Another confession: I went back and tinkered with my Season Two rankings, flipping the positions of the two Becoming episodes, dropping this one from #2 to #3. I still love it for its overall intensity, the Buffy/Spike teaming, the revelation of slayerhood to Joyce, the witchery of Willow, the duplicity of Xander, and the tragic denouement, but I just like (or better said, love) the set-up in Part 1 with its origins, diversions, and suspense a bit better. Still, it’s splitting hairs because I love the two-part finale as a whole.
So much to love from the second half.
Buffy’s killing of Angel and sending him into a hell dimension moments after he regains his soul! Of course, Angel will be back. I knew that even on my first go-round, but the relationship is forever altered, and Buffy now knows what she is willing to do in the name of duty.
Xander lying to Buffy about Willow preparing to restore Angel’s soul! Selfish? Kind? Practical? Right? All of the above? I still can’t decide, which is why I love it so.
Willow is becoming a witch! We’ve gotten hints of it since Passion, but in her hospital bed something clicks, be it a possession by Miss Carpenter or simply a gift coming to realization. We even got a tiny sample of the forthcoming Dark Willow as she stared straight up and belted out the Latin restoration spell with blackened irises!
The torture of Giles! Just when it seemed Angelus couldn’t do any more harm to Giles… he does a lot worse, though had Spike not intervened, the scene would have entered into a pre-Saw depravity unfit for prime time.
Buffy’s revelation to Joyce that she is The Slayer! Holy shit did I not see this coming! Even on my second viewing I felt stunned. And while the “coming out” speech with its quite direct parallels to a gay teen and unaccepting parent seems somewhat dated in its obviousness now, in 1998 on broadcast TV, it must have been far more striking. The escalating conflict between Buffy and her mother provides another of my favorite Sarah Michelle Gellar moments in the series. She’s great in the scene, drawing on two seasons of character development to burst into an angry and frustrated teenager, resentful of a compromised adolescence and an adulthood promising only more of the same.
And on a light note: Spike sitting awkwardly in the living room alone with Joyce is my favorite comic moment from the first two seasons. Amid all the deception and drama, we needed a bit of absurd levity, and the extended take caused me a great, hearty guffaw.
I realized that I’d neglected two of my favorite points in Becoming Part 2: Buffy’s assertion that she still had “me” (herself) as Angelus pinned her against the wall, unleashing a torrent of taunts, ready to finish her off. Buffy may have lost her boyfriend, but not herself. Yet she has to prove her strength once more after the portal is opened and Willow has restored Angel’s soul: she has to kill him. It’s a direct repudiation of Xander’s earlier accusation that what she really wants is to get her boyfriend back. She does, but she values herself and her responsibility over romance. The character of Buffy had a fantastic second season, and she closes it up strong and tight with a massive show of strength and sacrifice.