Confession: I re-re-watched the two-part season two finale. I wasn’t sure what to make of the Becoming episodes when I attempted my second season rankings because I couldn’t isolate my original reaction from my current one, which felt as if I were dutifully closing up the season without experiencing the wonder of the internal legend-building and the emotional resonance of tragedy and transformation. So… I found the dvd collection on the cheap and decided to watch the two episodes again – in French this time!
The dubbing brought a sense of freshness to the show while still letting me focus more closely on how the eps frame the rest of the series, sending the characters – and the viewer – into the past and the future.
Of course the big “becoming” is Liam/Angel’s siring by Darla in the first of a series of flashbacks, a device that the Angel/Buffy team use with absolute genius. The Angel/Angelus origin story arrives a bit fragmented, but that’s okay – it will be fleshed out later with full respect paid to the foundation laid here.
Yet Angel’s becoming doesn’t end with his siring. We witness Angelus regaining his soul and becoming the Angel we met in s1. A third becoming occurs in his encounter with Whistler, who leads him to Sunnydale, Buffy, and a new sense of identity. It’s an evolution that circles back upon itself.
Buffy becomes The Slayer! We’re treated to an additional becoming courtesy of Angel’s peeping-Tom spying, which isn’t nearly so unsettling as it would become later (earlier?) as in Passion. Buffy’s transformation into Slayer slips carefully in the 34th episode of the series, more as a side course than a main dish. Whedon has always treaded around the edges of the BtVS film, making Buffy’s s1 transition to Sunnydale rather than to slayerhood the entry into her story. Now her character gets a slayer genesis through Angel’s flashback, a sly weaving of the two stories.
Yet even more becomings flit around the screen. We meet the pre-vampire, visionary Drusilla, not yet insane but clearly on that road thanks to Angelus’s torment from the confession booth. And Willow’s Wiccan enthusiasm moves into action as she attempts to re-instate the Roma curse via the Latin incantation discovered on Miss Calendar’s floppy disc. Dru and Willow give us alternately a taste of the past and the future in their imminent transformations.
Also moving on to a different realm is Kendra, making her third and final appearance in the series. I’ve already made my peace with the character and feel sorry to see her go. I thought she deserved more of a back story and I certainly wish we could have met her Watcher. Whedon follows the horror pattern here of sacrificing the first (semi-) substantial Black character, and I do wonder how Drusilla could have vanquished her so easily with just a bit of light hypnotism. She deserved at least a better fight. Also, in thinking ahead, what is with all the vanquished Slayers being Black and Asian? I’d rather not think of a superior Aryan Buffy, but I feel like Whedon is almost forcing the issue.
Aside from Kendra’s end, the library ambush did set up one of the most suspenseful scenes of the series with Buffy’s frantic and futile race back to school after Angelus’s taunt (“And you fall for it every time!”), creating yet another series iconic moment: her running in that blue jacket! Moreover, Kendra’s passing paves the way for the addition of Faith, who will prove a far more intriguing character with an impact on both BtVS and Angel.
ADDITIONAL PLUSSES: The great scene in the library where Xander confronts Buffy about restoring Angel’s soul, accusing her outright of just wanting her boyfriend back. It’s what I was thinking! And the Scoobies’ silence after his outburst showed a tacit agreement. We still remember Passion! Only Giles, who previously lectured Buffy on forgiveness in I Only Have Eyes for You, seems sympathetic, though reluctantly so.
MEH: Acathla. A demonic apocalypse. Again? This is third end of the world, right? It’s overkill. Angelus is enough, but at least this time Acathla doesn’t become animate to disappoint like The Judge in the game-changing Surprise/Innocence. Spike makes wisecracks about Angelus’s “big rock,” and even Buffy seems tired by the stone demon, never bothering to get his name straight. And for the record, I can’t decide whether I enjoy Alfalfa or Al Franken better as her alterna-nyms.