One of the high points of the show and its first really heartbreaking episode, this was the moment when I first realized BtVS was one of the greatest dramas on TV. Having Angel go evil was a bold move, but the real game-changer was having him kill a character we know and care about and cause great pain and loss to a core Scooby member.
The episode shows Angel(us) intensifying his mind games and terrorization of Buffy and her friends. Tension is felt throughout the episode, from the opening scene at the Bronze, which shows Angel watching from the shadows as Buffy and Xander are dancing, to “Never An Easy Way” by Morcheeba, while Cordelia and Willow are sitting and chatting at the table behind them. It is a callback to When She Was Bad when Angel was watching Buffy dance with Xander, but back then Buffy’s dance was sexual and cruel, designed to hurt Xander and Angel as well as Willow, while this time they are dancing as friends and all of them are looking happy. Back then Angel was unhappy that he couldn’t be a part of her normal everyday life, now all he wants is to make her suffer. But something hasn’t changed – as Willow observes later in the episode, he’s still completely obsessed with Buffy. Next we see him coming into Buffy’s room at night, watching her sleep and leaving a portrait of her he’s drawn for her to find in the morning, as a creepy reminder that he can enter her house and kill her while she sleeps. The fact that he doesn’t shows that the reason he’s not killing her isn’t because she’s too strong, as he told Spike in Innocence. This is reminiscent of all those times Angel, back when he had a soul, would lurk outside Buffy’s room or get inside when she wasn’t there and touch her things, or when he told her in season 1 that he loved watching her sleep. Only back then, it was treated as at worst a little annoying and at best endearing.
Angel’s voiceovers, which open the episode and continue at various parts while he is stalking and watching Buffy and her friends, are about the power of passion. Who does this refer to? Buffy? Giles? The way he is using other people’s passions – such as love – against them? Or is he talking about himself, about the reasons why he is doing what he is doing. Buffy is still the object of his the passion that rules his life, but now this passion is cruel and evil. But passion is also a theme of the season, and not just this season. Buffy’s love for Angel made her vulnerable and prevented her from doing her duty; Giles warns her in this episode that she has to keep her wits about her and not be overcome with feelings of anguish and anger, to not be “a slave to your passions”; ironically, she does keep her wits about her, but it’s Giles who is later overcome with grief and rage after Jenny’s death and does something mad and impulsive.
It’s amazing how creepy those scenes feel much before he even hurts anyone – but that’s what a campaign of terror is all about, instilling fear into people, making them feel they aren’t safe anywhere. He really doesn’t do much, compared to what he could do (the meta reason, of course, being that the show couldn’t afford to kill off Willow or Giles, or Joyce). He manages to freak out Willow by killing her fish and leaving them as a bracelet for her, and to make Buffy worry for her mother’s safety, especially when he leaves her a portrait of Joyce sleeping. The situation leads to Buffy finally telling her mother something about her life, though leaving all the supernatural elements out, describing Angel as a stalker ex-boyfriend who has trouble letting go, and telling him not to invite him in. Which isn’t that far from the truth, because apart from not wanting a relationship with Buffy, he is every bit an abusive stalker ex, and he plays that role well in front of Joyce a little later. Instead of trying to hurt her, he again prefers mind games and deliberately lends Buffy in trouble by letting out the info that they had sex. But instead of a big fallout and punishment for Buffy, a big talk that Joyce has with Buffy is the closest mother/daughter moment they’ve had in a long time, with Buffy explaining things as truthfully as possible and Joyce thinking she understands the situation. And in a way, she does, since the story is a supernatural version of the classic “boyfriend turns bad” story, an Buffy’s words “He changed” and Joyce’s “He is older than you, and obviously not stable” are truer than Joyce even can imagine! She does scold Buffy, but in the end she is supportive and just tells Buffy she needs her to tell her important things about her life.
In a rare funny moment in the episode, and a meta joke, Jonathan and another student come to the library to look for books, when the Scoobies are there talking about what to do, and Xander acts like they’ve come to the wrong place, annoyed that they’re interrupting - completely forgetting what a school library is for.
