|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
Seth Green as Oz
Anthony Stewart Head as Rupert Giles
|Guest Starring:||Kristine Sutherland as Joyce Summers|
Saverio Guerra as Willy
Shane Barach as Daniel (and the First Evil)
Edward Edwards as Travis (really the First Evil)
Cornelia Hayes O'Herlihy as Margaret (and the First Evil)
Robia LaMorte as Jenny Calendar (really the First Evil)
Eliza Dushku as Faith
|Co-Starring:||Mark Kriski as Weatherman|
Tom Michael Bailey as Tree Seller Guy
The First Evil haunted Angel to get him to kill either Buffy or himself.
The episode opened in 1838 Dublin in Christmas season. A very nervous man (Daniel) stumbled through the streets until Angel pulled him into an alley. Apparenlty, Daniel owed Angel money from a card game, and Angel decided that Daniel should repay his debt in blood, literally.
Modern-day Angel woke up, went downtown, and ran into Buffy. They had a very awkward conversation that included Buffy wanting to get to an apparently reopened magic store before it closed. Angel was a little distracted because he saw Daniel watching him in the street.
The next day, Cordelia finally spoke to Xander, just to point out how he slept on the roof on Christmas Eve only to avoid his parents' drunken fights, not to wait for Santa Claus. Oz approached Willow to say that he missed her and was willing to take her back.
That night, Buffy and Joyce went to buy a Christmas tree. Joyce wanted Faith and not Giles over for Christmas Eve. Buffy put up a small protest but relented. She was distracted by a clump of trees that suddenly died, but she was not interested in buying one of the dead trees.
Buffy went to Faith's motel room to invite her for Christmas Eve. Faith said that she had a party to attend, so she would not come. Buffy probably figured out that Faith was lying and said that she could come anyway.
Meanwhile, Angel went to Giles for help, but Giles was not in the mood to assist the vampire who murdered Jenny and tortured him for hours. During the conversation, Angel saw Jenny Calendar and fled.
Angel went to bed and dreamed about a party that took place in the 19th century in which he ate a maid (Margaret). As her body dropped, he saw Buffy. Both he and Buffy woke up very startled. He was even more strartled when he saw Jenny Calendar standing in his house. Buffy went to Giles to find out why she was in Angel's dream. Giles, and even Xander, agreed to help her.
In his mansion, Angel saw Jenny, Daniel, Margaret, and Travis, another victim. They all talked about how evil he was as a vampire and how useless he was as a human. He eventually went back to sleep when both he and Buffy shared an erotic dream that ended with a weird guy watching and Angel biting her. Angel woke to have Jenny Calendar telling him to lose his soul again so he can be free of the guilt and can then kill Buffy.
Giles discovered writings about the First Evil, an entity with the power to bring Angel back and who was impersonating his victims. Buffy and Xander went to Willy's bar for information. Despite Xander's pathetic attempts at intimidation, they learned that the First Evil's minions, known as "bringers" or "harbingers," might have moved underground.
On Christmas Eve, Oz arrived at Willow's and found candlelight, Barry White, and a short red dress on Willow. In a move that defied all logic, he decided that he wanted to keep the night largely platonic.
To almost nobody's surprise, Faith decided that the "party" was a drag, so she showed up at Buffy's house. Buffy went to her room to get Faith's gifts and found Angel in her room. He mostly panted incoherently before jumping out the window.
The First Evil appeared to Angel again as Jenny. It again tried to get him to kill Buffy, but he refused. Instead, he decided to expose himself to sunlight to prevent himself from being a threat. The First Evil did not plan for this but was not unhappy.
Buffy went to Giles for help to find the bringers. He eventually found a passage describing how nothing grows above or below the bringers. Buffy realized that this must mean that they were below the dead Christmas trees.
Buffy went under the Christmas tree lot and found three chanting bringers. She quickly knocked them out only to be confronted by the First Evil impersonating Jenny. It mostly tried to intimidate Buffy with Buffy showing that she was not intimidated. However, it did let on that Angel planned to expose himself to the sun.
