Cultural Catchup Project: “Surprise,” “Innocence,” and the Art of the Game-Changer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

“Surprise,” “Innocence,” and the Art of the Game-Changer

April 29th, 2010

You can follow along with the Cultural Catchup Project by following me on Twitter (@Memles), by subscribing to the category’s feed, or by bookmarking the Cultural Catchup Project page where I’ll be posting a link to each installment.

One of the interesting buzz words to emerge over the past few years within the television industry has been “game-changer.” Used to describe episodes which fundamentally alter our perspective on a particular series, or which send a series in a completely different direction, it’s become a common term which producers or networks will use if they want to drum up interest in a struggling series, or try to regain lost glory with a series beginning to lose its luster.

However, I hate that “game-changer” has taken on an almost wholly promotional context, because episodes which actually “change the game” are a really fascinating part of the television landscape. There is great benefit in a reinvention of sorts, as the producers of Lost learned when the Flash Forward structure brought new life to a series at its halfway point, but it is just as easy to fall off the rails: J.J. Abrams learned this lesson the hard way when his game-changing second season finale of Alias was a stunning hour of television but sent the show in directions it wasn’t capable of supporting.

What makes a good game-changer is something which lives on potential rather than mystery, which not only changes the game as we know it but also gives us a glimpse of how the new game is going to benefit the series moving forward. The change needs to feel like something which springs from the story rather than from a network note, and the consequences need to be something the show won’t live down but that it can also live with.

In other words, a good game-changer needs to be everything that “Surprise” and “Innocence,” the thirteenth and fourteenth episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s second season, embody: by merging romance with tragedy, and by turning its central character into an unwitting agent of terrifying change, Buffy moves beyond the limitations of teenage drama to something that strikes deeper into the limitations of the human condition.

Or, put more simply, Buffy the Vampire Slayer just got real.

A little bit of historical context first: “Surprise” and “Innocence” aired on back-to-back nights in January 1998, an event designed to transition the show to its new Tuesday night timeslot from its original Monday home. It’s a neat sort of paratextual narrative at play here: there are often circumstances where scheduling intersects with story, like when Lost’s third season was considered a creative failure based on what was largely a scheduling decision, but this is one instance where the narrative function of the episodes (to transition from one sort of dynamic to quite a different dynamic) was reinforced and even enhanced by the scheduling.

The WB Promo: “Surprise” and “Innocence”

It’s also important to note that “Surprise” and “Innocence” don’t really operate within a traditional two-part structure: while there is a cliffhanger between the two episodes, complete with a “To Be Continued…” chyron to confirm that we will be seeing the resolution of that story, the two episodes function as separate narratives. “Surprise” tells the story of Buffy and Angel finding love amidst the chaos of the Judge’s arrival, while “Innocence” depicts the destruction of that love at the hands of powers outside of Buffy’s control. They are obviously heavily connected episodes, but there is not one story being told here: rather, a story comes to its emotional climax in the first episode only to transition straight into a terrifying denoeument which turns out to be the start of a new rising action. The fact that the cliffhanger takes only a single day to be resolved plays into this sensibility: the show isn’t interested in drawing out the mystery of how things are going to change, but rather focused on demonstrating what has been changed, how it’s been changed, and what the ramifications of this are to the series’ future.

“Surprise,” you’ll notice, is actually a fairly linear episode. While Buffy struggles with the meaning behind her dreams and the anxiety over her growing feelings for Angel, the conflict normally present both within Buffy and within the show’s narratives regarding high school and Hellmouth is more or less absent. Even the reveal that Miss Calendar is actually a descendent of the gypsies who cursed Angel, who was sent to Sunnydale to watch over Angel and Buffy by her family, doesn’t really become a complication in “Surprise:” we presume that Miss Calendar is going to kidnap Buffy or place her in danger when she intercepts her at the school and drives her to the Bronze, and we worry that the Vampires at the Bronze are part of some sort of setup, but in reality that was simply where Giles had chosen to hold the party. The Vampire and Human narratives don’t really even run into each other until that moment: while Buffy’s dreams hint at the conflict to come, it isn’t until they stumble upon Spike’s men trying to pick up Drusilla’s present that the two sides of the story come together.