Speaking of Xander, he is really annoying in this episode, with his “I told you do” attitude and saying things like “That's a lesson to you girls not to invite strangers in your room“ (yes, Buffy should have let Angel get killed by the Three for fear that he might be a vampire who will one day go evil...) and that he deserves recognition for hating Angel long before everyone else. Well, that would mean something if he hated him because he was a great judge of character, and if the large part of his hatred hadn't been because of jealousy, especially since he hated him before he knew he was a vampire.
The Scoobies finally decide to do something about the Angel situation, and that’s when we first learn about disinvitation spells. As we knew before, Angel had access to Buffy’s and Willow’s apartments and Cordelia’s car (Cordy invited him to her car in Some Assembly Required, and Willow to her room in Lie to Me). One thing that’s unclear is when he was invited to Giles’s apartment – it could have happened off-screen – and why Giles forgot about it. It’s good to see Buffy slamming the door into Angel’s face to make a point that he can’t enter anymore, even though he can’t enter with doors open, either (she’ll do the same to Spike in Crush). In addition, to be on the safe side, Buffy and Willow cover the walls with crosses and garlic (which I think is the first time garlic, a part of traditional vampire lore, was mentioned on the show?).
This is first time that magic started to play a big role in the show. Jenny, the person most familiar with the magic at this point, first helps Giles find a disinvitation spell, and later, not telling anyone, comes up with the way to restore Angel’s soul. Jenny tells Giles – obviously for the first time - that she fell in love with him, and tries to explain herself, that she had loyalties to her people. Happy couples don’t last in Buffyverse - as soon as Jenny and Giles reconciled and started looking forward to a date, we should have known it wasn’t going to end well. Jenny’s help is one of the reason why Giles forgives her for what he considered betrayal, but going further in her attempts to set the situation right is also what will get her killed, when Dru has a vision that the she will try to force the soul back on Angel.
This is the biggest Character death in the show so far, and still one of the most tragic ones, since Jenny wasn’t resurrected like some other beloved characters. She’ll only reappear in visions. Whedon said he wanted Angel to kill Jenny in vamp face, because he thought people would never want Buffy and Angel together if every time they kissed they saw the face of Jenny’s killer. I can see that there was some successful manipulation of the audience in seasons 2 and 3 to that effect, but I think it’s more due to the constant disassociation of Angel’s two personas in the viewer’s minds and the minds of the characters. I’m not sure that vampface/human face made much of a difference, since Angel was in his human face most of the time he was scheming or psychologically tormenting Buffy and her friends, and a lot of it disturbed me more than the acts of murders themselves. Angel does kill Jenny mainly to prevent his re-souling, but he clearly gets a lot of pleasure in chasing her, taunting her, making her afraid, and in the act of kill itself, telling himself “I never get tired of doing this”. But as disturbing as the murder scene is, to me it’s less disturbing as what follows…
... the Best scene in this episode, and one of the most chilling scenes in the entire show: Giles coming back home and thinking that Jenny is upstairs waiting for him, only to find her dead body in his bed. The first time I watched the show, I felt chills going down my spine, thinking “oh god, no!” as Giles was smiling happily when he saw the romantic scene that he thought Jenny arranged, while it was actually Angel. It is the creepiest example of Angel’s “torture as an art” approach: the roses, the champagne, the written note “Upstairs” (very similar to the note “Soon” he left for Buffy in the previous episode), and the music from the record player – a very romantic aria “O suave fanciulla” from the opera La Boheme by Puccini. The aria is sung by Mimi and Rodolfo, two people in love:
Rodolfo: O soave fanciulla, o dolce viso / Di mite circonfuso alba lunar/ In te ravviso il sogno / Ch'io vorrei sempre sognar! - Oh! lovely girl! Oh, sweet face / bathed in the soft moonlight. / I see in you the dream / I'd dream forever!
and as Giles finds Jenny’s body in his bed:
Mimi: Ah, tu sol comandi, amor! - Ah! Love, you rule alone!
Rodolfo: Fremon già nell'anima / Le dolcezze estreme. - Already I taste in spirit / The heights of tenderness!
