In my years of TV watching, there have been tons of well-regarded shows that have eluded my gaze. Thanks to the magic of Netflix and other online streaming sites, I now have an opportunity to watch these shows and share my thoughts on them. It may be a classic to you, but It’s New To Me!
Taken as a whole, the second season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer is a long, tragic tale of loss and heartbreak that marks some major changes for the title character. For the first handful of episodes, Buffy is a somewhat carefree teenager who seemed to handle her appointed profession as a Slayer with relish even when she whined that she never got to enjoy a proper social life because of it, but as the season progresses, she changes into a much more troubled and brooding character who becomes personally affected by the choices she makes. “Becoming,” the two-part finale of Season Two, not only provides a satisfying end to the overall story arc of the season, but it also establishes some fascinating changes to the show’s status quo that should make for an interesting third season.
The first part of “Becoming” deals with Buffy and company once again trying to prevent the entire world from being plunged into Hell, this time via a demon named Acathla that Angel plans to awaken with a blood sacrifice. Meanwhile, Willow discovers the floppy disk that contains Jenny Calendar’s translation of the spell that can restore Angel’s soul, and she makes preparations to perform the ritual despite the protests of Xander, who states that Angel deserves to die for what he’s done. Kendra returns to Sunnydale, having sensed the approaching threat, and volunteers to help Buffy and the Scooby Gang stop it before it destroys the world. After receiving an ultimatum from one of Angel’s vampiric minions while at school, Buffy decides to confront Angel while Willow prepares to recite the restoration spell. Buffy meets Angel in the cemetery and they begin to fight, but Angel reveals to her that he lured her to the cemetery as a diversion. While this happens, a group of vampires led by Drusilla break into the library and kidnap Giles. On the way out, Drusilla hypnotizes and kills Kendra. When Buffy arrives back at the school, she finds Kendra’s dead body on the library floor, and as she mourns the loss of her friend, the police barge in and point a gun at her.
In addition to the main story taking place in present-day Sunnydale, this episode also contains a number of flashbacks detailing Angel’s siring as a vampire courtesy of Darla (played by the returning Julie Benz), his torture and eventual siring of Drusilla (whom it is revealed possessed physic abilities even before she was turned), and the curse that was inflicted upon him by Jenny’s Gypsy ancestors. The final flashback, taking place in 1996, finds him homeless in New York, living off rat’s blood, where he is found by a benevolent demon named Whistler (Max Perlich) who offrs him a chance to relieve himself of some of the guilt he feels as a result of the curse. Fittingly, he manages to convince Angel of this after taking him to Los Angeles and showing him Buffy, whom he states is destined to become a Slayer. He tells Angel that he can redeem himself by aiding Buffy in her quest, and we all know how that turned out for everyone.
The second part of “Becoming” begins with Buffy evading capture by the police, who have charged her with Kendra’s murder, and becoming a fugitive. She arrives at the hospital, where Willow is being held, having fallen into a coma due to the vampires’ ambush at the library, while Giles is tortured by Angel for information regarding the correct ritual to reawaken Acathla. In search of weapons, Buffy enters Giles’ apartment, where she runs into Whistler. He tells her that Angel was supposed to help stop the coming of Acathla, but due to his relationship with Buffy, he is now the cause of it. While leaving the apartment, she is approached by a Sunnydale cop but is rescued by Spike, who tells Buffy that he will help her defeat Angel in exchange for her letting him and Dru leave town. When she asks why he wants to turn on his vampiric ally, Spike states that he does not want to see the world thrown into Hell, as he has grown somewhat fond of it, and he admits that he is jealous of Angel’s effect on Drusilla. She returns to her house with Spike in order to discuss his offer and runs into her mother, who demands to find out why the police thinks she is a murderer. Buffy tries to lie to Joyce, but her cover is blown when she is attacked by a vampire, whom she quickly disposes of. She is then forced to reveal to Joyce that she is indeed a vampire slayer. Buffy reluctantly accepts Spike’s offer and starts to leave with him when Joyce tells her that they need to talk. Buffy tells her that she doesn’t have time, and Joyce angrily tells her that if she leaves, she is not welcome back. Buffy stares at her in disbelief and walks out the door.
Willow awakens from her coma and decides to try the restoration spell again from her hospital bed. Buffy returns to the library to retrieve Kendra’s sword, which for some reason was not taken as evidence, and is approached by Principal Snyder, who announces with no shortage of relish that she is expelled from Sunnydale High. Back at the vampires’ hideout, Giles withstands Angel’s torture but is hypnotized by Drusilla into thinking she is Jenny, to whom he tells that Angel needs to use his own blood in the ritual to awaken Acathla. Buffy meets up with Whistler again, and he tells her that Angel’s blood is not only the secret ingredient needed to revive the demon but it is also the key to sending both of them back to Hell. Xander catches up with Buffy but neglects to tell her that Willow is attempting once again to restore Angel’s soul. When Buffy arrives at the mansion, Angel is ambushed by Spike, who is then attacked by Drusilla. Angel successfully removes the sword from the stone statue of Acathla, which begins the demon’s awakening. During a prolonged sword duel between Buffy and Angel, Xander rescues Giles while Spike escapes the mansion, dragging the reluctant Drusilla with him. Buffy manages to back Angel up against the statue of Acathla, and just as she is about to deliver the killing blow, Willow completes the spell, and Angel’s soul returns. He recovers with no memory of his evil deeds and asks Buffy what is going on, while the mouth of Acathla’s statue opens up behind him, ready to swallow the entire Earth and send it to Hell. Buffy tearfully realizes that, even though the man she loved has returns, she still must kill him in order to save the world. She stabs Angel in the chest, and he is immediately sucked into the vortex, which closes behind him. Buffy weeps uncontrollably, her life even more of a mess than usual. The episode ends with Joyce finding a note in her daughter’s room that Buffy had written for her, and the scene then cuts to Buffy taking a final look at her friends before she boards a bus that takes her out of Sunnydale.
Much like the majority of Season Two, this extended finale was ten times more exciting and dramatic than the Season One finale, which seemed a lot more rushed and insubstantial. By restoring Angel’s soul at the end right before Buffy is forced to send him to Hell, Whedon ends this chapter of their relationship on an even more tragic note than Angel’s heel turn of sorts at the midseason mark. This tragedy is enhanced by the first part’s emphasis on Angel’s past and his strong connection to Buffy. There were also several interesting developments among the supporting cast in this two-part storyline, with Willow showing an affinity for witchcraft and Xander showing his more devious and vengeful side by not informing Buffy of Willow’s plan. Both chapters of “Becoming” were a perfect ending to a mostly wonderful second season and makes me anxious to continue on to Season Three, which luckily I won’t have to wait three months for as those who watched the show as it first aired were forced to. “Becoming, Parts 1 & 2” both receive 4.5 out of 5 Hospital Alters.