My re-watch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1, episode 7, Angel – with inevitable spoilers – Angel’s a what now?!
How did you react when you first saw this episode with Buffy and Angel’s first kiss? Had you realised that Angel was a vampire? Or did it come as a huge shock? Were you still shipping Buffy and Angel after the initial reveal?
I came to this episode a little late, I had watched Hush from Season 4 when it aired, then frantically watched from the beginning. So, I had already heard about a vampire with a soul, and even that he had his own spin-off series. But still the episode gave me chills.
I have to say I had mixed feelings then and still do now. I love the character of Angel and his sparkage with Buffy, it’s surely an epic first love story. But I also question Angel’s willingness to begin a relationship with someone so much younger than himself, and who he must realise he poses a threat to. Angel does question this himself and tells Buffy they can’t get involved. And then he kisses her!
The episode introduces an aspect of Buffy which many fans still disagree over – was Angel any good for Buffy? Was he her epic love, or actually selfish and kind of creepy? My view falls somewhere in the middle of these two poles. I always appreciate a grey area. And I believe it is one of the great strengths of both Buffy and Angel that the shows often explored the grey areas between good and evil that most of the main characters dip into at different times.
Before the episode we knew about Buffy’s attraction to Angel, but we didn’t know he was a vampire. From being a series about a girl who slays monsters, from here on in, the show is also about a (much) younger woman’s romantic feelings towards a very old vampire. Romance has long been part of vampire fiction so this is not a huge surprise. However Buffy often turns our expectations around and keeps us guessing. And this plot twist is no exception. After finding out that Angel is a vampire we then find out that he is not like other vampires…
But first we have cockroaches…
It’s part of the charming seediness of The Bronze that they would have a fumigation party, and after closure and treatment, the result would be “much hardier cockroaches”.
The Master sends The Three – not much to write home about, they are three hardcore warrior vamps – after Buffy, which inadvertently leads to the revelation that Angel is a vampire. The Three attack Buffy, Angel helps her escape them, and Buffy invites him into her home. Previously Angel mostly warned Buffy about imminent danger, but now he is in the middle of it, leading him to have to remove his shirt to reveal his tatoo. Their intimacy increases – especially after Angel stays the night in case the Three are outside. Joyce remains unaware of the sleepover, but of course Angel is the perfect gentleman and sleeps on Buffy’s floor.
The next evening Angel is still in Buffy’s room … they talk and they share their first kiss. Angel goes into vamp face as he reacts to Buffy’s cross necklace (ironically the one he gave her).
The way that Buffy finds out accidentally Angel is a vampire raises the question – when was Angel planning on telling her?
Angel’s predicament is repeatedly explored, particularly in Angel the series. In getting his own show, we see the character more from his own perspective. He has to relate more to others and often has to work on the problem of how he should let people know he is a vampire without terrifying them, and how to reassure them that he is a “good” one, (at least most of the time).
We don’t see his perspective of this dilemma in Buffy as we do later in Angel. Before the revelation, his mystery man act comes off as kind of smug. However despite the repetition of this scenario, Angel usually either hides his identity or waits too long for the right time to tell people he is a vampire. When he is accidentally or involuntarily outed as a vampire they react with fear and reject him, and dire consequences often result.
This fear of coming out as a vampire and being rejected is repeatedly played out, effecting Angel’s relationships with others. I’ve never thought of this before, but I wonder while writing this, if it could be a metaphor for coming out about sexuality or gender. For this reason I feel less judgemental about Angel holding back. It’s more complicated than you might think – telling everyone exactly what you are, especially when it’s not completely black and white. And when the response could be anything from rejection and distancing to hatred and violence. As part of the LGBT community I can understand that.
Well, this post certainly didn’t go where I was expecting it to. Which is the thing with Buffy that makes it so powerful isn’t it? It gets you where you live.
So too cut a long story short(er) – the revelation that Angel is a vampire throws and horrifies Buffy. The next day she tries to make sense of the situation, “can a vampire ever be a good person?” she asks Giles. This question continues to be debated throughout the Buffyverse, in discussion of Angel, later Spike and even Harmony.
On finding that Angel (or Angelus) is not recorded to have been actively killing for the last hundred years, Buffy and Willow lean towards giving Angel the benefit of the doubt. Giles and Xander however, are sure that Angel’s vampire nature to kill will prevail, and that he is dangerous. “Fish got to swim, birds got to fly”, states Xander. I love this line, which is also a lyric from the musical Show boat.
Having scarpered through Buffy’s window when she realised he was a vampire, Angel is next seen entering his apartment. Darla awaits him and some of their shared history is revealed. “Last time I saw you it was kimonos,” Angel remembers. It’s pleasurable and neat when much later on in Angel the series we see a flashback of Darla’s last meeting with him and she is wearing a kimono.
Darla mentions Angel’s curse to him, the first the audience hear of it. Darla sets up a plan to ensure Buffy will want to kill Angel. She attacks Joyce and makes it look like Angel is responsible. Darla hopes that Angel will then kill Buffy and come back to the evil fold. Darla believes that Angel can overcome the curse by drinking human blood. She doesn’t understand how the curse works, which is useful so that the audience won’t either till later in the series – creating more impact when he really does.
Buffy goes after Angel, now sure that she needs to kill Angel while Giles finds out that it was Darla, not Angel, who had attacked Joyce.
When Buffy confronts him, Angel explains to Buffy that gypsies cursed him with a soul after he killed a Romani girl, “dumb as a post, but favoured by her clan”.
Darla turns up, and reveals to Buffy that she is Angel’s sire. She tries to shoot Buffy and after a fight Angel stakes and dusts Darla. She had changed from the blue schoolgirl outfit she had worn since Welcome to the Hellmouth to a red one. It really strikes me that she got just the one costume change before being killed off.
At the end of the episode Buffy and Angel meet in the Bronze, they address the tricky age difference problem (224 years difference) and both express that their relationship can’t develop further. And then of course they kiss again. Angel sucks up the pain caused by the cross necklace this time….
Highlights of the episode include:
The episode deals with the question of how Giles gets away with giving Buffy weapons training in the school library during the school day…
We no longer have to suspend our disbelief at the lack of student interest in the library.
Giles checks in on Buffy and her Mum at the hospital, it’s Giles and Joyce’s first scene together, and it’s adorable.
And the award for nasty quote of the episode goes to:
Xander: Hey, I don’t know what everyone’s talking about, that outfit doesn’t make you look like a hooker!
(Xander’s goofiness almost makes us forgive him for this crack at Cordelia, but we really shouldn’t).
Xander: You’re in love with a vampire?! What are you out of your mind? Not vampire… How can you love an umpire, everyone hates them.
Willow: Just sitting here watching our bare lives pass us by, oh look a cockroach.
Buffy: Reconstruction, er, reconstruction began after the construction, which was shoddy, so they had to reconstruct?
Poignant quote of the episode:
Darla: Do you know what the saddest thing in the world is? To love someone who used to love you.