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BECOMING PT. 1 (ep #2.21)

(a.k.a. The Big Rock)

Written by: Joss Whedon
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers
Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris
Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg
Charisma Carpenter as Cordelia Chase
David Boreanaz as Angel
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
Guest Starring: Max Perlich as Whistler (Special Guest)
Seth Green as Oz
Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers
Julie Benz as Darla
Bianca Lawson as Kendra
Jack McGee as Doug Perren
Richard Riehle as Merrick
James Marsters as Spike
Juliet Landau as Drusilla
Armin Shimerman as Principal Snyder
Co-Starring: Shnnon Welles as Gypsy Woman
Zitto Kazann as Gypsy Man
Ginger Williams as Girl
Nina Gervitz as Teacher

Plot Summary

Angel decided to suck the world into Hell.

Plot Details

In Galway, during 1753, Liam (the human later known as Angel) and another man were thrown out of a tavern/brothel for not having enough money. Liam wanted to steal some of his father's silver, but was distracted by what appeared to be a noblewoman (Darla) in an alley. The lady offered to show Liam the world, then pulled out her fangs and bit him. She then forced him to drink of her blood.

In a Sunnydale graveyard, during 1998, Angel watched as Buffy staked a vampire. She wanted to spare the second vampire in order to send a message to Angel that she wanted to fight him directly. Unfortunately, the vampire preferred to fight and was staked for its effort.

Giles had been called to examine a large stone block that construction workers had recently unearthed. It contained ancient writing on the surface and had a seam suggesting that the block contained something inside. Giles wanted to translate the writings before opening it.

In 1860 London, a young woman (soon to be a vampire named Drusilla) entered a confessional just as Angel killed the priest. She was concerned that her visions suggested that she was cursed. Angel was not at all comforting by suggesting that she was a devil child.

Willow was in her classroom tutoring a very frustrated Buffy in chemistry, when Buffy knocked a pencil between the desk and a file cabinet. When Buffy reached for the pencil, she came across a floppy disk, the one that contained the backup to the curse to return Angel's soul. Willow put it in her computer and discovered what was on it.

In Romania in 1898, Angel ran through the woods in a near panic. When he arrived at a Romany encampment, his eyes started glowing. A man told him that he will know true suffering as he remembers those he have killed.

Finding the curse created a moral dilemma for the characters. Willow seemed eager to try the curse despite Giles's concerns over what this will do to her. Buffy wanted her old boyfriend back. Giles wanted to fulfill what he believed was Jenny's last wish. Xander wanted Angel dead for what he did to Jenny, and Cordelia supported him. The confrontation ended with much anger, many hurt feelings, and no resolution.

Meanwhile, Spike and Drusilla read in the newspaper about the big stone block. Drusilla and Angel formed a raiding party to steal it. Angel told a very unimpressed Spike that the stone block contained Acathla, who will swallow the world as soon as someone worthy pulls out the sword in his chest.

Buffy went out patrolling and heard someone behind her. She turned and almost punched Kendra, who returned because there was word of trouble in Sunnydale. They returned to the library and confirmed that Acathla was the source of the trouble and that he will suck every living thing in the world into Hell to experience eternal torment. Buffy decided that Willow should try the curse even though Kendra joined Xander's camp.

In Manhattan in 1996, Angel was busy pursuing rats in alleys when Whistler approached him. Whistler wanted to bring Angel to Los Angeles so he could watch a familiar-looking blonde high school student be approached by a man telling her that she was a slayer. That night, Angel watched her first encounter with a vampire, including missing the heart in her first stab. That evening, she came home late and had to hear her parents arguing over her, again with Angel watching. Angel saw enough. He wanted to help Buffy.

Angel started the ceremony to pull the sword out of Acathla but failed, much to Spike's amusement. Angel decided that he needed some help, so he sent a minion to Sunnydale High to expose herself to sunlight in front of Buffy and burn up as she told Buffy to meet Angel at dusk.

Buffy decided to take Angel up on his offer, despite mild concerns from the others. Angel claimed that he wanted to get back together with Buffy, but not even Buffy believed him. They fought for a while until Angel told her the real reason why he summoned her.

Willow started the curse with everyone else's cooperation, including Xander, when four vampires attacked. One broke Xander's wrist while another pushed a library stack onto Willow. Despite his broken wrist, Xander still managed to throw one vampire on top of another that was menacing Cordelia, allowing her to escape. Kendra staked one vampire and managed to pull another off of Giles. Three vampires flanked her when Drusilla entered and called everyone to attention. Drusilla toyed with Kendra for a little while until Drusilla had enough. She hypnotized Kendra and then slashed Kendra's throat with her fingernails. She then instructed two of her minions to drag Giles away.

Buffy arrived to find Kendra's body on the floor. Just as Buffy was hovering over her, a police officer pointed his gun at Buffy and ordered her to freeze.

The Good

The decision whether or not to try to curse Angel again provided a very thought-provoking moral dilemma.

The battle in the library was very well done.