But even without knowing lyrics, the music made the scene even more intense, as Giles is first smelling the rose and happily climbing the stairs, and the climax of the aria happens exactly when he comes closer and realizes that Jenny is dead. Even having seen Passion a few times before, it still made a misty-eyed.
This is the kind of plan that could only be devised by someone who fancies himself an artist, has a romantic streak himself (maybe even thinks of making love to the woman he loves as the pinnacle of happiness) and spends a lot of time thinking about the feelings of others, whether it is in order to help them (when he has a soul) or the better ways to hurt them and enjoy their pain.
The relationship between Buffy and Giles in the second part of season 2 is beautiful. While he’s generally her father figure (Angel recognizes it too, when he calls Giles Buffy’s “old man”), though in an equal relationship unlike those that most parents and children have, in Passion Buffy is the one taking care of Giles. Early on she helps Giles’s relationship with Jenny, talking to Jenny, despite still being angry with her, and telling her that Giles misses her. Buffy is also the first one to realize that Angel is the one who set up the romantic scene in order to torment Giles, and the first one to guess exactly what Giles would do, proving once again that she’s a smart cookie, but also that she knows Giles very well. It’s all the more poignant when a man normally as rational and in control of his emotions as Giles does something as passionate and practically suicidal, as Giles does when he goes alone straight to the factory where Angel, Spike and Dru live, to try to kill Angel.
Luckily for Giles, at least he isn’t up against two vampires: Dru seems like she’s about to get involved in the fight and help Angel, but as soon as Spike tells her not to (“No fair going to the ring unless he tags you first”), she changes her mind. And when Buffy arrives to help Giles, Dru doesn’t even think of helping him fight Buffy, but just quickly wheels Spike away and they both watch the scene from afar. No matter how much she likes having Angel back, she doesn’t care that much to risk her life trying to help him. When it comes to Spike, she cares enough to take care of him (according to Angel, she is bathing him, changing him and feeding him) but in this episode she’s doing it in a somewhat humiliating way: she gives him a puppy to “eat” – even though vampires consider it a gross insult to drink from animals, and Spike used to bring her people to drink when she was ill. She also tells him she named it Sunshine, which is pretty much like giving him a present and calling it Wooden Stake. Angel is insinuating that he’s sleeping with Dru, telling Spike that he could take up his duties while he’s incapacitated, except for what he’s already doing (wink wink nudge nudge), and whether it’s already true or not, Dru is just openly happy to have “boys” fighting over her. But I wouldn’t say that it’s about her: Angel isn’t nearly as interested in her as he is in hurting Spike and getting one over him. Besides, it helps take attention away from his obsession with Buffy, which Spike, on his part, is constantly mocking him for, criticizing him for not killing Buffy when he had a chance and calling him crazy. It’s pretty funny when Angel tries to convince Spike that he’s got everything under control, only to have Giles throw a Molotov’s cocktail at his feet a second later.
Buffy and Angel have their second big fight, and she takes a lot of her rage and frustration beating him up, until he reminds her that Giles is lying on the floor and will burn up if she doesn’t save him. The second best scene of the episode, and the second time I got misty eyed, is between Giles and Buffy, as she walks Giles outside. When he yells at her that she shouldn’t have gotten involved as it’s not her fight, she punches him for saying it, tells him he can’t leave her (i.e. get himself killed, which he was clearly trying to do) and she can’t do it alone without him, and hugs him as they both break into tears.
In the last scene, Giles and Buffy are at Jenny’s grave, and Giles says he buried many people as a Watcher (the first time he says it, although it almost goes without saying, since he must have trained other Slayers before), but it’s the first time he lost someone he loved. Buffy apologizes for not having been able to kill Angel in Innocence. The episode ends on Buffy’s voiceover – Angel is not allowed to have the last word – as she declares that she is ready to kill him now.
Angel (voiceovers): Passion... it lies in all of us. Sleeping, waiting, and though unwanted, unbidden, it will stir, open its jaws, and howl. It speaks to us, guides us... Passion rules us all. And we obey. What other choice do we have?
Passion is the source of our finest moments; the joy of love, the clarity of hatred, and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear.
If we could live without passion, maybe we'd know some kind of peace. But we would be hollow. Empty rooms, shuttered and dank... Without passion, we'd be truly dead.