Buffy ran to beg Angel not to kill himself. He protested and said that he needed to die. She did not buy it, but she could not talk him out of it. However, before the sun came up, it started to snow, surprising all of the characters. Somehow, this blotted out the sun, saving Angel.
I appreciate that fact that this episode tried to do something interesting. I believe that it failed, but I would much rather watch something that takes risks and fails than something that settles into a safe formula.
I liked the confrontation between Giles and Angel, especially the fact that there was no attempt to create an easy reconciliation between the two.
This episode really made me think, even if it made me think about how it failed as an episode.
There are three main reasons why I do not like this episode:
The first is the one that most people cite when they say why they do not like this episode: the magic snow. The magic snow is a classic deus ex machina. In other words, the characters are written into an impossible situation that gets solved by the wave of a hand. That problem was solved much too easily.
That was not the only problem I had. I understand why it was decided to have only four "ghosts" from Angel's past haunt him: It is cheaper to pay for four actors than for 20. However, of all the victims that the First Evil could have picked, it is not clear why it picked three of these four.
I understand why the First Evil chose to portray Jenny. Jenny was someone Angel killed recently, someone he knew personally, and someone he killed just to hurt Buffy and other people she cares about. However, I do not understand what was so special about the other three. In their place, I would nominate Angel's human family, who were his first victims; the human who became Drusilla and her family; the Gypsy girl whose death led to his curse; the woman killed in the alley in the beginning of "Innocence," who was his first victim after losing his soul last season; or Theresa (from "Phases"), a classmate of Buffy that he also killed to hurt Buffy. I might even choose Kendra, whose death Angel was partly responsible for even if it were at Drusilla's fingernails.
Furthermore, I do not understand why someone who understands Angel's nature would try to turn him evil by making him miserable. The curse is clear. A moment of true happiness in which he forgets his sins is what turns him evil. Rather than putting Angel on a guilt trip, the First Evil should have portrayed his victims as forgiving Angel. This, and a little patience, might have brought him relief that would cause him to lose his soul. The strategy as presented would make sense only if the First Evil planned to get Angel to kill himself all along.
Finally, it is said that fantasy may ask us to accept the impossible, but not the improbable. Oz refusing to have sex with Willow in this episode clearly falls in the latter category. Oz is an 18-year-old male with 18-year-old male hormones. Willow is a very attractive woman who wants to have sex with him. He is in a relationship with Willow. He loves her. Couples often use sex to heal damaged relationships. He has no religious principles against premarital sex. In fact, he has already had sex. He has shown no evidence that he holds to the double standard that strictly divides women into those he loves and those he has sex with. There is no evidence of any ailment that would preclude sex. I admit that I do not remember if there Oz could see linoleum in this scene, but I just do not buy his actions.
I cannot go much further with this without giving spoilers for future episodes. I will note that there is one explanation that makes sense: that this was a power play. Under this theory, Oz took advantage of Willow's guilt to assert more power in the relationship. He did so by making it clear that they will have sex when he says they have sex and not before.
Buffy had a brief fight against the bringers.
There was almost no comedy in this episode other than an amusing line or two.
Angel had to confront his sins in both his recent and more distant past, and he had an entity who was determined to get him to kill Buffy or himself.
Willow and Oz are back together now, but there is no sign that Cordelia plans to forgive Xander.
Oz had the opportunity to increase this score but inexplicably declined.
It is clear that Buffy still has feelings for Angel that she wishes that she does not have.
Angel has been worrying about why he returned and whether it was for good or evil purposes.
Oz missed Willow and has decided that he wants to get back together with her.
Giles still holds a grudge against Angel (I wonder why?), but he was willing to help Angel for Buffy's sake.
Xander is also willing to help Angel for Buffy's sake and for an excuse to avoid drunken fights.
