to see how it compared to Romeo and Juliet. How those two characters Tony and Maria have this sort of pretend wedding where she dresses up in a wedding dress, and they pretend to say the vows. (I'm sure my teacher’s point was to say see how serious this is, this doesn't mean you should just have sex with the first person you think you fallen for.)
I do find it really interesting here that Buffy uses this as well. This wedding sort of symbolism — exchanging the rings, belonging to one another. I see it here not so much as my high school English teacher jumping in and saying, oh, you need to have this big commitment before sex. But to again raise the stakes and show how important this relationship is to the two of them. And make it more devastating when we get to the consequences.
Dalton Steals The Box Back
Just as Angel starts to say, “I love you,” vampires interrupt. This is 30 minutes in. Buffy yells at Angel, “The box!” Because he has set it down. Now as one of the vampires grabs it, Angel wrestles Dalton. Other vampires fight Buffy. One of them throws Buffy into the water.
I think this is supposed to be the ocean. Angel abandons Dalton to dive in after Buffy. It shows how committed Angel is to Buffy.
Later I always wondered, though, does he think she can't swim? She's the Slayer. Is he is he really worried that Buffy is going to drown? On the other hand, the one time Buffy died (for just a minute as she says) was when she drowned. So perhaps that's part of it too. But I think it also is meant to show that in the moment, Angel chooses Buffy even at the risk of putting the whole world in peril.
And even though a second ago he was ready to leave to protect the world.
An Episode Three-Quarter Turn?
In a way this last moment serves as a Three-Quarter Turn of the episode. We’re not even at the Midpoint of our two-episode arc, but our single episode here keeps moving in part because we have the significant turns. This was one. Because we shifted from not just knowledge of this plot and seeing what happens with Buffy and Angel, but to how to stop assembly of The Judge. That shift happens because now we know Spike and Dru have this other piece that was so key to them.
In the library, Xander, Willow, and Giles are waiting for Angel and Buffy to get back and researching.
Giles is worried because he thinks they should have returned by now. Not Angel – they're not expecting him back. But he thinks Buffy should have returned. Willow says maybe Buffy needed a moment. And she feels terrible for Buffy. But Xander goes into this, I guess you would call it this daydream or imagining. He says it wouldn't work out any way. And just think about what would be like in the future if they settle down and Angel’s sitting with a big blood belly in front of the TV. Dreaming of the time when Buffy thought the whole creature the night thing was cool. Then Xander will arrive and take her out for prime rib dinner.
Willow tries to stop him and he says something like, “Wait, did I tell you about the part where she cries?”
Buffy has come in, which is why Willow is trying to halt Xander's flow of words. But she doesn't really notice. She says they (the vampires) got the box.
Giles is extremely concerned. He says The Judge's touch can burn humanity out of a person, that only a true creature of evil can survive. No one else can. And they have also learned that no weapon forged can kill him. So Buffy says they need to keep him from being assembled.
Everyone does what they call a Round Robin. Which is each of our friends calling their parents and saying they're staying at one of the other's houses.
We get a brief and very quick glimpse of Xander's home life. He calls home, and says Mom, but then has to say, “It's me. Xander.” Xander doesn't have any siblings. So the fact that his mom didn't know it was him by his voice gives us a just this hint, through humor, of Xander's back story.
During the night as they are looking through different books, Willow pauses to say how amazing and cool Oz was about everything. Xander says he's over it. Clearly a little tired of hearing about Oz. And she says he's just jealous because he didn't have a date for the party. And he says, “No, I sure didn't.”
Buffy falls asleep over some books in Giles’ office. Angel says she hasn't been sleeping well. She's been tossing and turning. Giles gives him a look and Angel says, “She told me. Because of her dreams.”
Buffy Dreams The Judge Is Assembled
Buffy is in fact dreaming at the moment. This is a nice transition from the scene in the library to Buffy dreaming. That word helps us transition into Buffy's dream. We see Drusilla's party at the factory. There are candles and flowers. Buffy is walking in a long white dress, so we have more wedding like imagery. Buffy sees the box. As she is going toward it, Drusilla appears and says, “Now now. Hands off my presents.”
She is holding Angel, and she slashes his throat. Buffy screams. She's back in the library. Angel says, “I'm right here and holds her.” It's unclear whether she is slipping into another dream or whether that's part of the dream. Because we switch back to Drusilla's party and it looks exactly the same as in Buffy's dream. But we’ll find out as it goes on that this is a real scene.