While Giles rightly points out that dreams are not prophetic, “Surprise” is all about things that you can’t stop from happening (not unlike, at risk of seeming a bit on the nose, birthdays). The Scoobies hatch a plan to keep the remaining pieces of the Judge from arriving in Sunnydale when all of the pieces have already arrived, while Miss Calendar hatches a plan to keep Angel and Buffy apart (as her Uncle instructed her to) which ultimately only brings them closer together. In both cases they’re too late to be able to stop the oncoming train: having returned to her full strength Drusilla is too strong to be stopped through defensive measures, while Angel and Buffy have fallen too far in love for even an intelligent plan like Miss Calendar’s (which really would have worked great if not for the vampiric attack resulting from their extended goodbye) to keep them from consummating their relationship. The central thesis of “Surprise” is that life changes: people grow older, and people develop feelings that they can’t really contend with, and for all of Angel and Buffy’s attempts (however feeble at points) to fight their love they simply can’t stay away from one another.

I know someone in the comments asked about how I was reacting to Buffy and Angel’s relationship recently, and for me “Surprise” works far better than it really should. The show doesn’t ignore the fact that there’s a substantial age difference between them – it even comes up in “Surprise,” when Buffy admonishes Willow for being weirded out about dating a Senior when she’s dating someone who had a bicentennial – but it has sort of struggled to keep their relationship realistic considering the fundamental differences between the characters. There were points, especially early in the season, where their puppy love felt like it was a bit forced, and that the anxiety surrounding Angel’s relationship with Buffy disappeared due to Boreanaz being upgraded to series regular and hanging around more often. However, in “Surprise” their relationship feels like what a relationship is supposed to feel like: it’s something that keeps Buffy up at night, and something which keeps Angel up during the day, and something which eventually is the one source of comfort after nearly dying at the hands of the Judge. Michelle Gellar and Boreanaz do a really strong job of selling the scene on the docks (as they confront losing one another) and their “first time” as something which feels like the culmination of their respective lifetimes.

For a teenage girl, or for a vampire with a soul, that moment is a “game-changer” in every sense of the word: it changes the way you look at a relationship, or in Angel’s case his entire existence, and building to that moment is something which allows “Surprise” to function as a substantial transition for the show even considered on its own. What “Innocence” does is present the most nightmarish outcome of that transition possible, turning Buffy’s anxiety over how her life would change after having sex with Angel into a horrifying reality she won’t be able to wake up from. It’s not Buffy’s fault that the game changes when she sleeps with Angel: she had no idea that this moment of pure happiness would break the curse and send Angel back into a life as a soulless demon, just as he had no idea that pursuing his emotions would eventually cause him to lose his humanity. However, their independent decisions to pursue that which makes them happy eventually tears them apart, a harsh reality which breaks down the show’s romantic depiction of love perhaps once and for all.

This isn’t entirely new, as Xander and Cordelia’s relationship is a twisted sort of love driven by hate, and Giles and Jenny have gone through various hiccups where love is interrupted by near-death experiences (or, in this case, by Jenny’s subterfuge regarding her family connection). But the episode is a direct hit to the series’ romantic core: Willow’s fantasies about Xander are shattered by walking in on the two making out in the stacks, a sort of less extreme equivalent to Angel’s (or Angelus’) cruelty as he takes advantage of a fragile Buffy by suggesting that he simply ran off because she wasn’t good enough, or because he wasn’t satisfied, or because their connection wasn’t real. The latter case is obviously more traumatic, but the former is just as earth-shattering for Willow, as even while pursuing Oz there was this sense that she was only waiting for Xander to come around. Hannigan and Michelle Gellar were both fantastic at bringing out the pain that Xander’s unintentional cruelty and Angelus’ intentional cruelty cause the two characters, and the combined impact on the show’s world view is substantial.

Oddly, the scene that felt the most “different” to me (in terms of subtle changes in atmosphere as opposed to major characters shifts, which I’ll get to in a moment) was Xander and Cordelia sitting in the army base as Xander searches for his bazooka of choice. The callback to “Halloween” aside, the scene struck me because it didn’t actually have any sexual energy: while Cordelia and Xander were talking about sex, and Xander offered his usual one-liner about sex, it was like they were stating facts instead of making quips. The scene, as scripted, would have seemed almost romantic – it doesn’t get more romantic than boy and girl, struggling to come to terms with their burgeoning relationship, alone in a weapons warehouse talking about sex while breaking and entering. However, as it played out, it was like they were remembering when times were simpler, lamenting the fact that all of the romance has been taken away from this world. It’s followed by the one beacon of hope: Willow, trying to convince Oz to make out with her, is rebuffed as Oz wants their first kiss to remain romantic, the one person left who isn’t so caught up in the chaos of it all that he can’t maintain an optimistic world view. It makes us wonder if anyone within the inner circle will ever be able to have such hope for romance or “happiness” ever again, and whether it will take people from outside (like Oz) for those parts of the show to become active again.

