Thursday, June 18, 2009

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 1, Episode 7 - Angel

Angel is the seventh episode in Season One of Buffy and is the episode where Buffy and Angel kiss (finally!) and is also the episode which explains Angel’s history as a vampire.

The general gist of this episode involves Buffy and Angel sharing a passionate kiss, after which she learns that he is actually a 200 year old vampire. After realizing this, Joyce gets attacked by a vampire, although she doesn’t die, thankfully. Buffy automatically assumes it was Angel and decides to hunt him down and kill him. However, upon finding Angel, she realizes that he has been cursed with a soul and has not fed off a human for over a hundred years, and it was actually Darla who bit her mother, in an effort to try and draw Angel back to the Master and herself. In an action-fuelled fight between Darla and Buffy, Angel kills Darla, saving Buffy’s life and showing his love for her.

An interesting part of this episode occurred at the beginning when Buffy was put in the position of the ‘damsel in distress’. She was outnumbered against The Three and was unable to fight them, when Angel came to her rescue. When I was watching this I initially thought it was a little odd, as Buffy often has very feminist overtones and doesn’t usually show women in peril waiting to be rescued by men (often it is Xander who is put is danger and is relying on Buffy to save him). However, as this scene continued and Buffy and Angel fought The Three, Angel was slashed in the ribs with a metal pole, weakening him. Buffy then picked him up and took him back to her house, essentially saving him. I thought that this was a very nice inversion of the typical ‘damsel in distress’ stereotype. Whedon presented the idea of a man and a woman helping each other out equally, rather than adopting a radical feminist or misogynist viewpoint, an idea which hadn’t really been explored in previous television shows. While many aspects of Buffy are clearly pro-feminism, Buffy and Angel’s relationship remains one of equality, without sexism.

One of the weaker points of Angel was the chemistry between Buffy and Angel, as well as the acting of David Boreanez (Angel). I recall that in Season 2 and 3; Buffy and Angel had really great chemistry and were really believable as a couple. However, I didn’t see that here. They seemed awkward together, and a lot of their dialogue together was jilted and unconfident. Buffy’s relationship with her mother was more believable than her blossoming romance with Angel. The acting of David Boreanez was also rather lacklustre here. It was as though Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) had to carry some of the scenes between the two of them, he was that lifeless at times. However, both the chemistry between the pair and the acting of David improve throughout Season One, no doubt as the actors become more comfortable with one another and David becomes more aware of his character.

I found the history of Angel a very interesting part of the episode, and it gave him a back story that was desperately needed, as the audience had been left guessing his identity for six episodes. His hidden identity was a nice twist, although not altogether unpredictable – Buffy was going to need a boyfriend just as burdened by his destiny as she was sooner or later, and a hunky vampire with a conscience is a good fit with the potential for lots of drama.

One of the strongest points of this episode was the fight scene between Buffy and Darla. The introduction of guns into the Buffysphere was a novel concept, as the use of a modern day weapon contrasted well with the medieval weapons that Buffy so often uses. It’s a pity that this idea wasn’t used again in later seasons; there are very few guns shown or used throughout the rest of the show. Angel killing Darla was also a nice touch; it symbolized his choice to get go of his past (his vampire life and Darla, who was his sire) and embrace his future (Buffy and trying to bring down the Master).

As far as Season One goes, this was one of the better episodes. It was a good introduction to the love saga that becomes Buffy and Angel, and it also provided a very thought provoking history for the character of Angel. The comic relief wasn’t lost in all the drama either, as both Xander and Giles had some classic Whedon one liners. Angel marked the beginning of a relationship that was one of the most popular fictional love stories of the nineties.

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