Dalton is that the punch bowl. Drusilla is dancing. Spike brings her the last box of The Judge. There are tons of vampires around. They set the last one on. It’s The Judge’s head. There flashing lights all around. The pieced-together boxes form The Judge. It opens up and The Judge emerges. He’s giant. And he’s blue. Which sounds funny saying it, but he is his pretty ominous looking.
Drusilla says, “He's perfect, my darling. Just what I wanted.” And we go to a commercial break. So again that hook. The Judge has emerged.
Once again that break was in the middle of a scene. So we come back and The Judge looks at Spike and Drusilla kind of scornfully. And , “You two stink of humanity. You share affection and jealousy.” Spike says what of it and reminds The Judge that they're the ones who brought him here.
Drusilla asks if he wants party favor. The Judge gestures toward poor Dalton and says, “Bring him to me.”
Spike questions him, saying what's all this bringing stuff? He thought The Judge could just zap people. But The Judge explains he needs to gather his full strength to return. He basically needs to be fed. They bring him Dalton, who is burnt up. Dru says, “Do it again! Do it again!”
So we've established through conflict why The Judge can't immediately go out and just burn all of humanity.
Buffy And Angel See The Judge
Back in the library, Buffy says she knows where Spike and Drusilla are – at the factory. She says she and Angel will go there and do recon. The others should check the docks, airports, and anywhere else The Judge could be coming in, or pieces of The Judge could be coming in, to stop it.
So this is how we know that Buffy did not see the last scene in her dream. She doesn't know The Judge is assembled.
Buffy and Angel go to the factory. They are in the area up above, almost like a catwalk, and they look down. They see the candles and the punch bowl. And Buffy says, “I saw this.”
Then they see The Judge walking around. Their eyes widen. The Judge senses them and then looks up and sees them.
Forgiveness For Plot Problems?
Again, I always wonder, did they think no one would notice them? That as long as they just stayed up on the catwalk they would be invisible? They don't seem to make any attempt to hide, so it doesn't seem like a great plan. But I doubt I thought that the first time I saw it.
This is an example of how when there is great emotional weight to a story, when you are so invested in it, as the audience sometimes you're willing to just kind of whistle past things in the plot that don't really hold together. Because we really want this scene with Buffy and Angel and The Judge. We want to see what happens. And the rest of the story is so fantastic.
So I don't recommend making a plan to think the reader won't notice this plot hole. There always will be some who do. And if there are too many, it' can undercut the experience. You don't want your reader to think “that makes no sense” right at a crucial part of the story.
Here, though I thought I had to comment on it having stepped back to watch it specifically to go through it from a story perspective, I am pretty sure it worked really well for me the first time. And it doesn't really diminish anything for me anytime I rewatch.
Buffy and Angel try to run. Vampires overtake them and bring them down to the ground level near The Judge. Drusilla says, “I only dreamed you'd come,” looking at Buffy.
So we know that just as Buffy dreams of Drusilla, Drusilla sometimes dreams of Buffy. They share this prophetic dreaming.
Angel says, “Leave her alone.” We get some great Spike in this scene. He says, “Yeah, that'll work. Now say pretty please.”
The Judge wants Buffy, and Dru says, “It's chilling, isn't it. She's so full of good intentions.”
Angel: Take me instead.
Spike: You're not clear on the concept. There's no instead. Just first and second.
Drusilla wants Buffy to be first so Angel can watch her die. But as The Judge approaches, Buffy kicks him. He staggers back a bit and Angel, who during this dialogue back-and0forth has been scanning the ceiling, grabs this chain. It seems to be part of a pulley system. He pulls it in all these TVs and light fixtures drop down on The Judge.
I’m not quite sure why there were all of these TVs were chained up. Because they're not in boxes. There are just TVs were chained up around the factory. But I like to think – as we'll see, Spike really loves television. So maybe this is an early example of how he had TVs all over the factory.
On The Run
Angel and Buffy run. The vampires go after them. They go down into those tunnels under Sunnydale.
Eventually Buffy and Angel climb up the ladder and get out into park somewhere through a manhole cover. It's pouring rain. They're getting drenched, and they go to Angel's apartment. Which is underground.
So I guess we assume Drusilla and Spike don't know where Angel lives. I find that interesting. Darla certainly found it easy enough to figure out where he lived in Season One. But I guess we have established Spike doesn't know. He needed Willy to get Angel to him in an earlier episode.
Anyway, this another example of something that when I initially watched, and when I rewatch just for the fun of it, doesn't bother me at all. Doing this podcast is the first time I even really thought about it.