However, if scenes like that are meant to draw out the subtle changes which these episodes indicate, the rest of the main storyline plays out like a nightmarish (but compelling) glimpse into the future. I noted above that a good “game-changer” focuses on potential rather than mystery, and what “Innocence” does so well is give us a clear indication of what the show will be like now that Angel has moved to the dark side. It doesn’t just turn Angel into Angelus without giving us a sense of how the character will act or what his dynamic will be with Spike and Drusilla; instead, David Boreanaz is given a great deal of time to flesh out just what Angel is like without a soul, and the episode spends what seems like “needless” time with the trio which makes me excited to see more of them. It doesn’t hold off on a Buffy and Angel show down in the context of their new conflict, but gives us a kick-ass battle sequence in a water-soaked theatre lobby which gives us a taste before eventually revealing that Buffy (and, as a result, the show) isn’t quite prepared to stake her former lover quite yet.

But “give her time.” It’s rare that a game-changer is so honest about this particular point, but while the show unquestionably changes when Angel switches sides it isn’t quite so easy for Buffy to do the same. Her anger drives her to complete the task at hand, eliminating the Judge with a weapon which was not, in fact, forged, but it can’t get her past the connection that she and Angel shared. A lot of things change in “Innocence,” and the show may never quite be the same, but it’s not going to become something different overnight. While Angel quite literally lost his soul, leading to a sudden transformation that is meant to be jarring and shocking, the show intelligently keeps Buffy from changing in the same way. Buffy is a human being, and even when her heart has been ripped out and stomped on by the unfortunate circumstances of a broken gypsy curse she isn’t able to so easily get over the intense love of “Surprise” in order to bring this story to an end here. The game has changed, there’s no question about that, but Buffy’s character is not so reactive that it feels unnatural. She remains, even having been forced to mature very quickly over the past few days, a teenage girl: while her mother notices that something seems different when she returns from having spent the night with Angel, at the end of the episode she says that Buffy looks just the same. The life of the Slayer is wrought with roadblocks like this one, and while it may be the largest yet it does not entirely derail the character’s development up to this point.

Any “game-changer” is technically the creation of the writers: it may not be so transparent as a direct network note (I know this was Whedon’s personal choice), but we are always aware that it was Whedon who engineered this twist, and who turned Angel to the side of evil. However, what makes a “game-changer” effective is when it feels like something natural, something which actually happens in the context of the show’s universe. Angel turning to the side of evil is the result of a well-established curse which speaks to the heart (or lack thereof) of his character, and it emerges as a result of Buffy and Angel pursuing a relationship that has been a core of this season. Rather than feeling like something which happens to characters, it feels like something they unwittingly create, logical storylines reaching a conclusion which shatters any sense of their own reality. It changes the game in a way that they were entirely unprepared for but undeniably involved with, making for a complicated scenario which crafts more complex, rather than fundamentally different, character motivations heading into the remainder of the season.

This is, in many ways, Buffy’s first “moment.” While there have been episodes that showed progress, and episodes which indicated that there was something beneath the surface, “Surprise” and “Innocence” shatter our preconceptions in a way that I really should have seen coming. I know Whedon’s modus operandi, so I knew that he was willing to make changes like this one, but it’s different when you actually see it unfold for the first time. Many noted that they would like to go back and experience this for the first time again, and let me tell you: it’s pretty awesome. Sure, with the advent of DVDs the game-changer has a bit less of an impact, as I’m not waiting a week until starting the next episode and I know that the game will change numerous times over in the seasons to come, but it says something about the quality of these episodes that even years after the fact they can fundamentally change how I view a series that is so much part of the pop culture canon.