The Bad

Liam's accent. Half of the time, he sounded American; the other half of the time, he sounded like he was in a Lucky Charms commercial. With Kendra returning, we have two of the worst accents in Buffy history in this one episode alone.

Like the first part of most two-part episodes, much of this episode is designed to set up the second part rather than stand on its own.

Overall Rank: 35

Action: 8

Buffy staked two vampires during the teaser.

Buffy fought and staked her first vampire in a flashback.

Buffy and Angel had a fight while he was distracting her from Drusilla's attack on the library.

Drusilla and her minions fought a battle against most of the characters in the library. It resulted in Xander having a broken wrist, Willow unconscious under a library stack, Giles kidnapped, and Kendra dead.

Comedy: 3

Xander using fish sticks to reenact Buffy's fight against the vampires was quite amusing. In fact, most of that scene was humorous.

Spike's lack of respect for Angel or Acathla was amusing.

Drama: 7

Much of the drama centered on what to do with Angel. Some, such as Buffy and Willow, wanted to curse him again. Others, like Xander, simply wanted to kill Angel.

Romance: 1

There was little romance in this episode other than some affection between Xander and Cordelia and between Willow and Oz.

Character Development: 6

Angel appeared to be from a family with some wealth when he was a human. His main interests seemed to be women and alcohol, not necessarily in that order.

Spike is recovering from his injuries in "What's My Line Pt. 2." This recovery is giving him the courage to become even more contemptuous of Angel.

Importance: 8

This episode is important mostly for setting up the season finale, including Buffy finding the disk with the curse and the cliffhanger in which several characters are dead, injured, or captured.

Most Valuable Player: Drusilla

Drusilla is the MVP for leading the raid to steal Acathla from the museum and for leading the raid to capture Giles. In the process, she also managed to kill a slayer, which must be a very big deal for a vampire. Angel gets some credit for accompanying Drusilla on her raid to steal Acathla and for luring Buffy away from the library, but he gets a demerit for failing to pull the sword from Acathla. Xander fought well in the final battle, but he was on the losing side.

Sherlock Holmes Award: Angel

Angel gets this award for coming up with the plan to lure Buffy away from the others while Drusilla led the raid to capture Giles and for realizing that Giles was important in the first place. Drusilla and Spike get some credit for figuring out that the stone block was of importance, and Giles also managed to figure out that the stone block contained Acathla.

Goat of the Week: Buffy

Buffy fell for the same trick that she fell for in "When She Was Bad." It seems that all vampires have to do to lure her away from their real targets is to issue a challenge. Her blundering in this episode led to even worse consequences than previously.

Random Commentary

The dramatic highlight of "Becoming Part 1" was the argument in which Buffy, Willow, and Giles (sort of) wanted to return Angel's soul while Xander and Cordelia wanted to kill him. True to their natures, most of the characters cited emotional reasons to defend their positions. Buffy wanted her boyfriend back. Willow was eager to explore a new interest. Giles wanted to carry out what he believed to be Jenny's final wish but was concerned about what the attempt would do to Willow. Xander, with Cordelia's support, wanted to avenge Jenny's death. However, there are many rational reasons for both sides of the argument.

Reasons to Kill Angel

The Curse Might Not Work Willow was confident that she could pull off the spell, but there was no reason to think that her confidence was warranted. Up until now, the only spell that she cast was the spell to uninvite Angel. The spell to return his soul is far more advanced. There was no reason to think that she could do so.

This assumes that Jenny's computer program correctly translated the spell. At the time that the episode aired, Computer programs to translate text between commonly spoken languages often had laughable results. Are we supposed to believe that a program that Jenny quickly wrote to translate a dead language into English would be completely accurate?

Possible Side Effects The nature of magic in the Buffyverse has not been well explained by this point in the show, so Giles may have a legitimate concern that attempting such a spell could do something bad to Willow. For all we know, an attempt to return Angel's soul could set Willow on a path that ends with her being an even greater threat than Angel is at this moment. Attempting to return Angel's soul could result in losing Willow rather than getting Angel back.

Danger of Losing Soul Again Returning Angel's soul is not a permanent solution. Even with his soul back, there will always be the risk that he could lose it again and go back to killing people. Some fans view sex as the trigger. However, it was happiness, not sex, that caused him to lose his soul. Mere celibacy will not keep the world safe. Next time, he could lose his soul from holding a baby or playing with a puppy. There is the real possibility that Angel's soul can be a temporary resident rather than a permanent fixture and that there will be future deaths if he is not killed now.

Euthanasia I doubt that it had ever occurred to Buffy and Willow that Angel might not want to come back. Before "Innocence," Angel was already tormented by deaths that he caused a century ago or longer. He did not know the details of the curse, so he had no reason to think that he would cause more deaths. Now, if he came back, he would have more to feel guilty about. He spent the last few months trying to make Buffy feel as miserable as possible. He would have to face the fact that he killed Jenny Calendar and tried to kill Willow and Xander. Most importantly, he would have to face the fact that he could easily revert to his evil self. It is possible that the Angel we knew from the beginning through "Surprise" might not want to come back.

