Saturday, June 18, 2011

Buffy Blog: "Amends"

“Amends”, written and directed by Joss Whedon, is Whedon’s riff on Charles Dickens’s—Dickens is purportedly one of Whedon’s treasured authors—famous novella A Christmas Carol (1843). This episode was appropriately first broadcast on the American television network The WB around the Chrismas holidays on 15 December 1998.

If the Angel arc began with “Angel” in season one of Buffy and was extended in season two’s “Lie to Me” and “Becoming” and season three’s “Beauty and the Beasts”, then “Amends” is the latest major installment in the what is Angel’s background and what is Angel’s destiny plan. “Amends” tells us more about Angel’s background, his party boy, syphilitic, and psychologically vicious and murderous past, but it doesn’t really tell us what Angel’s “destiny” is now that he has returned from a hell dimension other than that it is something important. The TV series Angel will, of course, take off from this Angel arc in Buffy.

“Amends” is, as I mentioned earlier, Whedon’s variation on A Christmas Carol with Angel playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. As Scrooge was visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future Angel is visited by vivid dreams and vivid memories of his vicious past, the ever present realities of his uncertain present, an uncertain present without Buffy, and his ever present brooding about his unclear future, the what is my destiny thoughts that impact Angel seemingly at all hours of the day.

This being Buffy the fallout from the previous episodes of season three continue to impact all of our Scoobies. Buffy has left Angel. Cordelia is off for Aspen leaving Xander alone for his annual Christmas camping outing in his backyard to escape his parents alcohol infused arguments. Willow and Oz are still suffering from the fallout of the Willow and Xander relationship. The Willow-Oz relationship is about, however, to change.

Oz takes Willow back telling her he misses her. Relationship on the mend? It appears so as Willow invites Oz to her house while her parents are, as usual, away. Willow, in sexy red dress, in her living room swathed in red, the colour of seduction, and with Barry White playing on the stereo (“you’ve got Barry working for you”, says Oz; a shout out to Ally McBeal?) attempts to seduce Oz. It is Oz who pulls back saying, however, that he is not quite ready. One can’t help but think here of Oz’s other putting a hold on Willow-Oz fooling around action back in the second season episode “Surprise/Innocence”. Oz pulls back out of love for Willow. So, again, relationship on the mend? Well we will see.

It is not only the Oz-Willow relationship that is changing. The Buffy-Faith relationship seems to be changing. At Joyce’s prompting Buffy visits Faith at her Spartan lodgings inviting her to Christmas Eve dinner at the Summers home. Faith tells Buffy that she already has plans, a party to go to, but just as Joyce and Buffy are putting the finishing touches on the Christmas tree there’s a ring on the bell and Faith shows up on Buffy’s doorstep. Relationship on the mend? We will see.

Another relationship undergoing change in “Amends” is the Giles-Angel relationship. The Giles-Angel relationship, of course, is still suffering from the fallout from Angel’s murder of Giles’s love, Jenny Calendar, and Angelus’s brutal torture of Giles both in season two. Angel is, however, suffering from visions and he goes to Giles for help. In a wonderful scene at Giles’s apartment the Watcher agrees to let Angel in to his apartment but not before grabbing a crossbow and pointedly pointing it at Angel’s heart. Angel proceeds to tell Giles about his visions and his need for some clarity about his future, his “destiny”. Giles agrees to help not wanting a repeat of the Angel gone bad recklessness of season two.

And then there is the Buffy-Angel relationship. Buffy has done her best to steer clear of Angel given their feelings for each other but Buffy soon realizes that Angel is dreaming about his brutal past thanks to her “cameo” in one of his dreams. She asks Giles to help her figure out what is going on with Angel and both of them, soon joined by Xander and Willow, are researching a solution. Through their research the one and only original Scooby gang discovers that “The First”, the monster of the week, the original evil, the evil beyond sin and death, the evil even darkness fears, in the form of victims from Angel’s murderous past (including Jenny Calendar) is behind the psychological torture of Angel.

“The First” (this may, by the way, be the first appearance of “The First” but it is not the last as we, as I endlessly seem to repeat, will see) is psychologically torturing Angel to so to rid itself of Buffy (does “the First” have some long range plan here? We will see). It wants Angel to have sex with Buffy, turn once again to Angelus, and kill her. Angel decides that the only way he can escape the iron cage of his memories is to climb to the top of a hill overlooking Sunnydale and wait for the sun to come up, to commit suicide, in other words.

Buffy is not willing, however, to let this happen despite Giles’s warning to her that she may have to kill Angel, again. Buffy finds Angel argues, pleads, and even fights with him to try to get him to come in from the dangers that lie outside for vampires. Just as it looks as all seems lost, however, a miracle occurs. A snowstorm appears over and around a Sunnydale that has been boiling (thanks, by the way, to “the First” and its postulants, “the Bringers” or “the Harbingers”). A Hollywood happy ending? Has someone or something saved Angel’s life (the Powers that Be that we learn about in the series Angel?). We will, as I seem to endlessly repeat, see.

Finally, I want to give a special shout out for the music in “Amends”. Fantastic eerie score very appropriate for this episode. We even get to hear a variation of the Buffy-Angel theme as Angel is imaging himself making love to Buffy thanks, in part, due to the “The First”. I love old school film music and Buffy has it in spades. I also want to point out how much I enjoyed Buffy breaking the fourth wall, again, thanks to Oz’s dramatic gesture and his commentary on it during the third act scene between him and Willow in the Rosenberg house. And oh yes I shouldn't forget to mention how cool it was to see the Grr Argh monster in Santa cap at the end of the end credits.

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