Cultural Observations

  • I thought it was quite clever how the Judge was an unquestionably dominant threat but was not actually a dominant character: because it took him time to regain his power, it allowed for the wheelchair-bound Spike, the newly returned Angelus and Drusilla to remain the clear villains of the piece. The Judge remains simply a weapon at their disposal, which fit the episode quite nicely.
  • I thought Oz was really underwritten up to this point, and I’d suggest that this remains the case, but I thought the way Oz handles being initiated into the Scoobies is necessarily laidback in an episode filled with drama. The show can’t handle another big personality, and I thought his dialogue with Willow here (as opposed to his dialogue in “What’s My Line”) really seems reasonably romantic rather than blankly endearing, which is a marked improvement.
  • Buffy kicking angel in the nuts was just perfect: it’s just painful enough to feel like a small victory, and also vicious enough that it doesn’t seem like Buffy’s letting him off the hook completely. It’s a nice transition salvo for the next stage in their relationship.
  • Yet another fantastic Buffy/Giles scene at the end of the episode: after I commented on their relationship in “The Dark Age,” there was a chorus of comments mentioning that this remains a key part of the series, so I wasn’t surprised to see that scene serve as the initial unpacking of the events at the mall.
  • The next time I have a birthday cake with candles on it (which hasn’t happened in a while), I’m going to suddenly become super serious and say “I’m going to let it burn.” I’m hoping someone gets the reference.
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28 Comments

Filed under Cultural Catchup Project

28 responses to “Cultural Catchup Project: “Surprise,” “Innocence,” and the Art of the Game-Changer (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

  1. Reading the thoughts, I clearly recall the two nights in January when this one first aired….it helps that either part one or part two aired on my birthday. And you’re right–they are a game changer, in the best possible way.

    One thing Buffy did well was it had event episodes that got it right. This was at the same time that the X-Files would have sweeps event episodes that were meant to advance the mythology but wouldn’t necessarily do that. Or episodes with a cool gimmick that had no impact on the overall story or characters. Yes, ‘Triangle” was fun but it doesn’t have the long-term impact that stories like this one or “Hush” or “Once More With Feeling” did on Buffy’s long-term storylines.

    And again, all of this was hinted at and foreshadowed in “When She Was Bad.”

    Episodes like these are one reason I take a lot of joy in watching a show as it airs. Don’t get me wrong–I enjoy binging on shows on DVD and catching up. But I also recall the buzz around these episodes in the lead-up and then the shock of the fandom when they aired. It was the early days of on-line fandom and I clearly recall my inbox crammed full of responses and thoughts on the story on a several Buffy listservs I participated in.

    It’s hard to say much more without giving away large chunks of what’s to come….

  2. Way to blow us away again Myles. I’ve been keeping up with this ambitious yet brilliant project of yours since day one and I have to say that this is probably your best observation yet. Innocence is one of the best episode’s of the series and you don’t disappoint in giving it its due.

    This episode begins the Buffyverse mantra of incredibly interesting, unique and noteworthy villains. Of course The Master was alot of fun but he comes close to being a cliché and obviously Spike and Dru are phenomenal (Mainly because of their relationship) yet they don’t have that eumph factor that makes Angelus such a glorious villain. I’m sure you’ll enjoy his scenes in episode’s to come. Although, believe me, the villains actually get better. Next season – Damn!

    I hope, now that you’ve crossed the innocence line, that you realise what everyone’s been talking about when they say how brilliant Buffy is. There are episodes that certainly trump this one but it is certainly a highpoint of the show. Although, Buffy at its worst is still better than most show’s at their best (Bad eggs not withstanding).

  3. I love Angelus, it’s always fun to see Boreanaz get to cut loose a little. These episodes are one of the main reasons I like Season 2 the best.

    • Ditto!

      He’s just so maniacal… going for the pain before the kill… that it makes him so much more dangerous!

      I truly think he’s one of the toughest “big bads” of the series… because… killing the one you love? your soulmate? Which Buffy knows she has to do but can’t bring herself to do it? Much harder than just killing a pure demon or a “god”…

      • Gill

        He’s just so maniacal… going for the pain before the kill… that it makes him so much more dangerous!

        As a certain demon said much later in the series.

        Come to think of it, it’s pretty much Joss’s modus operandi – go for the pain…

  4. Katie

    I was so excited for you to get to “Surprise/Innocence!’ And that was one hell of a review. Now I really want to start rewatching the whole series again… except for that whole school thing I have to do. I can’t even remember what I felt the first time I watched it; I was like, 12 at the time, and it was on syndication.

    The rest of season two is going to be filled with going to be filled with even more game changers, so hold onto your seat! Just wait until “Passion.” Oh boy *shudder*

    P.S.: A pattern you will begin to see (that’s not spoilery) is that Buffy’s birthdays ALWAYS SUCK, even more than her life usually does.

    • Jason S H

      I’ll have to disagree, while the rest of the season contains some fantastically emotional episodes, the game has already changed.