The Midpoint Commitment Of Surprise And Innocence
Angel gives Buffy dry clothes. He turns his back while she is about to change. But he hears her kind of gasp. She's in a little bit of pain. She got some sort of cut. And he sits down behind her on the bed and he looks at her shoulder. He says it's already closed up, she's fine. She has taken her sweater off. So she is wearing a tank top or camisole she had on under it.
As he's touching her shoulder, there is so much tension and chemistry between them. She leans back into him and says she almost lost him today . And she feels like if she lost him – and she doesn't finish. Instead she says, “We can't be sure of anything.”
So we are moving to the Midpoint Commitment where our protagonist throws caution to the wind and commits to the quest. And remember we also sometimes see a reversal. So we can see a commitment or a major reversal for the protagonist or both. We are going to see both here.
Angel and Buffy are committing to this relationship.
Angel says, “I love you. I try not to but I can't stop.” And she says, “Me too. I can't either.” They kiss. Ss it becomes more intense, we have the Buffy and Angel theme music. Angel says, “Buffy, maybe we shouldn't.” She says “Don't. Just kiss me.” The camera pans away as they sink onto his bed.
That is 43 minutes and it is our Midpoint Commitment. And part of the climax of this episode. Then almost immediately we get a reversal.
We could see also this as the Falling Action of the episode.
Because first we have this really nice second of them sleeping curled together, covered by blankets.
Then Angel sits. He gasps in terrible pain and staggers outside into the alley. we have jarring music and lightning, and Angel screams “Buffy.”
Inside, though, she is sleeping. She doesn't hear him. And he shouts her name out in the alley again.
And it's To Be Continued.
So this is our reversal for Buffy and Angel and also it is a game changer.
This is an example – for this episode we actually wrapped up the episode main plot, which was Buffy and Angel. What will happen with Buffy and Angel's relationship? It reached the point where they do make love, and they are closer than ever. And then we get the Game Changer.
The Game Changes
It isn't a cliffhanger, though it also is in a way because we don't know what happened. So it leaves us hanging for the next episode.
But it changes everything. We have finished out the main plot, and this changes everything going forward. We don't know how, which is makes it also a cliffhanger.
What an amazing way to end the episode. When I looked it up on Wikipedia, it said that the two episodes aired back to back. So one night, I think Buffy was on Mondays, and then it aired on Tuesday. I don't remember that.
But what I do remember is after Innocence there was a very very long break. Maybe some kind of a winter hiatus that the shows often did. And it was awful. Waiting during that time for the next episode.
Whedon Interview On Surprise
There is no DVD commentary for this episode. But there is an interview with Joss Whedon. It doesn't go to in depth. Next Monday when I talk about Innocence, there is both an interview and scene-by-scene commentary. So I will have a ton on that.
But there are a few interesting things in this interview. He talks about this being the classical star-crossed romance. Vampire Slayer, Vampire. And that he knew from the start it wouldn't be easy and, he says, “that would be where all the fun was.”
He also noted something that I had wondered about in earlier episodes. About these hints that Jenny maybe could be trusted. I had wondered if it was always the plan that she was part of this clan that lost their favorite when Angel killed her. In interview he said that no, that wasn't originally the plan for Jenny. That they didn't know that she would turn out to be from the clan. He said he tries to leave things open for the characters so they can do what they need to, do what seems most intriguing when they get there.
This is similar to the issues of world building. Particularly in fantasy but really in any story you’re building a world, especially if it's in installments. The question is, do you try to figure out all the elements of the world, build the world in advance, and then tell each story within those limits? Or do you create just as much of the world as you need and then create more aspects to it as you go on with your story (or your next novel or novella or movie).
While I tend to plot particular novels in advance and know my major plot points when it comes to world building, both when I did the Awakening (which is more in the fantasy genre) and with my mystery series, I tend to do it more like what Joss Whedon is saying here. I build what I need. So some scenes could go various places for the future. But I don't necessarily build out certain aspects until I get there. I find that more fun. I feel like it gives me more freedom. But it is really you know what, what works for you.
Next Week: Innocence
I hope you'll stick around for Spoilers. If you don't, thank you so much for listening. I hope you will come back next Monday, when we'll talk about Innocence. The second part of this two-part storyline.
I feel like these two episodes are where Buffy truly becomes what it is. It's been amazing so far, but I feel like this just takes it to a new level.
And we are back for Spoilers. Starting with the very beginning.
In that dream when Drusilla dusts Angel and he reaches for Buffy, we see those two rings fall off Angel's finger. I don't think I ever before noticed that as part of the dream. So that's a really nice very subtle foreshadowing of the later scene in that very episode where he gives her the ring.
But after Angel is gone, after she had to kill him, we will see this moment with the rings come back. So it becomes very symbolic.