Buffy claimed that she is no longer involved with Angel but still cares enough about him to ask Giles to help him.
Oz and Willow are back together.
As noted in the MVP commentary below, This episode hints at entities that play a role in the Angel series.
The MVP award is a stand-in for whomever blotted out the sun, which prevented Angel from killing himself. We never find out who did it, but two likely candidates are two groups of entities that play a role in Angel: the Powers That Be and the Senior Partners. Both entities desire to use Angel for their own ends. They had the motivation and the power to save him.
Giles figured out that the First Evil was probably responsible for Angel's visions for a clear win in this category. Buffy gets some consideration for figuring out where the bringers were hiding.
The First Evil gets the Goat for failing to get Angel to kill either Buffy or himself. There is a strong temptation to call this simply being defeated by a superior opponent, because Angel was prepared to kill himself and was ready to expose himself to sunshine. It was defeated by an entity that could keep the sun from rising, at least in Sunnydale. However, if the First Evil is as powerful as it claimed and powerful enough to bring Angel back from Hell, then it should be able to handle another powerful entity.
I used to live in Minnesota. I would not call that snowfall "heavy," and I would not say that temperatures in the high 30s (mid-single digits in Celsius) is reason to "bundle up." Also, it is often cloudy when it snows and visibility is hampered. However, snow does not blot out the sun as if it were night.
The Buffy Guide questioned how the snow could accumulate so quickly when it was not snowing particularly hard or how it could avoid melting when coming into contact with ground and objects that were quite warm. I simply say that the snow was magical to begin with, so it could theoretically accumulate quickly and not melt. It could probably change color at will if the entity creating the snow so desired.
"A man playing at cards should have a natural intelligence or a great deal of money, and you're sadly lacking in both." Angel
"I'm sorry to bother you." Angel
"Sorry, coming from you that phrase strikes me as rather funny, sorry to bother me." Giles
"I need your help." Angel
"And the funny keeps on coming." Giles
"I should be in a demon dimension suffering an eternity of torture." Angel
"I don't feel particularly inclined to argue with that." Giles
"Knowing why you were back would give you piece of mind?" Giles
"It might." Angel
"You think that's something you ought to have? Because, sir, to be blunt, the last time you became complacent about your existence, it turned out rather badly." Giles
"What do you want?" Angel
"I want to die in bed surrounded by fat grandchildren, but guess that's off the menu." The First Evil (as Jenny)
"Look, I'm aware I haven't been the mostest best friend to you when it comes to the whole Angel thing, and, I don't know, maybe I finally got the Hanukkah spirit." Xander
"Well, we start, not surprisingly, with research. Xander, Black Chronicles, and, Buffy, The Diary of Lucious Temple, an acolyte of Acathla, expert on demons. You can skip passages on his garden unless you are keen on growing heartier beets." Giles
"You don't have the strength to kill yourself." The First Evil (as Jenny)
"I don't need strength. I just need the sun to rise." Angel
"You're not supposed to die. This isn't the plan…, but it'll do." The First Evil
"'A child shall be born of man and goat and have two heads, and the first shall speak only in riddles.' No wonder you like reading this stuff. It's like reading the sun." Buffy
"'For they are the Harbingers of Death. Nothing shall grow above or beneath them. No seed shall flower, neither in man nor...' They're rebels, and they'll never, ever be any good." Giles
"All right, ten more minutes of chanting, and then you guys have to go to bed." Buffy
"You think you can fight me? I'm not a demon, little girl. I am something that you can't even conceive: the First Evil, beyond sin, beyond death. I am the thing the darkness fears. You'll never see me, but I am everywhere: every being, every thought, every drop of hate." The First Evil (as Jenny)
"All right, I get it. You're evil. Do we have to chat about it all day?" Buffy
"You have no idea what you're dealing with." The First Evil
"Let me guess, is it evil?" Buffy
"It's not the demon in me that needs killing, Buffy. It's the man." Angel
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.