Tuesday, 31 January 2012
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Passion
“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.”
This episode is so, so devastating. It’s emotionally draining. It’s also very, very, very clever in the way it uses structure to deliver its massive emotional punch. It’s probably best to talk about these things separately, and to get the structural stuff out of the way first.
The first we hear is Angel’s voice, as narrator, and we hear this narration throughout. This immediately shows us just how much control Angel has over Buffy and the Scoobies; a narrator has authorial, omnipotent, godlike powers. Connected with this is his absolute power over space- he’s able to enter anyone’s private spaces whenever he wants, leaving tokens to show he’s been by the bedsides of Buffy, Willow and even Joyce. All this is just to mentally torture Buffy.
In this context, the scene in which Jonathan and another student essentially evict Giles and the Scoobies from the School Library (such effrontery to want to actually use it as a library!) is a massive contrast. While Angel has absolute control over everyone’s space, the Scoobies have no control even over their own.
Things don’t continue this way, though; Buffy manages to assume at least some limited control over space (Giles’ spell, which “changes the locks”) and over the narrative (the closing narration is hers). But she most certainly doesn’t win.
Jenny’s horrible murder, just as she and Giles are about to be reconciled and just after she’s admitted that she loves him, is the most devastating thing. Angel’s cruel taunting of Giles, with the roses, the Puccini and the champagne, perversely seems even more horrible than the murder itself. And Anthony Head’s performance sells the devastation utterly. But the worst thing for me is Alyson Hannigan’s reaction to receiving the phone call. This whole succession of scenes is very, very powerful. And that’s why the final hug between Buffy and Giles after the fight at the factory is so very, very important. Our surrogate father and daughter still have each other, and they’re so very, very close.
Speaking of parental relations, Joyce is wonderfully supportive of Buffy here, and it’s a joy that the character has consistently avoided being pigeonholed into being the obstructive authority figure. She gives Buffy a bit of grief for sleeping with Angel, but everything she says is quite correct, and she knows when to stop. It’s very clear (as Buffy pretty much acknowledges early on) that she needs to be told everything, and soon. I can’t remember from my previous viewing of the series when exactly it is that she finds out, but the narrative impetus strongly suggests that it must be soon.
So… deep breath. This episode is emotionally draining, very clever and absolutely pivotal- Buffy is now left in no doubt that Angel has to die. But could he be re-souled? That final shot of the disk, lodged between the tables, reminds me of something Raymond Chandler is once reputed to have said about guns and first scenes…