We’ll also see the Claddagh ring used when Buffy meets another character, Scott Hope in Season Three. He brings her a Claddagh ring, of course not knowing this history. The reaction Buffy has to it, which triggers some emotional growth for her, tells Giles how disturbed she still is.
Those lines. Buffy says, “Surprise me.” And Angel says, “Okay, I will.” So telling for the rest of the season.
When he says, “Okay, I will” of course he doesn't mean what happens. He doesn't have control over turning evil again. And yet the rest of the season is dealing with that that total unknown about Angel.
Buffy And Driving
On the lighter side, Buffy and Joyce talking about Buffy getting a Driver’s License. This theme of Buffy and driving continues in the background. It's the most key in Band Candy, where Joyce does let Buffy have the keys when she is under the influence of the candy. Then Buffy bangs up the car, through no fault of her own by the way, and after that Buffy doesn't drive.
I have to think that is something that the show creators and writers just felt would be useful. Because we don't we don't really want to watch Buffy driving around. It’s so much more dramatic to have her running. Driving somewhere just wouldn't seem to have that same effect.
Jenny and her uncle. Jenny says that Angel still suffers and he even makes amends. In Season Three, we will see the episode Amends, which is all about Angel's past. To which Jenny in a way serves as a guide. It made me wonder if that was planned. I tend to think probably not, and that it instead that it grew out of this. But maybe it was. Maybe they had Season Three planned by then.
Also, the uncle says that “if that girl gives him one minute of happiness it's one minute too much.” I knew that the uncle commented on Buffy and Angel and that Angel should not have happiness. But I didn't realize the “one minute of happiness” was stressed there.
Affection And Jealousy
I love The Judge's comment on Drusilla and Spike. How they share affection and jealousy. And he's scornful of that because it’s human. I think one of the reasons I like Spike so much, and fans tend to like him, is he is not cowed by anyone. He just says, “Of course we do.” He's not going to let The Judge intimidate him.
And we will see with Spike and Drusilla how this affection and jealousy weaves through their relationship. Spike wears his heart on his sleeve more, so we feel he’s more invested, that he's more the one vulnerable to jealousy. But there is some from Dru as well.
So later will see Spike is jealous of Angel and Drusilla. Which is part of what leads him to team up with Buffy. And we’ll find out in Season Three, Lovers Walk, that Dru starts seeing a chaos demon. Which is what sparks them to break up. But the underlying cause is Dru feeling that that Buffy is too much a part of Spike's psyche. So you definitely see that affection and jealousy. We've already seen it, but we will continue to see it through their relationship.
I also like that we see that Spike was not so enthused about The Judge. Throughout, he was hesitant about this party. Maybe they shouldn't have it. And you know he's not thrilled with The Judge from the beginning. He starts out by saying, “Hey, remember who brought you here.” And I think these things foreshadow Spike at the end saying he doesn't want to end the world.
He's not really the guy who's about bringing forth Armageddon and sucking the world into hell. He likes being a vampire, he likes doing violence, and he doesn't want the end of the world. Spike loves the world.
Xander’s Imaginary Relationships
Xander's his imagining about Buffy and Angel in the future, his fantasy. That's the word I was looking for. His fantasy about Buffy and Angel being so unhappy. I was so struck by this Angel with the blood belly in front of the TV.
Because in Season Six, Hells Bells, Xander has this vision of his future married to Anya. In his nightmare vision, Xander is in front of the TV with a beer. Not able to work, apparently after being injured fighting at Buffy’s side. And it's this very dark picture of marriage. It really wraps in Xander's fears about it.
One foreshadowing for the second part, Innocence. Giles says The Judge burn humanity out of people. A true creature of evil can survive but no one else. So this is so chilling because we know The Judge will be unable to cause any harm to Angel. Angel is completely, when he becomes Angelus, completely impervious to The Judge.
Where Spike and Drusilla for instance, I don't believe we ever see them touch The Judge. There is humanity in them.
Angel’s Last Breath
Finally, Angel shouting Buffy's name, not just once but multiple times. This is echoed in an episode later in the season, I should've looked at the name, where there's the Sadie Hawkins dance. Angel and Buffy are taken over by these ghosts that inhabit them from the past. There was a murder/suicide. And the teacher, James loved her and he shot her and then shot himself. And he’s saying how can you forgive me this. She says she did forgive him, and she understood, and that she died saying his name.
And here we have Angel dying, his human side, his soul, dying as he is gasping Buffy's name.
Some of the most powerful storytelling in all of Buffy, in all of any stories I have read and consumed. So I will end on that note.