Buffy: I can’t believe he’s the same person. He’s completely different from the guy I knew.
Willow: Well, sort of, except…
Buffy: Except what?
Willow: You’re still the only thing he thinks about.
Mythology: This is the first time we learn about disinvitation spells, and about the Orb of Thesulah, used in the ritual to restore a vampire’s soul. It’s funny that it can be bought in an ordinary magic shop, though apparently few people know what it is, since the owner knows that Jenny is well versed in magic the moment she mentions it. Most people coming to magic shops are New Agers.
Angel says he could enter the school because of the sign “Enter all ye who seek knowledge”, but either he’s joking or this is a continuity error, since vampires are always able to enter a public building. More likely the latter, because Jenny seems surprised he was able to enter, even though Spike and his vampires attacked the school in School Hard.
Angel/Angelus: Buffy, Giles and everyone else still call him Angel. Ironically, Spike refers to souled Angel as “Angelus”, saying that he preferred “the old Buffy-whipped Angelus”.
Xander says he hated him long before everyone else – he obviously still thinks of him as the same guy.Buffy remarks how much he has changed, almost as if he is a different person, but Willow points out that he is not that different – he is still all about Bufy.
This is the first time we see Angel’s artistic talent – and his tendency to draw women (Buffy, Joyce and Jenny), which he does while souled on AtS, in season 2 when he is drawing Darla and later in season 4 when he’s drawing Cordelia.
Nicknames: Xander’s new nickname for Angel is “pointed-toothed fairy”. Angel calls Spike “roller boy”.
Spike Badass-o-meter: He’s still in wheelchair, but his snark this time is top notch – his remark that he “much preferred the earlier, Buffy-whipped Angelus, because this one is not playing with a full sack” manages to insult Angel in several ways: reminding him again of his love for the Slayer, insinuating that he’s still affected by his feelings for her, and calling him both insane and incompetent. In addition, he still has some influence over Dru, as she listens to him when he tells her not to get involved in the Angel/Giles fight.
Pop culture references: Willow and Xander used to watchCharlie Brown-s Christmas at his house,and Xander likes to do aSnoopy Dance (which will later be referenced in season 5 The Replacement).
Xander says “If Giles wants to go after the demon who killed his girlfriend, I say: ‘Faster, pussycat, kill, kill!” Faster, Pussycat! Kill, kill! is a 1966 Russ Meyer movie. I’m not surprised that Xander is a fan.
Other observations: We find out that Willow’s dad is named Ira and he’s either either very religious or very proud of his Jewishness.
Willow’s funny/childish fashion choices continue: in this episode she has a bag with a big smiley on it.
Foreshadowing: In the last scene, the disc with the information about the way to restore Angel’s soul falls between the desk and the filing cabinet next to it. It will be found again in Becoming II.
Early on, Willow is substituting for Jenny as a computer science teacher, and very happy to get a chance to do it, but then she gets to be substitute for a longer time than she thought, for a tragic reason. But computer science class is not the only thing that Willow will inherit from Jenny.
Angel’s rhetorical question “What choice do we have?” (whether to give in to our passions) will be answered by Buffy in Becoming II when shesets her feelings aside to do her duty and save the world. The conflict between duty/morality and emotions will continue throughout the show; in season 5 Buffy will be faced with a dilemma she’ll only be able to resolve by giving her own life; her season 6 story is an illustration of Angel’s words that without passion, we’d feel hollow and truly dead, and she’ll be alternately giving into and rejecting a destructive passion that’s the only thing making her alive.
The events of this episode are heavily referenced in the canon comics
SPOILER (white text) in season 8, Angel possessed by Twilight kills Giles in the same way he killed Jenny, with a neck snap. It says something about the authorial intentions that, even thought he wasn’t himself, this time Whedon had him kill Giles in his human face. In the issue 1 of Angel & Faith, which follows up on season 8,Angel is accidentally given one of Giles’s happiest memories, the memory of the day he fell in love with Jenny and that he and Jenny spent together. It makes Angel’s feelings of guilt even heavier. END SPOILER
Rating: 5 (did you expect anything else?)