Vengeance/Justice To me, the weakest argument for killing Angel is the "eye for an eye" argument. Uncle Enyos may have been nuts, but he at least recognized the difference between justice and vengeance. His only problem was that he considered the latter to be a good. There is no justice for the murder of Jenny or of the other people that the characters do not care about. Simply killing Angel in response is just a less creative alternative to what the Kalderash clan did originally. For the last few episodes, we saw how that paid off.

Reasons to Re-Ensoul Angel

Buffy Might Not Be Able to Kill Him There is no certainty that Buffy will be able to kill Angel even if she tried. It had become clear since "Innocence" that Buffy's inability to distinguish between Angel the loving boyfriend and Angel the soulless killer has hampered her fighting ability. Even if she were fully committed to killing Angel, he could still get the best of her. It is clear that Angel is an above average fighter for a vampire and might be Buffy's equal.

Suffer Instead of Dying I may not approve of vengeance as a virtue, but I do admire the cleverness of the Gypsy curse. They took all of Angel's evil from when he was Angelus and turned it against him. Simply killing him would have ended his pain, but cursing him caused him to suffer for a century. Re-cursing him could prolong the suffering that he richly deserves.

Regain Powerful Ally to the Cause Before losing his soul, Angel earned MVPs for "Angel" and "Out of Mind, Out of Sight" and received consideration for "The Dark Age." He was a valuable ally to the cause, so there is good reason to want the ensouled Angel back.


What makes the debate so interesting is that there was no clear correct answer. Even tossing out the conflicting emotions, there are still logical reasons to act in either direction.


I understand that minion vampires tend to be subservient to their leaders, but why would a vampire burn herself to death just to deliver a message?

Many people have noticed that the date given for when Angel was turned into a vampire is inconsistent with what we have previously been told. The official explanation for this from Joss Whedon is that he is very bad at math.


Kendra was around for only three episodes, so she has not had much character development. Her main role is to show what Buffy would have been like if she were discovered as a potential slayer when she was very young rather than after she was called. Kendra was largely a one-dimensional fighter with few social skills and little emotion. She had a difficult time dealing with moral ambiguity. Her thought process in both "What's My Line Pt. 2" and this episode is simple: Angel was a vampire, it was her job to kill vampires, so she should kill Angel. She leaves the show with zero MVPs, zero Sherlock Holmes Awards, and one Goat.

DVD Extras

Interview with Joss Whedon Joss Whedon talked about how this was the first episode to be shot on studio lots rather than on location or in the warehouse. He provided further evidence that he is bad at math by saying that he shot 17th century Ireland when he really shot 18th century Ireland. There are shots of and references to themes of "Becoming Pt. 2."

Memorable Dialogue

"Milady, you'll find that, with the exception of an honest day's work, there's no challenge I'm not prepared to face." Liam

"You don't wanna be surprised?" Doug Perrin
"As a rule, no." Giles

"'Tell Angel I'm gonna kill him. No wait, I'm gonna kill you. Die! Die! Die!' 'Mother!'" Xander
"It that it?" Cordelia
"That's it. Scene." Xander
"That's exactly how it happened." Buffy
"I thought it was riveting. I was a little unclear about some of the themes." Oz
"The theme is Angel's too much of a coward to take me on face to face." Buffy
"And the other theme was 'Buy American,' but it got kinda buried." Xander

"I think it's great to do that before you go out and fail in the real world. That way, you're not falling back on something; you're falling, well, forward." Cordelia
"And almost 65% of that was actual compliment. Is that a personal best?" Xander
"Xander, what are you gonna teach when you fail in life, Advanced Loser-Being?" Cordelia

"You're a tiny, incompetent Nazi with a bug up his butt the size of an emu?" Cordelia

"When in the real world am I ever gonna need chemistry or history or math or the English language?" Buffy

"Xander has a point." Cordelia
"You know, for once I just wish you'd support me, and I realize right now that you were, and I'm embarrassed, so I'm gonna get back to the point, which is that Angel needs to die." Xander

"Xander was pretty much being a... Willow! Where did you learn that word?" Buffy

"Polite people call before they jump out of the bushes and attack you." Buffy
"Just wanted to test your reflexes." Kendra
"How about testing my face punching, because I think you'll find it's improved." Buffy

"It's a big rock. Can't wait to tell my friends. They don't have a rock this big." Spike

"Dog me, mustard." Whistler

"You're not from Bullock's, are you, 'cause I meant to pay for that lipstick." Buffy

"I wanna learn from you." Angel
"All right." Whistler
"But I don't wanna dress like you." Angel

"Someone wasn't worthy." Spike

"Bottom line is, even if you see 'em coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really, but it does. So what are we, helpless? Puppets? No, the big moments are gonna come, you can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's when you find out who you are." Whistler

Characters in Peril


Evil Escaped

Departed Characters Remembered

Police and Guns

Strictly the Caucasian Persuasion

Giles Unconscious

Spoiler Questions

Highlight the space after each question to find the answer. It is strongly recommended that you do not do so if you have not seen episodes through the episode indicated.

This page was last modified on November 9, 2012