  5. Cartman86

    This was what pretty much got me into the show. I enjoyed it enough up till this point, but after the awesomeness that is these episodes there was no going back. It took my roommate till season 5 to get into it (I know crazy), but now that he’s obsessed he looks back at previous seasons with rose tinted glasses. It’s hilarious.

  6. Austin

    Your thoughts on the romantic nature of Buffy were interesting. Everyone knows that Joss is a cruel, cruel man and his characters can NEVER catch a break, I will ask you this question once you have finished the series and I am interested in hearing your answer then. What do you think is the most successful (romantic) relationship in the series? Keep that in the back of your mind as you watch because I have a definite answer and I am interested in yours. It would be really spoilery if I told you my choice.

    Continuing on that note, Joss has stated that he loves to film Alison Hannigan crying, so I think he is extra mean to Willow because of that. Since Buffy is also a drama, we obviously don’t every really see a relationship going well, that is just not good television, but sometimes I wish everyone could get a little break. On the other hand relationships are what Joss does best and how he thoroughly examines every characters relationship to every other character, multiple times as the characters themselves change is the #1 reason that Buffy is so amazing. Just think of all the most amazing episodes and you will realize that regardless of how menacing and “good” the villains are, it is what they do to the character’s relationships that make those episodes shine.

    One side note: most people will say that they started loving Oz when he refused to kiss Willow in the car. I have always liked him, his insightful yet rare lines and his overall laid back nature. The writers always said that he is the hardest character to write but I think they were always spot on.

    I can’t wait for the next big episode, “Passion” I am interested in seeing how much you think the game has changed again.

    • Joss is extremely cruel to lovers! Throughout all his series! I can only think of one successful relationship (by successful did you mean happy ending?): Viktor and Sierra… and that’s just because the series got cancelled and didn’t give him enough time to break them up again! Although Kaylee and Simon come close…

    • I have an idea of who makes up your “most successful” relationship, but I won’t spoil it here… he he he!

      And I totally agree with your side note: I always loved Oz. He kept the story grounded for me. Even more than Xander.

      • Austin

        Sorry, successful does not mean happy ending, it means realistic with an overall positive nature to it. I invariably has its challenges (HUGE challenges) and it might not end on a high note, but you get a good feeling when you see the two together and when you think back on the relationship, you think “they were a match.” And I was limiting it to the Buffy show, although I think my choice would hold true if it was expanded to the Buffy universe (to include Angel), although as I think about Angel, I realize maybe not so much, I really am not sure.

  7. WOW!

    Ok, now that was a great review. Like many others I’ve been impatiently waiting for your take on this double dose and you don’t disappoint! 🙂

    I caught episodes of Buffy on TV now and again (foreign country, not always on), but basically saw it “really” for the first time on dvd, and I couldn’t jump from Surprise to Innocence (to the rest of the season) fast enough!

    Oz is always a bit downplayed (until he’s not), he just fits in right that way, fits in with his laid-back character… Have you seen the first episode where he takes centre stage yet? His totally nonchalant telephone conversation is just another sign of this. Just like the way he reacts when (I think) Xander tells him: “Vampires are real, Buffy’s the Slayer” and he goes “huh.”, or something along those lines.

    I mean, he’s Oz! 😉

  8. Karen

    I’ve been enjoying your Buffy project tremendously. No, I can’t go back and experience “Surprise” and “Innocence” again, but seeing it thru the eyes of fresh new viewers is a lot of fun.

    What’s amazing to me is that, as awesome as Season 2 is, it ISN’T my favorite season. So ‘ware the spoilery folks.

    (And I’m pretty sure that Oz says, “Well, that explains a lot.” which just cracked me up.)

  9. tjbw

    i was still watching the original airings of btvs at this point in the series (i’ll let you know when i stopped watching) and i must say that my interests during this season lay with the dynamics between every one but angel and buffy; i admit it, back then, i was upset that buffy was not still with pike and that she never even talked about him.

    yes, i said it… pike.

    and so, i was not really taken aback by or concerned with the buffy and angel events in ‘surprise’ and ‘innocence’; oh no, my first “wash” moment within the whedonverse was yet to come (which i will also point out to you).

    ‘surprise’ and ‘innocence’ were game changing for me in other ways: finding out the truth about ms. calendar; realizing that oz was going to change willow’s life; cordelia and xander could finally stop hiding.

    and buffy should have staked angel in the theatre. but as a woman, i know only too well that the fact that she didn’t is real.

  10. Susan

    Yay! Finally! And this is a really, really excellent review and analysis, Myles. I figure there was a lot of pressure for you on this one (we do tend to get a bit zealous), but you outdid yourself.

    I want to elaborate on one point you make: “Buffy kicking angel in the nuts was just perfect: it’s just painful enough to feel like a small victory, and also vicious enough that it doesn’t seem like Buffy’s letting him off the hook completely. It’s a nice transition salvo for the next stage in their relationship.”

    All true. But considering what has recently transpired between them (or between Buffy and Angel, anyway), that she kicked him where she did is important. Yes, it’s painful, and yes, it’s vicious. But it’s also loaded with sexual subtext–or, better, with the subtext of sexual assault and/or the defense against same.

  11. Becker

    These were definitely a game changer and for me it totally changed the show. As you noted, there was not a whole lot to the B/A relationship to this point. On the old Buffy Boards people talked about how romantic things were, but I felt that most of the relationship was fan created and not actually shown on screen. I was bored by them and if they continued like they were much longer, I was going to give up. Suddenly Angel became Angelus and suddenly became interesting again. Instead of quitting, it turned out to be my favorite season. S3 is close, but it all slopes downhill from there, with a few standout episodes sprinkled in.

    I just read all of this tonight so this reply is out of place, but, way back to one of your least favorite eps (which I actually enjoyed), what did you think of the bonus end credits scene during the S1 ep. “The Puppet Show”? Too many people who saw this for the first time in repeats never got to see that as it only aired the first time and then on the DVD set.

  12. Gill

    I am pleased and a little relieved that you responded so powerfully to this pair of episodes. I thought you probably would, as you’ve been following the trajectory of many thoughtful Buffy-watchers, but one never quite knows. There are more profound shocks in store, but this, as you say, is the real game-changer. From this point on nothing and nobody is safe. This is the writer who killed Wash – and you’ll recognise that brilliantly sadistic mindset.

    Angelus feeding on the woman and blowing her smoke out of his mouth is just wonderful – symbolically so too, in a show in which only the bad guys smoke. And his relationship with Spike and Dru is superb – note how The Judge recognises that they love and are thus tainted with humanity, while Angelus has nothing human in him.

    It is wonderful to read your considered reactions to this show. I hope by now you already realise why so many people were eager for you to watch it and to reach this point.

    • Eldritch

      “Angelus feeding on the woman and blowing her smoke out of his mouth is just wonderful..”

      Yeah. Of course, it makes no sense physiologically. You don’t get smoke from blood. But it was a great visual!

  13. Bob Kat

    N othing I can add on the main points; that’s what these two stories were.

    I’m glad you could put your finger on the shortcoming in Xander-Cordelia, the fundamental dislike between them in so many ways.

    I’m not an Oz fan because I don’t get along with real-life Ozzes but Is ee his appeal.

    And the sprinkler thing is a cliche I hate; sprinkler systems don’t go off until the temperature is way above the point where humans can even survive, let alone walk around.

    When you said “off the track,” well, I’ve had to btie my typing tongue to avoid repsonding to that. Suffice it to say about midway thru the S-8 comics I gave up on canon and have stuck with my fanfic since.

    Nitpick: SMG doesn’t have a compound last name, Michelle is her middle name, so it should only be mentioned in combination with the first, Sarah or Sarah Michelle; her last name is just Gellar.

  14. Eldritch

    For what it’s worth, the Gypsy curse had some remarkably bad features built into it. Restoring Angel’s soul to make him suffer: good feature! Allowing Angel to lose his soul again when he falls in love again: dumb feature! It’s like planting land mines on a well traveled path. His having a happy moment some time in his eternal life seems inevitable.

    Of course, Angel’s switching sides ramps up the drama for the rest of the season rather nicely. I have no problem with that. But the losing-his-soul trick smacks of retconning.

    The Gypsy uncle’s justification that vengeance is a living thing doesn’t really make sense of the curse for me. Not only did they give the Angelus-monster an escape clause to commit more horrors , but they had no plan to contain him again.

  15. Eldritch

    Speaking of retconning, Whedon says in one of his commentaries that the writers didn’t originally conceive her as a Gypsy. Whedon said they deliberately leave character back grounds a bit vague to give the writers some flexibility in developing plot lines.

  16. rosengje

    I always read the soul-losing feature as a way to punish the people that had gotten close to Angel, thereby mitigating his suffering.

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